Arrests of Ambiga and others ‘a blatant abuse of police powers’: Hakam

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Ambiga is one of those being investigated - Photograph: Hakam

Hakam is appalled that our president Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan was detained on Workers Day evening and arrested by the police for participating in the May Day Rally against the GST (May Day rally).

According to the police, Ambiga is being investigated under s143 of the Penal Code for unlawful assembly. Hakam strongly condemns the arrest and detention of Ambiga – there was no unlawful assembly, as the May Day Rally was not a protest for any unlawful purpose.

Ambiga’s participation in the said rally together with thousands of other Malaysians was an exercise of her right of freedom of expression and association enshrined in our Federal Constitution.

Ambiga was called by the police in the evening to assist with investigation and had turned up at the Dang Wangi Police Station to give her statement. After waiting for more than three hours, she was informed that she would be arrested and detained. A further remand would be sought on 2 May 2015 to assist with investigation.

In the meantime, S Arutchelvan from PSM and Anthony Loke, a Member of Parliament (DAP), were similarly arrested and detained under section 143 of the Penal Code. The Police will also be seeking further remand orders on 2 May 2015 against Arutchelvam and Anthony Loke.

Hakam views the arrests and detentions including any applications for a further remand a blatant abuse of police powers. Ambiga, Arutchelvan and Anthony Loke had at all times been cooperative with the police in their investigations, obliging them by turning up at the police station as required. All three of them had given their statements even though they had been made to wait for more than three hours before the police started their questioning.

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The police investigative powers to detain ought to be used against individuals sparingly where there exists flight risks or where there are risks of tampering with police investigations and evidence. The police in carrying out their duties ought to respect the rule of law and give effect to protecting and preserving the constitutional right to liberty of all Malaysians.

In the circumstances of these three persons, there were no necessity or any justification whatsoever to detain them after questioning and taking their statements. Hakam is constrained therefore to view these detentions as acts of intimidation and harassment and a continuing practice against any government dissidents. This deplorable practice of unjustified detention and remands of activists must stop.

There were also more than 25 other persons, mostly youths, arrested and detained for offences related to the May Day Rally. Hakam strongly urges the police to likewise conduct their investigations in these cases in a professional manner befitting of their calling as the Royal Malaysian Police. Again, they must exercise their powers to detain only in circumstances which warrant a detention.

In the case of minors being arrested, Hakam calls on the police to be extremely careful and give full effect in protecting their rights as children – in particular, no handcuffs should be used on the minors and certainly the minors ought not be chained or locked up together with adults.

Hakam urges in the strongest terms possible that the police respect the rule of law and their own professionalism. The use of police investigative powers to intimidate or harass must stop.

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The rights given to all Malaysians under the Federal Constitution must be respected and preserved. Those rights are not to be violated by the very people who have vowed to protect and entrusted to uphold the Constitution.

Issued on behalf of Hakam Executive Committee

Robyn Choi is secretary general of Hakam.

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