Stop harassment of Umany

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Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) stands in solidarity with our member organisation, University of Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany), in view of the recent investigation which arose from their recent statement “Yang Di-Pertuan Agong should not intervene in national affairs”, which was posted on their Facebook page.

We firmly defend constitutional monarchy as a key element in Malaysian parliamentary democracy, which in turn stands on the rule of law as well as civil and political liberties as enshrined in our Federal Constitution.While recognising that the subject matter evokes strong emotions among many Malaysians, respectful public discussion on the power and limitation of the constitutional monarchy as an element in our system of governance is part and parcel of our freedom of expression. In fact, such matter was and is still continually being discussed in light of recent political developments.

When the Yang di-Pertuan Agong rejected the prime minister’s plan for an emergency, the Dewan Negara President  Rais Yatim disputed in his Twitter account that such an act was unconstitutional. Following this, there were police reports lodged against him. However, he was not called up for any investigation.

We remind the police that their image as enforcers of law and order is now greatly tarnished following the perceived double standards in the handling of the violators of regulations intended to contain the spread of Covid-19, with violators who are in positions of power seemingly getting off lightly or with no action taken against them at all. At this juncture, the police should not have taken another action that would put their impartiality in doubt.

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We also noted that a lawyer, Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar, has filed a suit in court disputing the decision of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in rejecting the prime minister’s plan for an emergency. It is in our view that Syed Iskandar, Rais Yatim and Umany were just exercising their freedom of expression, and none of them has shown any sign of committing any wrongdoing that is worthy of investigation by the police force, which has been greatly overworked in enforcing regulations to combat Covid-19.

We urge the inspector general and the leadership of the police to be considerate of the burden of their subordinates and not allow the police to be used for political purpose, unnecessarily adding to their workload.

We would also like to express our concern over the high-handedness of the police during the investigation in which Umany’s president and vice president were probed, followed by a police raid at the house of its president during which its former president, Wong Yan Ke, was arrested for allegedly obstructing police duty by streaming the process over Facebook Live. This was followed by the further probing of six other Umany leaders.

We are also concerned by the statement issued by Bukit Aman a day later which claimed that while recording videos or taking photographs of police investigations is not an offence, circulating such videos or photographs could affect the confidentiality of such investigations.

We believe incidents like these show why the independent complaints of police misconduct commission (IPCMC) is needed to ensure due process is followed in police investigations. We urge the government to reconsider its decision to drop the proposal of setting up the IPCMC in favour of an independent police conduct commission (IPCC) which has less power.

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We wish to express our conviction that the concept of the constitutional monarchy in a vibrant democracy goes hand in hand with that of the rule of law and freedom of expression.

Badlishah Sham Baharin is chair of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM). This statement was released on behalf of the GBM executive council

Source: GBM Facebook page, 11 November 2020

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