KUALA LUMPUR, 12 Feb 2009: Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan told the Sessions Court here today that the association supported the “People’s Freedom Walk” to celebrate Human Rights Day on 9 Dec 2007.
However, the Bar Council had cancelled the event due to security reasons and the information of which had been made public, she said.
Despite the cancellation, she said, she was aware that some lawyers had participated in the walk on that day.
Ambiga was testifying in the trial of lawyers Amer Hamzah Arshad, Latheefa Beebi Koya, N Surendran and K Sivarasa and activists Eric Paulsen, Johny Andu @ Abu Bakar Adnan, Nooraza Othman and Ashraf Ali Sadakathullah.
The eight were charged with participating in an illegal assembly and failing to adhere to a police order to disperse in front of Kamdar building in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman between 8.10am and 8.50am on 9 Dec 2007.
Ambiga said earlier that the Bar had informed and written to the Dang Wangi police station about the walk and other activities planned to celebrate the Human Rights Day.
“The main reason the walk was cancelled was because it involved members of the public and just prior to this walk, there had been two other events — the Bersih and Hindraf gatherings — which raised the concern of many people.
“We were concerned that the authority may use heavy hands against the participants of the walk and we felt it is our responsibility to ensure they are safe.
“In two or three gatherings by Hindraf and Bersih the police had used force and tear gas,” said Ambiga during cross-examination.
She also said the Malaysian Bar believes in the fundamental right to freedom of a peaceful assembly and the Police Act provision requiring a permit to hold an assembly was ultra vires of the Federal Constitution.
Another witness, Inspector Zakuan Hafiz Ahmad Ansari who was in charge of the arrest that day, said he did not use any force when arresting Amer Hamzah and Surendran.
“I did not use force or handcuffs. I only held their shoulder and elbow. Both of them gave good cooperation and did not show any aggressive reactions,” he said.
The trial before Judge SM Komathy continues on 31 March. — Bernama