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Enforcement 101: Appropriate To Arrest Innocent Legal Aid Lawyers?

Legal Aid Lawyers Appropriate

The question is whether it is appropriate for the police to arrest these brave lawyers who came to provide legal aid to those who have been arrested for illegal assembly. Image source: Malaysian Bar

Sometimes it is just too obvious that some politicians do not know what they are talking about. When this happens, they end up looking like an idiot in the middle of a busy road.

First, read this statement from DPM:-

He said for instance, the call by the Council for the Human Rights Commission to conduct a public inquiry into the arrest of five Legal Aid Centre lawyers at a police station recently seemed inappropriate.

(Source: theStar)

Next watch the actual arrest, captured by a Malaysiakini reporter:-

YouTube player


Video caption: For the second straight night the Brickfields police have arrested people who had gathered to show support for activist Wong Chin Huat who was arrested under the Sedition Act on Wednesday. And just like last night, 14 people were arrested again today for allegedly participating in an illegal assembly.

And about two hours later, six others were also taken in, including lawyers who had come to assist those arrested earlier. The 14 – nine men and five women – included PKR Youth movement exco member Ginnie Lim, KLSCAH Youth chief Ng Chong Soon, journalist The Yi Keong, PKR party worker Chua Yee Ling and several student activists.

The arrested lawyers were Fadiah, Syuhaini Safwan, Puspawati Rosman, Ravinder Singh, and Murnie Hidayah Anuar. They are all from the Bar Council’s legal aid center. All six were arrested for illegal gatherings.

Camera: Amirrudin Abdullah Editor: Lydia Azizan

The interesting stuff starts 6 minutes onwards – when the police start to treat the lawyers like some hardcore criminals at the gates and promptly arrest them without just cause.

If Bar Council’s actions are deemed inappropriate, then what would the DPM call the OCPD acting rather irrationally? Was this appropriate in the first place?

The DPM seems to be talking a lot without getting his facts right. Either that or he simply chooses to act ignorant and disregard the obvious facts. He must ask the question – why the Bar Council had deemed the police’s action inappropriate and has called for a public inquiry? Did the DPM read and understood why the resolution passed by the Bar Council in the recent EGM?

The Bar Council president rightfully said:-

“The police are also not above the law. We have the Federal Constitution. We expect respect for the Rule of Law”

Let’s go back to the night when 14 people were arrested for allegedly participating in an “illegal” assembly. And about two hours later, six others were also taken in, including Legal Aid lawyers who had come to assist those arrested earlier.

We all know how the police have reacted to peaceful gatherings lately – it has nothing but intimidation and quick arrests. Of course, all this is done in the name of illegal gathering and national security.

But the police under the order of Brickfield’s OCPD went beyond their call of duty when they also arrested the Legal Aid lawyers who had turned up to meet those who had been arrested earlier and provide legal service. Why did the OCPD treat these lawyers as cardinal threats and decided that it is appropriate to arrest them?

Was there a real threat to national security and danger to the public at large? This is what the Bar Council doesn’t understand and called for appropriate action to be taken against the police.

If the OCPD had been acting the same against say, a group of Mat Rempits who had been terrorizing the community, then it would have been more appropriate. We would have in fact applauded OCPD’s attitude. But that did not happen here.

The OCPD being a public servant is paid using public money is acting against unharmed, peaceful Malaysians who are armed with nothing but candlelights and posters.

Once one is arrested, the person has the right to legal counsel and in the case of Brickfield’s OCPD, legal counsel was not only denied but those wanting to provide legal counsel were also arrested without good reason. It is a clear case of violation of the rights granted to the person under police custody.

A reader in Malaysiakini put things in perspective:-

When I saw the video of the attitude of the Brickfields police chief speaking through a loudspeaker and threatening the public over a peaceful gathering, it reminded me of the movie ‘The Killing Fields’.

In reality, the truth is not far from this.

When candlelights and peaceful gathering is perceived to be more dangerous than guns and criminals, then it is “inappropriate” to label the Bar Council’s calls as inappropriate. If no one is going to take the case against the police’s arrests of lawyers, then it is not long before we will have our own version of killing fields where basic rule of law is denied and those carrying out their duties arrested without a valid reason.

Therefore, it is indeed appropriate for the Bar Council to call for the OCPD to be sacked. DPM should not sweep things under the carpet and call others inappropriate.

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