Peguam negara mesti tampil memainkan peranan untuk menjernihkan keadaan (Malay/English)

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Attorney General Idrus Harun

[ENGLISH VERSION BELOW] Eliminating Deaths in Custody Together (Edict) dikejutkan dengan satu berita pada 11 April mengenai ucapan Menteri Pertahanan Ismail Sabri Yaakob yang bercakap bagi pihak Majlis Keselamatan Negara.

Beliau mengatakan, “mereka yang melanggar PKP pada kali ini akan ditangkap dan didakwa di mahkamah di bawah Seksyen 24, Akta Kawalan dan Pencegahan Penyakit Berjangkit 1988.”

Ismail juga dilaporkan berkata, “Kita serahkan kepada pihak polis sama ada akan kenakan kompaun atau sebaliknya”. Menurut beliau, pihak polis membuat keputusan untuk terus mendakwa di mahkamah daripada mengenakan kompaun kerana terdapat begitu ramai orang mengingkari perintah kawalan pergerakan.

Terdapat pelbagai alasan mengapa ada individu-individu melanggar perintah ini. Ada di antara mereka sangat terdesak untuk mencari nafkah bagi memberi makan kepada keluarga mereka kerana mereka tidak dapat bekerja dan hilang sumber mata pencarian.

Pertama, seperti yang telah kami nyatakan terdahulu, terdapat banyak kes di mana amaran dan nasihat sudah memadai daripada mengenakan kompaun atau penangkapan.

Kedua, dalam sesetengah kes, mahkamah menjatuhkan hukuman tiga bulan penjara manakala dalam sebahagian kes lagi, mereka terpaksa ke penjara kerana tidak mampu membayar denda. Keluarga mereka pula terpaksa berlapar kerana ketua keluarga mereka dipenjarakan.

Ketiga, Jabatan Penjara telah memberi amaran bahawa penjara boleh menjadi tempat penularan Covid-19 akibat pertambahan tahanan-tahanan yang baru ke dalam penjara yang sudahpun sedia sesak dan padat.

Keempat, Hakim Besar Malaya, Hakim Besar Sabah dan Sarawak, dan juga seorang bekas hakim berpengalaman telah mengingatkan badan kehakiman supaya lebih peka mengenai isu kepadatan penjara dan hukuman yang berlebihan.

Kelima, peruntukan undang-undang yang dirujuk oleh Ismail Sabri tersebut walaupun merujuk kepada denda yang boleh dikenakan sebagai ganti kepada penjara selama dua tahun, namun timbalan pendakwaraya sering menekankan hukuman penjara untuk kesalahan pertama dan ianya dipersetujui oleh majistret dan hakim mahkamah sesyen.

Kita berada dalam situasi pandemik. Kawalan pergerakan wajar dikuatkuasakan. Memang wujud segelintir yang tidak patuh pada perintah tersebut. Mereka perlu diberi amaran dan jika perlu, barulah mereka dikenakan hukuman.

Namun begitu, dalam situasi pandemik, tidak bermakna sistem dan amalan keadilan yang mantap perlu diabaikan. Salah satu amalan tersebut adalah mengambil kira faktor mitigasi dalam menjatuhkan hukuman. Juga pada hakikatnya, menghantar ribuan orang ke penjara pada waktu ini hanya akan memburukkan lagi keadaan.

READ MORE:  Movement control order violators are defaulters not criminals

Kami menggesa pihak Majlis Keselamatan Negaru untuk mendengar nasihat dan pandangan pengamal perubatan, Jabatan Penjara, ahli-ahli badan kehakiman sama ada yang masih berkhidmat mahupun yang terdahulu, dan masyarakat secara amnya.

Kami seterusnya ingin menyatakan kebimbangan kami terhadap tindakan yang melebih-lebih pihak polis seperti dalam kes Mohd Izwan, seorang pemuda yang ditahan pada 11 April kerana disyaki meluahkan kemarahannya ketika saat-saat sukar begini. Beliau dikatakan telah memuatnaik komen didalam media sosial yang ditujukan kepada “PM”. Seseorang hanya perlu ditahan dan disiasat kerana melakukan jenayah yang sebenar. Bukan kerana fikirannya ataupun berdasarkan tanggapan semata-mata.

Kita sedang menghadapi situasi yang sukar yang tidak pernah berlaku sebelum ini. Namun, janganlah kita lupa bahawa ciri-ciri sebagai sebuah negara adalah menasihati sebelum mengenakan pertuduhan jenayah.

