Wednesday, June 07, 2006


- Protest the harassment and the wrongful treatment of lawyers and other persons by the police -

About 50 lawyers turned up on Wednesday(7/6/2006) in response to the Bar President’s call for active support. They turned up at Bukit Aman (the police headquarters) to protest the harassment and the wrongful treatment of lawyers and other persons by the police.

The lawyers began gathering at the Straits Trading Building (at the Dagang Court entrance), opposite the Dataran Merdeka, from about 9-15 am. At about 9.40am they proceeded to march towards Bukit Aman (the police headquarters) carrying
banners which read “Hormati Hak Peguam” (Respect the Rights of Lawyers) and “In solidarity with the Bar”. Being refused entrance to the Bukit Aman entrance, the lawyers assembled in protest at the entrance, until about 11-30am when the President and the Bar Council delegation came out after their meeting with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and his senior officers.

On 18th April, lawyer S.Balasubramaniam, was at this PJ Police Headquarters in order to render legal assistance to his clients who had been detained by police. Despite repeated requests, the police refused to give him relevant information
about, amongst others, the reason for the arrests and the status of his clients. Balasubramaniam was thereafter physically pushed and then unlawfully arrested by a plainclothes policeman. After being arrested and detained without reasons being given for his arrest, he was then released after about 3 hours. On 19th April, he subsequently lodged a police report (PJ/004538/06) with regard this mistreatment by the police.

At about 12.00pm on the 27/4/2006, about 40 lawyers gathered at the PJ Police Headquarters to hand over a memorandum of protest which was supported by 113 lawyers to the Officer in Charge of the Petaling Jaya Police District( OCPD).

On 2nd May, the Selangor Bar and Kuala Lumpur Bar representatives met up with the Chief Police Officer of Selangor to express their protest.

On 10th of May 2006, about 25 lawyers turned up in Parliament in support of an emergency motion put in by member of the Bar and Member of Parliament for Ipoh Barat, Mr M. Kulasegaran over the harassment, arrest and detention of lawyer S. Balasubramaniam. The motion also referred to incidents involving other lawyers like P. Uthayakumar, Leonard Teoh, Zainur Zakaria and Cheah Kah Peng.

Kula’s motion also highlighted the plight of yet another Kuala Lumpur lawyer Rajasingam, who was arrested on 1/3/2006, for allegedly using his handphone whilst driving. Rajasingam said that he was handcuffed and then beaten by police. He was then charged under the Road Transport Act for refusing to give in to their unreasonable demand that he produce a urine sample. After being charged in court and released on bail, he was immediately re-arrested allegedly for intimidating the police.

Vide Malaysian Bar Council Circular No. 21/2006 dated 30/5/2006 entitled “Meeting with the IGP”, the President reminded lawyers that “…many members [had] voiced their strong concern on this issue and gave their personal commitment to show full support for members of the Bar who encounter such problems…” He said that he hoped “…that as many of you [members of the Bar] as possible will be able to match your commitment with your active support for the coming meeting…” with the IGP on 7/6/2006.

It was good to see that about 50 lawyers did respond to this call, and turned up demonstrating their personal commitment to come forward in support of lawyers who had been harassed and mistreated by the police.

Today, the IGP informed the Bar President that police investigations have been completed and the police have submitted their investigation report to the Attorney General for further action. We can now only hope that the AG would act fast and take action against those police officers who are in the wrong. No one is above the law.

Police responses to allegations of abuse and misconduct of police personnel generally has been in defence the said police officer/s and police action – and it is sad that these statements are many a time made by the IGP and/or senior police officers even before any independent and thorough investigations are carried out with regard the alleged wrong-doings of the police. Denial was the initial response to the Anwar black eye incident. Denial and justification was the police response to the allegations of excessive force by the police that resulted in 2 persons being seriously injured in a peaceful anti-fuel hike protest in Kuala Lumpur on 28/5/2006. This is another reason why we must have the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), as recommended by the 2 Royal Commissions set up as soon as possible. Police just cannot investigate independently allegations against police.

The Bar President also reported that the IGP had identified a liason officer so that in the future meetings with the Bar and the IGP on matters of concern could be held expeditiosly, and not after the lapse of more than 1 ½ months after the President of the Bar requested for a meeting as was in this case concerning the Balasubramaniam incident.

There were only 50 lawyers who turned up but it would have been more if it not the morning on a working day in mid-week as many lawyers could not be present as they had to be in court for hearings and trials. The 50 who turned up must be applauded for their commitment, and this will surely go a long way in reinforcing the confidence of other members of the Bar that they too will receive the support of the legal fraternity if they are also subjected to such mistreatment by the police or other persons especially when they are performing their duties as a lawyer.

Members of the bar and the public must and should bring to the attention of the Bar Council any or all incidents when the police over-stepped their duties and/or violated the rights of the arrested/detained person and/or their lawyers. A protocol, which would be used nationwide, is also being developed by the Bar and the police to ensure that police do furnish a lawyer with the necessary information about his arrested client and also immediate access to the arrested client.

Upholding the cause of justice without fear or favour is never just limited to actions in court but is includes lawyer’s action at police stations, prisons and other places. The protest of 27/4/2006, the show of support in Parliament on 10/5/2006 and the event in Bukit Aman on 7/6/2006 are just some of the many means in which we can and must uphold the cause of justice without fear or favour.

Charles Hector

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