Release suspect Chegubard from remand detention

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The draconian Sedition Act and Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act (CMA), which ought to have been repealed, has been used again.

This time the victim is an opposition party, Bersatu’s Badrul Hisham Shaharin, also known as “Chegubard”.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) and other groups have long been calling for the repeal of Sedition Act and Section 233 and other draconian provisions in CMA.

Apparently, Badrul’s arrest and remand was over comments “over a post on Facebook where he quoted Bloomberg and Singapore media on reports claiming that a casino would be established in Forest City, Johor”.

The Business Times on 25 April had a report entitled “Malaysia mulls over plans for casino in Forest City as part of Johor-S’pore Special Economic Zone: sources”, and Bloomberg on the same day had a report entitled “Malaysia in Talks With Tycoons on Casino to Revive $100 Billion Forest City”.

Malaysia has a casino and various gambling operations, and anyone can in the future open up a casino or gambling operations provided they get the needed licence or permits as per the laws like the Betting Act 1953 and Common Gaming Houses Act 1957. Hence, how can it be wrong for anyone making plans or having discussions about casinos and other forms of legitimate gambling activities or talking about it.

According to a media report, Badrul was commenting based on information from media reports. One wonders whether the Malaysian government has to date taken any action against Business Times and/or Bloomberg.

If there is anything false in the reports, the government and relevant parties could always provide information and demand a correction. Hence, the arrest and now the remand of a person who commented based on media reports raises questions.

READ MORE:  Don't deceive people into thinking Sedition Act is needed to deal with 'three Rs'

Remand not needed

Badrul Hisham was arrested on 27 April, and the police applied for remand on 28 April and obtained a remand order for two days for the purpose of investigation.

In cases like this, it is Madpet’s opinion that is no reason for the suspect to be held in detention for the purpose of investigation. He could have been released and asked to present himself at a particular time for the purpose of investigation. If he did not come, then maybe remand may be used.

We recall the case of a convicted former prime minister, who is now serving his prison sentence. Note that Najib Razak was allegedly never remanded and forced to spend time in a police cell with other detainees (Malaysian lock-up conditions leave much to be desired).

We recall Zahid Hamidi, the Deputy PM, who was initially not remanded but had to appear at stipulated times for the purpose of investigations until just before he was brought to court to be charged.

Zahid was arrested at 3.15pm, following his sixth session with the MACC at its headquarters in Putrajaya since July. He will be brought to the Session Court in Kuala Lumpur at 8am tomorrow (Malaysiakini, 18 October 2018).

In Zahid’s case, there was even no need to apply to a magistrate for a remand order, which is required if the police or the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission wants to detain the suspect beyond 24 hours from the time of arrest, as he was detained for just about five or six hours before being taken to court and charged.

READ MORE:  Sedition charge against opposition politician breaches promise to repeal Sedition Act

Hence, was there really any need to keep Badrul Hisham in detention for the purpose of investigations?

Madpet believes he and most other suspects will turn up for appointments for the purpose of investigation.

Cell conditions and custodial deaths

In 2017, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has described the Ayer Molek Police cell conditions as deplorable and hazardous to the health and wellbeing of its occupants.

Many other police cells are still in bad condition. We have to acknowledge that torture and even deaths in custody also happen in Malaysia’s police cells.

Remand of suspects affects their income-generating activities and causes hardship to themselves, their family and their dependents. Note that most suspects never even get charged – or even if they are, they might be found not guilty. Remember, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court after a fair hearing.

Remand also can be an ‘income-generating’ opportunity for the corrupt officers, who allegedly charge money to get detainees food and drinks and allow use of mobile phones.

Remand also has financial implication for the government. Would it not be more just for suspects to be released after an investigation is done for the day? They could be required to attend at a specified later date and time for further investigations if needed.

Madpet hopes that there is no abuse of remand for punishment when it is only for the purpose of investigation.

How many hours was really spent on investigations? How many hours was wasted in cells?

READ MORE:  Najib's sentence reduction: Don't invoke Sedition Act for selective persecution

Hopefully, after Badrul is released, he will tell us all how many times and how many hours he was subject to investigation, and how long he spent simply languishing in the cell.

Use other laws, not the Sedition Act or Section 233 of  the CMA if people are suspected of committing criminal offences.

Madpet calls for the immediate release of Badrul Hisham Shaharin from remand detention and for the police to fix appointments for further investigation if needed.

Madpet reiterates the call for the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 and other draconian provisions in the CMA.

And Madpet calls again for an immediate moratorium (pending repeal) on the use of the Sedition Act and other draconian laws or provisions in laws.

Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture).

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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