Kerajaan melalui Majlis Keselamatan Negara seharusnya meminta pihak polis untuk mengamalkan sikap belas kasihan dan memahami keperluan untuk memastikan peruntukan yang termaktub dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan dipatuhi pada setiap masa serta tidak menggunakan undang-undang sebagai satu alat untuk penyalahgunaan kuasa.

Kerajaan tidak patut sama sekali “menyerahkan segalanya pada pihak polis”. Kerajaan perlu menyediakan polisi yang jelas dan panduan kepada pihak polis.

Kami ingin mengingatkan peguam negara bahawa pada saat ini, negara dan rakyat memerlukan beliau untuk memberikan panduan dan jaminan agar tuntutan undang-undang menurut Perlembagan Persekutuan dipatuhi.

Kami sekali lagi ingin menggesa peguam negara untuk tampil dan mengambil tindakan dalam situasi ini, bertindak atas kuasa yang diberikan kepadanya dibawah Artikel 145 Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan mengawasi pihak polis dan pendakwaraya.

English version

Attorney general needs to step up to the plate and clarify matters

Eliminating Deaths in Custody Together (Edict) is alarmed by a news report on 11 April that Defence Minister Ismail Sabri, speaking for the National Security Council (NSC), said “Those who breach the MCO this time will be arrested and charged in court under Section 24 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (PCID) Act 1988.”

READ MORE:  Ismail Sabri, be responsible; respond!

Ismail is also reported to have said, “We will leave it to the police to decide if there will be any more compounds.” According to him, the police decided to press charges rather than compound offences because more people are violating the movement control order.

People breach the movement control order for a variety of reasons. Some we note do so out of sheer desperation to find some ways and means to feed their families as a result of being out of work.

Edict is alarmed by Ismail’s statements for several reasons.

First, as we have pointed out previously, there are many cases where a warning or advice would have sufficed, rather than a compound or arrest.

Second, in some cases the courts have handed down prison sentences of three months and, in other cases, people have gone to jail because they could not afford the fines imposed – and families go hungry while breadwinners are incarcerated.

Third, the Prisons Department has warned that a major Covid-19 crisis could develop in prisons due to further overcrowding of our already crowded prisons.

Fourth, the chief justice of Malaya, the chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak and a retired senior judge have asked the judiciary to be sensitive to overcrowding and excessive sentencing.

Fifth, the provision of the law which Ismail referred to stipulates fine and imprisonment as sentence. There is no limit set on the fine. The imprisonment is up to two years, for a first offence. Our deputy public prosecutors press for maximum sentences and our magistrates and sessions court judges often agree with them. It seems highly likely that more movement control order offenders will be imprisoned and for longer periods – unless the attorney general provides clear guidance.

We are in a pandemic. Movement restrictions must be imposed and have been imposed. Some do not comply. Many must be warned and if necessary, some must be punished.

However, the pandemic does not mean we must ignore well-established justice practices. One of those practices is that mitigating factors must be taken into consideration when sentencing. It is also well-established that sending thousands to prison now will worsen the effects of the pandemic.

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We call upon the National Security Council to listen to good medical advice, prison officers, serving and past members of the judiciary, and the general public.

We further put on record our alarm over another over-reaction by the police: Muhd Izwan, a youth, was arrested on 11 April, allegedly for venting his frustration in these difficult days. He is said to have posted comments on social media directed at “PM.” People should be arrested and investigated for actual crimes committed. Never for their thoughts nor for any perceived crimes.

These are difficult times and we are in uncharted territory. But we must never lose sight of the fact that our character as a nation has been to counsel before we press criminal charges. The pandemic must not be allowed to change our national character.

The government, through the National Security Council, should urge the police to set an example of mercy and level thinking. The police must, even in a pandemic, uphold the spirit of the Federal Constitution and adhere to its guarantees. They must not use the law as an instrument of blunt force. The government should never “leave it to the police”. The government needs to set out clear policies and issue directives to the police.

We once again remind the attorney general that at times like these, the nation and its citizenry look up to him for guidance and confidence that the spirit of the law as enshrined in the Federal Constitution is complied with.

We therefore urge the attorney general of Malaysia to step up and make his voice heard, exercise the powers entrusted to him under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution and rein in the police and prosecutors.

Khalid Ismath is executive director of Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together (EDICT)

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