Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to Inspector General of Police Razarudin Husain’s claim that political activist Syarul Ema, widely known as Ratu Naga, was “uncooperative” with the police when her statement was taken in Bukit Aman Police Headquarters over an alleged criticism of or insult against the prime minister’s wife.
She was being investigated for criminal defamation and under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.
It is ironic that the inspector general himself is now committing slander in an investigation into criminal defamation allegedly committed by Syarul Ema.
It is blatantly false for the inspector general to say that Ema has not cooperated with the police by not answering the questions that were posed to her when her statement was taken.
Syarul Ema has shown full regard for the legal process by promptly going to the police station to give her statement when called upon.
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Contrary to the claims of the inspector general, there was no legal obligation for Syarul Ema to answer police questions in this misconceived investigation.
The right to remain silent during police interrogation is the cornerstone of our criminal justice system, codified under Section 112(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code. Section 112(2) clearly states that any person can exercise their right to remain silent on any questions that may expose them to a criminal charge.
The inspector general cannot claim to be ignorant of Section 112(2). If he truly is, then he is not fit to hold the position.
The fact that the inspector general himself deemed it worthy of his time to comment on such an inane and farcical investigation is highly embarrassing.
The investigation, which centres on a post showcasing the prime minister’s wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in a picture with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife is an utter waste of public resources. The picture was uploaded by the Israeli PM, his wife and Wan Azizah herself in their Instagram account. There is no element of criminal defamation or any other offence arising from subsequent displays of the picture, as allegedly done by Syarul Ema.
Thus, it is apparent that this police investigation serves only to protect the reputation of the PM’s wife, now that her picture with the much-despised Israeli PM’s wife has gone viral among people in Malaysia.
It is a clear abuse of power for the police force to be used to investigate or harass anyone who criticises the PM’s wife. If she is aggrieved, then she is free to file a defamation suit in the civil courts, like all other Malaysias. The PM’s wife does not hold any special status; she has the same rights as any other citizen. Article 8 of the Federal Constitution promises equality of all before the law, regardless of their status in society.
The fact that the full might of the police is being used to clamp down on social media users for any criticism or disaffection against those in government or those married to them is tyrannical and contrary to a healthy democracy.
This is no different from what happened under the Najib Razak regime, which was criticised vociferously by Pakatan Harapan leaders then. The PH-led government has, with every passing day, forgotten their promises of reform to the public as they now have no qualms in using the same laws that they were once victims of.
It is not too late for Anwar and his government to uphold their promise to the people and uphold the much touted reform agenda. We urge them to respect the right to freedom of expression under Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.
Meanwhile, the unlawful and high-handed police investigation against Syarul Ema must be halted immediately. We further urge the inspector general to focus on crime and the safety of ordinary people, instead of unlawfully rushing to protect the PM’s wife’s reputation. – LFL
Zaid Malek is director of Lawyers for Liberty