Calls’ on the government to check abuses of power by police officers who use Criminal Procedure Code to violate democratic rights of Malaysians and opposition parties

Speech by the Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Bill on Wednesday, 21st December 1994

Calls’ on the government to check abuses of power by police officers who use Criminal Procedure Code to violate democratic rights of Malaysians and opposition parties

Last Sunday, Seremban appeared to be the capital of crime and lawlessness in the country when some 200 FRU and police personnel were mobilised for over five hours at the Seremban central market since 6 am closing off roads, as if the country was faced with an even greater threat to public order and security when compared to the darkest day during the Communist Emergency.

In the event, to justify such massive police mobilisation in Seremban, four DAP Negri Sembilan state leaders namely, the DAP Negri Sembilan state deputy chairman Khoo Seng Hock, the state vice chairman Haji Malek, the state organising secretary Lin Seng Chuan and die state deputy organising secretary P. Gunasegaran were illegally arrested by the police on the unheard—of ground of distributing party pamphlets without permit.

The four were detained at the Seremban police station on the ground that the police were acting under section 1.12 of the Criminal Procedure Code concerning examination of witnesses by police where it has reason to believe that offences has been committed.

In this case, no officer had been committed by the four and their detention under section 112 of the Criminal Procedure Code was a gross abuse of power by the Seremban police.

The four were also threatened by the Seremban police that they could invoke section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code in asking a magistrate to keep them in police custody for up to 11 days.

A major set-back for democracy and human rights if 37 years after Merdeka, police now claim that
political parties must apply for a permit before they can distribute party pamphlets

If it is an offence to distribute party pamphlets without permit, then the biggest culprits would he the Barisan Nasional parties who resort to such massive distribution not only during general elections but in their party elections.

It will also be a major set-back for democracy and human rights if 37 years after Merdeka the police is declaring that political parties must apply for permit before they can distribute party pamphlets.

The four were ill-treated during their detention in the Seremban police station as they were completely stripped, including Haji Malek who has a heart history.

After my intervention with the Negri Sembilan Chief Police Officer, the four were released six hours after the -illegal detention without signing any bond whatsoever.

This case is an example of the gross abuse of the Criminal Procedure Code by certain police officers, to commit illegal detention as well as violate the democratic rights of Malaysians and oppostion parties.

This cannot be the objective of the Criminal Procedure Code or the police.

I understand that the police had mobilised the 200 personnel since 6 am at the Seremban Central Market for some five hours because they received information that the smallholders affected by the Seremban II land acquisition project would be distributing pamphlets to explain their case to the public.

Even if this was the case, there was no justification for the Police to mobilise in such a massive manner as if facing a grave threat to national order and security.

Is Malaysia so insecure, unstable and fragile that it could not allow smallholders whose land have been unfairly acquired for private development to distribute pamphlets to explain their grounds for opposition and to appeal for public support in their battle for justice?

I hope that the Attorney General and the Inspector General of Police will send out very clear messages to all police officers that they should not abuse the Criminal Procedure Code for illegal or irrelevant purposes and even more important, the police should not be seen to be an enemy of democracy and human rights in Malaysia.

Furthermore, the police should not allow themselves to be made used of in political disputes especially between the opposition and Barisan Nasional parties in critical areas as the police must stay clear of all political involvements and confine themselves strictly to police duties.

On the proposal to abolish preliminary inquiries and jury trials, the government must be faulted for not conducting a meaningful consultation process with the Bar Council and other organisations concerned with the administration of justice before presenting the present Bill to the House.

There should be the fullest public debate and discussion on whether to abolish jury trials and preliminary inquiries before Parliament takes a vote on them.

The proposal to abolish jury trials is a matter of grave public concern especially as the government has announced the Vision 2020 which envisages a more participatory Malaysian society not only in the political process but also in other aspects of decision making including the judicial process.

We should be thinking in terms of how to get more Malaysians involved in the mainstream of the various decision making processes rather than doing the opposite as in the abolition of jury trials.

This is why a full public discussion and debate on this issue is necessary, to ascertain as to whether the weaknesses in the jury system as argued by the government holds water, whether such weaknesses could be remedied or whether the abolition of the jury system is the best solution.

At present jury trials are held in cases for murder and certain capital offences with the juries as the sole judges of fact. By abolishing jury trial, the judge would have to decide on both fact and law.

The long running saga of a gruesome murder trial involving an elected representative, a bomoh and other colourful personalities, which is getting full exposure in the mass media, both printed and electronic, constantly featuring heated and acrimonious exchanges between the defence counsel and the judge cannot but raise the question whether the judge is in all cases the best person to decide on facts in such capital cases.

There should therefore be a comprehensive public review of the legal and judicial system in the country including the question of jury trials and preliminary inquiries to ensure that both criminal and civil justice are dispensed in our country.