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Sunday, September 25, 2011

What has happened to our rule of law?

By P Ramakrishnan
President Aliran

While we are somewhat relieved that the Barisan government had decided to drop the charges against the 30 PSM members, the issues surrounding their case have not been resolved.

We must not forget the larger issues involved in the case simply because the government had decided to get out of a messy situation for its own good.

The BN government created this untenable position which cannot be sustained by logic and facts. As a cover-up for its high-handedness, it is posturing itself as a generous institution that is capable of being considerate. The fact is it is trying to extricate itself from this unjustified and cruel action against these helpless people who only meant well.

It is unthinkable that people will be deluded by this gesture of the police. Malaysians are no more gullible or naïve to be easily fooled by such tokenism. The reprehensible conduct of the police cannot be condoned.

These 30 PSM members are innocent and not guilty of any offence by any stretch of the imagination under any Malaysian law. That was the reason why the police tried desperately to incriminate them by all sorts of ridiculous accusations:

*They were accused of carrying weapons in their buses on 25 June 2011.

*They were accused of possessing subversive material.

*They were accused of waging war against the Agong.

*They were accused of being a national threat.

The police invoked Section 122 of the Penal Code, Section 48 and Section 43 of the Societies Act, Section 29 (1) of the Internal Security Act and the Emergency Ordinance to build up a case that these are indeed dangerous criminals. The police threw everything available at them in an attempt to crush them and frighten other Malaysians in an attempt to prevent them from joining the Bersih 2.0 Walk for Democracy.

They were incarcerated unjustly under intolerable conditions. On 4 July – after nine days of imprisonment – 24 of them were charged in court while the rest of the six were charged in court on 3 August after having been held for 28 days in solitary confinement. The court imposed bail of RM8000 each, which meant they had to scramble desperately to raise RM240000 to seek their freedom – almost a quarter of a million ringgit! How could these poor people raise such a huge sum to post bail?

All this, however, failed to break the spirit of these 30 stalwarts; it failed to discourage outraged Malaysians from marching for democracy on 9 July 2011. If anything it only spurred Malaysians to discard their fear and stand up for their rights.

But the worrying thing about the whole episode involving these 30 Malaysians is the conduct of the police force. We are perturbed that the police can detain anyone under baseless charges with impunity. It looks that they can accuse anyone for whatever reason without a shred of evidence to back up their claim and detain them.

How could they accuse them of waging a war against the King, which is a serious criminal offence – Section 122 allows for 20 years or even life imprisonment – without an iota of incriminating evidence. This is clearly an abuse of their authority.

How could they accuse them of carrying weapons in their bus when no weapon was found in the bus?

How could they accuse them of possessing subversive material when this was not established?

How could they accuse them of being a national threat without proving the existence of such a threat?

Who cooked up these stories? Surely someone must be answerable. Who will be held accountable for this sordid affair? Shouldn’t the Inspector-General of Police who is the head of the police force be held accountable for this? Shouldn’t the Minister of Home Affairs be taken to task for this break-down in the rule of law?

Why didn’t the judge who is responsible for granting the remand order demand proof before granting such an order? Aren’t the fundamental rights and freedoms of a person his concern? Isn’t he the person who ensures that justice must be upheld and every person under the law is entitled to the protection of the law? Why did he fail miserably in his duty to uphold the constitution?

The rule of law should not become a myth in our country. The police must not be a law unto themselves. The rule of law must prevail at all times.

To prevent similar incidences from occurring in future we need to go deep into this episode and ferret out those who were callous in accusing innocent Malaysians without just cause. We need a Royal Commission of Inquiry to examine how and why the detention of the 30 PSM members took place. We need to know what gives the police the authority to behave in the manner they have without being accountable for their action. We need to establish the fact that there is such a thing as Rule of Law in this country.

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