THE art of writing has always been a passion for me; being a lawyer a job. I keep the two apart for personal reasons. But at times – a certain fracas at the Brickfield’s police station comes to mind – this is not quite possible. Thus, I am forced to temporarily forgo the self-imposed delineation of roles. Therefore, at least for today, I am putting on my lawyer’s hat.
On 7 May 2009, five legal aid lawyers approached the gate of Brickfield’s police station requesting to see their clients, who had been arrested earlier for holding a candle light vigil for activist Wong Chin Huat. The police denied them access despite the detainees’ insistence to be legally represented.
Shortly after that, Brickfield’s OCPD ACP Wan Abdul Bahari, went on a rampage, shouting the litany of his warnings declaring that the gathering was “illegal”. A surreal nightmare then began when the five lawyers, including one journalist, were arrested.
This roughshod behavior of the police means only one thing: a transgression to the rules of law.
On a side note, Malaysiakini had captured the incident on video. This was subsequently uploaded on Youtube. I dare not continue speculating on the extent of damage this has done to my country’s image in the eyes of the world. Really, what is the point of fighting blatant stupidity?
Can someone please switch on the lights for Tuan Wan Abdul Bahari? Please?
Tuan, the right for detainees to be represented by counsels of their choice is enshrined in Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution (FC) and sub-sections 28A (2) to (7) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). Since I expect copies of these statutes to be within your disposal, I will refrain from reproducing it for fear of redundancy.
Exception to this right is crystallised in Section 28A (8) of the CPC, allowing the police to deny detainees access to legal representations in extraordinary circumstances. Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee Co-chairman, Andrew Khoo, added that the exception should be invoked when it is believed that the client may pass harmful information to an outsider via the lawyer, or hide evidence, such as in kidnap cases.
Clearly, on the night in question, the police invoked the exception because they had fancied doing so.
I am also confused, Tuan: how does the sight of a group of lawyers (who went to see their clients) appear, to you, like an illegal gathering?
With all due respect Tuan, I suggest you read the Police Act, CPC and FC in its entirety. Not only the subsection(s) of your personal choice. Ignorance, Tuan, is never an excuse. And if I may add, don’t you think diplomacy is more effective than shouting?
The tyranny of the police force feeds like fungus on the social fabric of our country. To all intents and purposes it must be nipped in the bud, or we will risk the public losing faith in police force (if this doesn’t happened already!).
In the face of this hostility towards lawyers, a question asked by another lawyer, Azhar (Art) Harun, echoes in my head: “Who polices the police?”
But last Sunday, the online news portal reported the IGP’s reply towards the whole fracas : “Please do some soul searching.” If that’s your take, Sir, I rest my case – really.
I end my post today with a piece of advice to the IGP: Polis Diraja Malaysia needs to be overhauled in all aspects of the law, morale platform and integrity included. While we are at it, perhaps we could also look into the possibility of setting-up a Royal Commission to police the police?