Impending death of the rule of law and public security

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Angeline Loh describes the impending death of the rule of law and public security in the wake of cases of custodial torture and deaths.

The police torture of car park attendant, B. Prabakar during interrogation at the Brickfields police district headquarters on 23 December 2008 was reported by Malaysiakini on 31 December 2008, is an incident that should alarm all citizens.

Prabakar was taken in for interrogation and remanded for five days. He was asked to identify certain photographs by the police.  For his failure to answer their questions, his body was scalded with boiling water, “ repeatedly beaten, kicked and stepped-on by at least 10 police personnel” apart from being verbally abused and threatened with death. (Malaysiakini 31 Dec. 2008)

Moreover, the police took Prabakar to a private clinic to treat his injuries where a doctor treating him only communicated verbally with the police officer accompanying him. According to Prabakar, the doctor did not even ask him for his name while treating him. The police also withheld the medicine dispensed to him by the doctor. (Malaysiakini video)

Despite the fact that S. Manikavasagam, MP for Kapar had supported Prabakar’s case and submitted a memorandum to IGP Musa Hassan, and copied to SUHAKAM, there are no guarantees that any individual member of the general public will not at any time in the future be subjected to similar police brutality with impunity.

A similar instance reminds us of Francis Udayappan’s death allegedly by drowning in the Klang River while supposedly escaping custody from the same police station. G. Sara Lily, Francis Udayappan’s mother still holds the police responsible for her son’s death and that the coroner’s decision that the police were not in any way responsible, should be overturned by the High Court. (Malaysiakini 20/6/08)

As incidents of police brutality, unjust and unlawful arrests and detentions increase in number with the cruel and inhuman ISA more flagrantly exercised by the Federal Government to suppress legitimate freedom of expression and assembly, the personal security of Malaysians as well as others in this country is under constant threat.

Aliran warns that the continuance of this situation of blatant and open human rights abuse could ultimately turn into chaos and complete breakdown of the rule of law and society in this country. In an intensifying global economic downturn, the erosion of the rule of law, denial and violations of human rights, and suppression of democracy, will only further destabilize the already fragile social, economic and political structures in Malaysia.

Not only has the Federal Government ‘thumbed its nose’ at the international community, tarnishing Malaysia’s image and bringing down the nation’s prestige globally, it apparently persists in ignoring the deepening urgency to deal with fundamental economic and human rights issues in the country. If nothing is done and neither sense nor reason prevails the descent into the pit of totalitarian tyrannywould be inevitable. Malaysia may become like Myanmar, contributing to the political instability in ASEAN and Southeast Asia.

The region has been persistently plagued by such instability, yet ASEAN governments have been tardily slow in making democracy, justice and peace a priority. The out-dated principle of ‘non-interference’ in the affairs of the member countries continues to be common political currency amongst ASEAN governments, encouraging the perpetuation of brutual conduct and the breakdown of the rule of law (Forum-Asia).

Unless we take notice of the spreading epidemic of lawlessness, rising vigilante crime, mob mentality and arbitrary punishment that comes in the wake of the death of the rule of law; consequent non- preservation and protection of human life and dignity, Malaysia is in danger of becoming a Police State where brutality, arbitrary punishment and violation of the person will be permitted, rationalized and justified.

We urge Malaysian politicians of every political complexion, judiciary, and the government of the day to seriously consider the current crisis faced by the People in this country, without deflecting or evading the issues with external comparisons of situations in other countries handled differently by other governments in dissimilar political and social environments.

What is needed is concerted political will to take positive, definite and decisive action to stop prevalent corruption, lawlessness, denial of and violations of human rights, to facilitate reinstitution of the rule of law, justice and democracy.

Malaysia should become a protector and promoter of peace in the region in keeping with its treaty obligations under the UN Charter and other international treaties it has ratified and become party to, in keeping with the Federal Government’s frequent boast that Malaysia is a model multi-ethnic and pluralist society. This boast should be made into a reality for the People of Malaysia as well as serve as a shining example for international relations in the region and amongst the wider family of nations.

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