Home Civil Society Voices Abuse of police powers must stop

Abuse of police powers must stop

Photograph: Berita Daily

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The Malaysian Bar is appalled and outraged that Siti Zabedah Kasim was arrested and detained during the early hours of 24 June 2018 for purportedly kidnapping her client, Anis Izzatty Ruslan and for allegedly obstructing a public servant in the discharge of his/her public functions pursuant to sections 363 and 186 of the Penal Code respectively.

On 21 June 2018, Siti Kasim was informed that Anis had been taken to Kajang Hospital for a medical examination without her consent. Anis, on the advice of Siti Kasim, left the hospital and then sought temporary refuge at Siti Kasim’s home.

Subsequently on 23 June 2018, a number of police officers forcibly gained entry into Siti Kasim’s home when she was not in by breaking open several locked doors to gain access to Anis, allegedly to prevent her from injuring herself and others.

When Siti Kasim queried the police as to the whereabouts of Anis, she was asked to report to the Kajang Police Station. Here she was arrested pursuant to section 363 and section 186 of the Penal Code. She was then handcuffed and remanded overnight before being produced at the Kajang Magistrates’ Court on 24 June 2018.

At the remand hearing, the police sought a four-day remand order. However this was only in respect of the allegation of obstruction of a public servant under Section 186, and interestingly, there was no reference to the initial allegation of kidnapping. After hearing submissions from all parties, the magistrate refused to grant the application for remand. The police are said to be still investigating the matter.

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It is pertinent to note that Siti Kasim was at all material times discharging her duties as an advocate and solicitor, as instructed and appointed by her client.

The independence of an advocate and solicitor to act for a client without fear or favour is fundamental to the administration of justice. A lawyer must at all times be allowed to advance a client’s rights without obstruction or impediment or fear of prosecution for carrying out his or her duties as an officer of the court. Any unwarranted interference with the discharge of such duties is a serious violation of the independence of the legal profession and an affront to the administration of justice.

It is troubling that the police continue to grossly misconstrue their investigative powers and to exercise these powers in a high-handed and oppressive manner. Powers to arrest are not meant to be used to begin gathering evidence against an individual. Further, investigative powers cannot be used to arrest or detain individuals or to seek remand orders, only for the purposes of gathering evidence.

At the outset, the police should have conducted thorough investigations in respect of any police report lodged against Siti Kasim rather than simply proceeding to effect an arrest. The powers of investigation and arrest must not be used to intimidate suspects and the application for remand orders must be used sparingly and only when necessary.

This failure to act in an impartial manner undermines the credibility of the police and further erodes their neutrality, integrity and professionalism. The conduct of the police in this case will invariably give rise to an irresistible inference in the public’s mind that the police are once again abusing their power.

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The Malaysian Bar demands that the police recognise and respect the role and responsibilities of lawyers and refrain from any action that is likely to harass, impede or obstruct them from performing their duties.

It is to address such abuses and high-handedness of the police as in this case that the Malaysian Bar has relentlessly advocated the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission. The Malaysian Bar calls on the government to fulfil its electoral pledge to establish the IPCMC without further delay.

George Varughese is president of the Malaysian Bar.

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