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“Nothing serious” about Perak?

ACCORDING to the Bar Council’s Little Red Book about the police and citizen’s rights, a person is under arrest under the following circumstances:

The Bar Council's red pamphletone the police says “yes” to the question (asked politely if possible), “Am I under arrest?”, or

two does not allow you to leave or wants to take you to a police station, or

three handcuffs you.

The Little Red Book derives its understanding of the rights of citizens and police action from nothing less than the Criminal Procedure Code.

What then does this mean about police action against Perak Speaker V Sivakumar? The video below aside, police held Sivakumar in a room in the state secretariat building for 90 minutes after they violently dragged him out of his chair. He was only allowed to leave the room after the state assembly was adjourned by hastily, and some might add illegally, installed Speaker Datuk S Ganesan from the Barisan Nasional (BN).

Video featuring Perak Speaker V Sivakumar being dragged away by police officers, courtesy of Malaysiakini

By legal definition then, Sivakumar was either unlawfully imprisoned or under arrest for those 90 minutes. Either way, Malaysians have just cause to be alarmed. If the police can so boldly and publicly act in such an unlawful manner against a speaker and an elected representative, we obviously have a serious problem with our police force. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones we should be alarmed by.

Not above the law

When, on the night of 7 May, the police arrested five legal aid lawyers who were only trying to represent the peaceful protesters who had been arrested at the Brickfields police station, both the Bar Council and the MCA expressed outrage. Indeed, the Bar Council is holding an extraordinary general meeting today, 15 May 2009, to protest and condemn such police action.

What, though, was Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein‘s response?

“If they think just because they are lawyers, they are immune to the law, then that is not so,” he said on 8 May when asked to respond to the Bar Council’s outrage that its members had been arrested for trying to do their job.

Indeed, this has been Hishammuddin’s refrain when asked to comment on police action that not only smacks of abuse of power but is also partisan in favour of the BN. For example, despite the heavy-handed police action in arresting scores of people outside the Perak state assembly building and the unlawful imprisonment of Sivakumar on 7 May, Hishammuddin said he was “thankful” that no “serious incidents” occurred in Perak that day.

“I am happy with the action taken,” he said, because, he argued, it averted “chaos on the streets which could threaten public safety.”

Hishammuddin Hussein
Hishammuddin (Pic courtesy of theSun)
It could be that the new home minister is trying to obfuscate the matter in order to justify police action in the interest of the BN holding on to power. Or it could be that Hishammuddin really doesn’t know any better?

Either way, isn’t it problematic that we either have a minister who upholds police abuse of power or who is clueless? Or worse, who may be both?

As former Bar Council chairperson Yeo Yang Poh said in a message circulated on e-mail: “Many were arrested and detained just for advocating a view, denied access to lawyers, and then five lawyers who were trying to provide legal assistance to the detainees were themselves arrested. What’s next? Arrest doctors who try to give medical assistance to opponents of the government?”

Hiding the truth

According to a Malaysiakini report, Media Prima, believed to be linked to Umno, has instructed the four TV stations under its fold — TV3, ntv7, 8TV and tv9 — not to air footage of Sivakumar being forcibly removed from his chair so that Ganesan could take over.

Such censorship is of course rather futile in the age of affordable gadgets, YouTube and the internet. But that doesn’t change the fact that Media Prima’s action, if Malaysiakini‘s report is accurate, is about hiding the truth so that those who commit abuses will not be exposed.

In fact, it’s hardly different from the earlier decision to only allow 13 BN-controlled media access to the historic 7 May Perak state assembly meeting. Imagine what citizens would have been denied if that ruling hadn’t been challenged and then reversed so that all media could cover the chaos in the assembly chambers.

Twice in my life, I have seen a man beat up his woman partner in public. In both cases, it left me wondering how much more violence the man was capable of in private if he didn’t have qualms abusing his partner in front of others.

We need to ask this same question of our police, and by extension, the BN government. If the police have no qualms unlawfully detaining or arresting a citizen or lawyers, who should have access to their clients, in full public view, what else is it capable of behind doors? Beatings and torture that led to the kind of death A Kugan experienced in police detention?

Photo of a handcuffed man
(Pic by Mark Coggins /

For sure, police arrogance and impunity don’t exist in a vacuum. Police abuse of power is made possible because the BN government, as evidenced by Hishammuddin’s justifications, allow for it to happen. Just as the decision by some media to censor what the police have done is also a form of collusion.

This then makes Hishammuddin’s statement about the 7 May state assembly sitting farcical beyond belief. Being thankful that “nothing serious” happened in Perak is like saying “nothing serious” happened to Kugan while in police detention. It’s like saying the police, acting on the BN’s instructions, saved the day in Perak.

Dire events occurred in Perak that day. Dire events continue to happen in Malaysia under the BN’s watch, whether in Perak or elsewhere every time dissent is violently repressed, and then when the repression is denied or justified. If citizens, and the media, allow these events to continue as if “nothing serious” is happening, we can be certain it will only get worse, not better.

