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Police action in June 2022 set a dangerous precedent for future peaceful public protests

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The Malaysian Bar refers to its press release titled “The walk for judicial independence — How the police had failed” dated 24 June 2022.1

The Malaysian Bar had, in fulfilling the resolution adopted during its extraordinary general meeting on 27 May 2022, organised an assembly and walk named the “Walk for judicial independence” on 17 June, to hand over a memorandum regarding judicial independence to the prime minister or his representative.

The Malaysian Bar had then expressed its disappointment and chagrin at the Royal Malaysia Police’s unwarranted conduct towards the participants of the walk, including their actions in forming human chains surrounding the participants, thereby preventing them from leaving the assembly point at Padang Merbok.

After the walk, on 24 June, the president of the Malaysian Bar, the chief executive officer of the Bar Council secretariat (Rajen Devaraj), and a Bar Council member (Roger Chan), were issued notices under Section 111 of the Criminal Procedure Code to attend the Dang Wangi Police station to provide statements for the purposes of police investigation into the walk.

On 8 July the secretary of the Malaysian Bar was served with a similar notice.

All four members declined to give any statements to the police.

The Malaysian Bar had earlier denounced the authoritarian, arbitrary, and disproportionate attitude exhibited by the police, and we have stated that we will not countenance their transgression.

In response to the police actions, the president and secretary of the Malaysian Bar, Rajen Devaraj, and Roger Chan, on 19 September collectively filed a judicial review application in the High Court of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur against the chief of police, the officer in charge of the Dang Wangi Police district, the government of Malaysia and others (collectively known as the defendants) challenging the validity of the notices issued under Section 111 of the Criminal Procedure Code against the four members.

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Upon service of the judicial review application on the defendants on 20 September 2022, the officer in charge of the Dang Wangi Police district immediately issued letters on 26 September stating that their investigation papers were referred to the Attorney General’s Chambers and the decision given was “NFA”, which means no further action.

As the matter was rendered academic in light of the police decision not to further pursue the case, the aforesaid judicial review application was discontinued by the Malaysian Bar on 13 October.

Notwithstanding this turn of event, the Malaysian Bar’s pursuit of justice continues. We maintain our position that the actions of the police were wrongful and reprehensible. The Malaysian Bar has thus initiated separate legal proceeding against the officer in charge of the Dang Wangi Police district, the Royal Malaysian Police, the inspector general of police, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the government of Malaysia, and one other defendant for, among others, breach of statutory duty and/or breach of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, violation of our constitutional rights under Articles 5, 8, 9 and 10 of the Federal Constitution, false imprisonment, and misfeasance in public office.

This writ and statement of claim were served on the defendants on 25 October. The defendants to the action have entered appearance on 7 November.

The first case management date was fixed on 22 November, and the defendants then sought for an extension of time to file their defence on or by 22 December.

The Malaysian Bar is to file a reply on or by 5 January. The next case management date is fixed on 12 January.

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Without delving into extensive details regarding the lawsuit that was filed, the Malaysian Bar takes the view that the police’s flagrant disregard for the constitutional rights of the participants of the walk, including the use of disproportionate force towards the participants and malicious intent to frustrate and restrain them from fully participating in the walk, is wholly unacceptable and cannot be condoned.

The police misconduct harks back to the days when the police tried to “disallow” the peaceful protests organised by Bersih in 2015.

In the same vein, the police actions amount to misfeasance in public office by allowing the false imprisonment of the participants of the walk to occur. This sets a dangerous precedent for future instances of peaceful public protests, and the Malaysian Bar will not stand idly by as the police curtails and tramples upon the fundamental rights and liberties afforded to the rakyat.

The Malaysian Bar will not rest until we obtain proper legal redress.

Karen Cheah Yee Lynn is president of the Malaysian Bar

This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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