Home Media statements 2008 Media Statements Why is the BN government sidelining the courts?

Why is the BN government sidelining the courts?

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Aliran is alarmed that the BN government is totally ignoring the courts and resorting to the obnoxious ISA to terrorise concerned citizens. We have recently witnessed this worrying trend in the detention of Raja Petra, Tan Hoon Cheng and MP Teresa Kok under the indefensible ISA.

While there are various laws to charge a person for any alleged criminal offence, there is absolutely no reason to resort to the ISA. Why can’t existing laws be applied to charge citizens for any perceived criminal offence? Is it because the BN government is afraid that whatever charge that is preferred against these citizens will not stand up to the scrutiny of the court?

The latest citizen to fall victim to this continuing trend of ousting the courts through the use of the ISA is 26-year-old activist Cheng Lee Whee. She had apparently lodged a police report accusing the police of abuse of power in the forced eviction of squatters in Kampung Baru Plentong Tengah, Johor. In this episode, 27 individuals were arrested for attempting to stop the demolition of the predominantly Malay squatter colony.

If it was true, as claimed by the police, that she was “spreading false information”, then she should have been charged under the Sedition Act and taken to court to prove her claim, failing which she would have been convicted as charged and sentenced accordingly. This is what Rule of Law means as we understand it. This is what natural justice is all about. The police must act within acceptable norms. They must be seen as respecters of the law to win the respect of the public.

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According to some legal circles, Section 28 of the ISA does not allow a person to be detained without a trial. That being the case, why then was Lee Whee taken in under the ISA? Can the police clarify why the Sedition Act could not have been used to charge Lee Whee? Why is the ISA preferred over the Sedition Act? The Home Minister owes us an explanation and we hope that he will be forthcoming.

The ISA is not only giving the country an ugly image, it is also denigrating the police and destroying their credibility.

To save their tattered image and restore their integrity, the police must charge Lee Whee under the existing law failing which she should be released immediately.

P Ramakrishnan


18 October 2008

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