PETALING JAYA, 24 Nov 2008: The police acted unjustly when they detained one group for illegally gathering in public but did not arrest another, said the Malaysian Bar.
Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said both groups were exercising their right to freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
One assembly was held to protest against the Internal Security Act (ISA), while the other, which apparently marched from Wisma Sejarah to the Tun Razak police station in Kuala Lumpur, was to support the act.
“However, only one group was targeted, namely the anti-ISA group. We are alarmed that nine people from the group were arrested.
“The use of police force against only one group is selected persecution,” Ambiga said in a statement.
She was commenting on the arrests of nine people at the gathering of the Abolish ISA Coalition (GMI) on 23 Nov in Ampang. Among those arrested included PAS vice-president Mohammad Sabu.
Ambiga called on the authorities to even-handedly protect and uphold the rights of all citizens to assemble peacefully to express their opinions.
DAP Member of Parliament for Klang Charles Santiago also said the police had practised double standards when they stood guard for the 500 people who demonstrated on 23 Nov to support the use of the ISA.
“While the police are quick to arrest opposition politicians, human rights workers, and members of the civil society [who take part in demonstrations], they act as protectors during street protests organised by ruling parties and groups which support the government.
“This is blatant double standard,” he said in a statement.
Santiago added that the arrests reflect the highhandedness of the police force, abuse of power, and non-tolerance of dissent by the government.
He also called on the police to stop attacking members of the media as he was told that they were shoved and shouted at during the ISA gathering in Ampang.