Jacqueline Ann Surin subscribes to the Quaker‘s wisdom of bearing witness. She believes that it is only when citizens and the media are watchful of those in power that abuses can be prevented and abusers held accountable.

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16 Responses to ““Nothing serious” about Perak?”

  1. Abusedcitizen says:

    Bar Council should sue Hishammuddin because he openly admits his support of power abuse.

  2. kopite says:

    Yes, we must be “thankful” to the police for saving the day of that fatefull/historic/illegal Perak DUN sitting. If not for the PDRM, those thugs wearing black would have run amok and damaged public/private properties, killed the police and FRU, and burnt the state assembly building! Well done, police for your proactive and swift actions. Kudos Hisham! You’ve done us all proud.

    Now, may I suggest that the government build the largest detention centre in the world…. let’s say a centre that can hold about 20 million people? The purpose would be two-fold.

    First, we can get ourselves into the Guinness Book of World Record (we so crave records). Second, with most of the population in detention (obviously for our safety), we can then have zero trouble and the mat rempit menace can be solved! Then, Hisham can claim credit la!

  3. PM says:

    To my mind, Hishammuddin has failed in all his KPIs when he defended the partisanship of the police action and the abuse of their authority towards right-minded rakyat who care for the country and want to protect their democratic rights as citizens. In this regard, his competency as a minister is questionable. Additionally, consider his very poor performance when he was runnng the Education Ministry.

  4. susie says:

    Hishammuddin is such a disgrace to his grandfather and father’s legacy.

  5. Sam says:


    Today, the police can just walk up to you and arrest you, obtain a remand order from pliant magistrates and lock you up for three days… just for the fun of it.

    You might even be abused during those days. But pray, tell, what can anyone do to help you or punish the wrongdoers?

    Well, this could happen to anyone. We are sitting ducks.

  6. Malaysian says:

    A nationwide campaign should be organised to get the IGP and the Home Minister sacked for such abuse of power!

  7. JS Yeap says:

    I get the impression that, going into the 7 May sitting, armed with plans to oust the speaker and complete the Perak coup, Umno/BN’s view was that “the situation is serious but not hopeless”. Since Black Thursday and the opprobrium it has evoked from Malaysians from all walks of life, Hishammuddin probably thinks that “the situation is hopeless but not serious”.

    We should indeed encourage the man to keep thinking so.

  8. mypublicrights says:

    Who is this Hishammuddin? The man with the keris, I suppose.

  9. Kenny says:

    Hishammuddin may exceed Syed Hamid as the most ridiculed and contemptuous Home Minister ever.

  10. sans says:

    The government has to evolve from managing the citizenry to respecting them and upholding their rights.

    People can very much manage themselves these days.

  11. hatimarah says:

    What do you expect from a Minister who as a Education Minister could not serve the children well with education and instill discipline in them and later they turned into ‘mat rempits’. Now, as an internal minister in charge of the police he wants to change the mindsets of the mat rempits. It’s a joke isn’t it. Bamboo shoots have grown old and now how the hell are you going to cut them because the bamboos have become so hard you can hardly hit a blow at them. The same goes to mat rempits.

    Back to the police dept, they are having full support of the minister to act the way they want to, so you see how frightening it is. The next you know they will hold Ragunath. Careful. Who is Ragunath compared to the speaker of a DUN?

  12. elaine says:

    I was happy when he kept the keris away quietly and shamefully after the Umno assembly, but he waves it from time to time to keep peace and order as he cannot think of other way sof doing that than using violence.

    Don’t be too serious about what Hishammuddin says. It is better to keep him as Home Minister than as Education Minister who needs to pass the IQ and EQ test, which he failed miserably. Where can he go if he stays at Home?

  13. Ritchie says:

    When the police force and the judiciary become concubines of Barisan Nasional, as it has many times done since the bloody May 13th incident, we have state terrorism of the worst kind. This can’t be left to go on and the Bar Council must act on all the peoples of Malaysia against such anarchy.

  14. Arthur Yeoh says:

    Even our former DPM was once a victim of police brutality, what about us.

    Look at the number of cases and reports lodged against the police for brutality and abuse of power.

    Honestly speaking, the general impression of most Malaysians towards the police (we call them the taiko with license to kill, license to abuse and license to do so many things above the law) is, I beg not to say, they are sickening.

  15. freedom says:

    “nothing serious in Perak”?

    Maybe the overt arrogance of BN-led govt may have a bit more tricks if a “piece of Perak” happens to other states as well.

  16. Tommy says:

    Now let’s all define ‘unlawful assembly’. A gathering of 5 or more persons. Right? Then what the hell do you call those ‘Mat Rempits’!

    Is that not ‘unlawful assembly’? Especially with hundreds of onlookers gathered together to watch the illegal race. Or were they given a permit by the Home Minister? If that’s the case, why not all of us become ‘Mat Rempits’ then? Then the whole country can go to the dogs. Be a rempit and it’s legal.

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