KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — The lack of arrests in the protest that forced a Taman Medan church to remove its cross contrasted with the detention of 29 people, including minors, for a rally here on May 1 puts the impartiality of the police in question, the president of the Malaysian Bar said today.
Highlighting the unequal treatment in both high-profile cases, Malaysia Bar president Steven Thiru also criticised in particular the detention of six minors in the mass arrests that followed the May Day rally to protest the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Kuala Lumpur.
“Indeed, in the recent protest in Taman Medan, Selangor on April 19, 2015, the police did not arrest any protestor, and only questioned one of the persons involved, for about three hours on April 22, 2015.
“Such seemingly inconsistent treatment by the police lends to the perception that the police practise selective or unfair policing,” Steven said in a statement today.
The arrest of the minors was made more “shocking” when the police detained them overnight with the rest of those arrested and sought to remand them for a further four days before succeeding in getting an order for one additional day, he said.
This picture taken on April 20, 2015 shows that the new church in Taman Medan has removed the cross it had previously adorned its facade. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Steven highlighted that the police action in this case showed disregard towards the Child Act 2001, which required them to inform the minors’ parents immediately upon arrest and present the arrested minors to the Court for Children within 24 hours.
The detention and remand also violated Article 40 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Malaysia is a signatory.
“The police appear to have been oblivious of these legal obligations, and have arguably exposed the minors to irreparable trauma, and long-term psychological scarring and damage,” Steven continued.
He also described as “difficult to fathom” the decision to detain and seek the remand of opposition lawmakers and activists sought for participating in the rally, when they had readily presented themselves for investigation despite the lack of urgency to start the probe.
Steven reminded authorities that peaceful protests were a sign of a vibrant democracy, which must be recognised and protected as a legitimate form of public expression.
The May Day rally organised by civil society movement #KitaLawan last week drew more than 10,000 to the streets of the capital in a massive show of protest against the GST that came into effect on April 1. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
The unnecessary arrests and detentions of those involved in the protest over a variety of alleged offences under the Penal Code and Sedition Act only fuelled the perception that the police action was meant to punish them before they were convicted in a court of law.
“The Malaysian Bar reminds the police that the constitutional right to peaceful assembly must not be thwarted by repressive police conduct.
“The misuse of police powers renders the exercise of the fundamental right to peaceful assembly illusory,” he said.
The May Day rally organised by civil society movement #KitaLawan last week drew more than 10,000 to the streets of the capital in a massive show of protest against the GST that came into effect on April 1.
Although largely peaceful, police later arrested 20 rally-goers including six minors while former Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and three Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers were arrested when they went to the Dang Wangi district police headquarters to give their statements.
More lawmakers have since been arrested, including PKR vice president Chua Tian Chang who alleged abuse by police officers who detained him in Penang.
In the Taman Medan protest on April 19, some 50 protesters rallied outside a church there to demand the removal of the cross displayed on the building’s exterior, claiming it upset the largely Malay community.
Among the protesters was Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar, the elder brother to Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, who was later questioned over the incident.
Today, the police said it was up to the Attorney-General’s Chambers whether the Taman Medan protesters will be prosecuted.Malaymailonline