Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bar wants minister, IGP to quit over arrest of lawyers

PETALING JAYA, May 15 — The Malaysian Bar today demanded the immediate resignation of the Home Affairs Minister, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and two other high-ranking police officers over the “unlawful” arrests of five lawyers from its Legal Aid Centre last May 7.

Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan condemned Hishammuddin Hussein, IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan and OCPD Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid for their publicly castigating the lawyers without first checking the facts on what took place that night.

He pointed to their public statements in response to the incident that lawyers were not above the law.

“The lawyers were accused of asking for preferential treatment, implying they had broken the law by being in front of the police station,” an upset Ragunath told reporters after chairing an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) here today.

“This is public humiliation, completely unnecessary and an abuse of the laws,” he said and added: “That’s why we are angry, upset and disgusted.”

Ragunath also promised legal action against the three for the unlawful arrests and to amend the law providing for the legal rights of an arrested person under Section 28A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

He said the police had abused the provisions of the law to prevent the five lawyers from carrying out their duties.

Ragunath said the society of some 12,500 lawyers would be sending a memorandum soon to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak asking for a public apology and a meeting with him over the “shameful” affair.

More than 1,400 lawyers had turned up for the EGM, tripling the numbers needed to pass a motion.

They had unanimously voted in support of the motions denouncing the “blatant transgression of the rule of law” against their colleagues and the police’s abuse of powers as an independent enforcement agency.

Among other things, they also repeated its earlier calls on the government to set up an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) in its original form to monitor any oversight by the police.

On May 7, five young lawyers were arrested by the police at the Brickfields police station in Kuala Lumpur.

The five: Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Murni Hidayah, Puspawati Rosman, Ravinder Singh Dhalliwal and Shuhaini Safwan are part of a group of lawyers in the Bar Council which provides free legal aid.

They were blocked at the gates by the police from meeting their clients.

They had rushed to the police station after being alerted of the arrests of several people earlier that night allegedly for taking part in an illegal assembly while holding a candlelight vigil for social activist Wong Chin Huat who had also been arrested by police two nights earlier.

The investigating officer on duty, Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Jude Pereira had supposedly informed the lawyers the individuals arrested had signed away their constitutional rights to legal representation.

Their insistence on speaking with their clients caused them to be arrested by the Officer in-Charge of the Police District (OCPD) Assistant Commissioner Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid for taking part in an assembly without a permit.

“The arrests of five of us indeed made history in the legal profession where lawyers, being officers of the Court were subjected to arrests by the police in the course of discharging their statutory duties,”

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri wrote in her Facebook entry describing the incident.

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