Posted: 29 Aug 2011 08:44 AM PDT
Over five dozen civil society groups endorsed a memorandum addressed to the Chief Police Officer in Penang to protest against the ludicrous allegations levelled against 30 PSM activists who were detained on mainland Penang on 25 June 2011.
We, the undersigned civil society groups in Penang, strongly condemn the arrest of 30 PSM activists under Section 122 of the Penal Code for "waging war against the Yang DiPertuan Agong" that carries the punishment of imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years, and also the liability of a fine.'
The PSM activists, including Sungai Siput MP D Jeyakumar were halted by police at the Sungai Dua toll plaza, when they were on their way to attend a ceramah 'Udahlah tu, bersaralah BN' at Bayan Baru.
This is not the only example of the misuse of power by the police and the authorities. We are also very concerned that the treatment of those detained in the lock-up has failed to meet basic humanitarian standards. Basic necessities such as provision of washing utilities, water, medication and food seem to have fallen short of this, and there are disquieting examples of women being subjected to degrading and demeaning behavior. For example, some of the women were filmed while changing, one who suffered from diabetes was given a cup of syrup when she asked for warm water, and another one was punched and kicked by the police. The consistent denial by the police of access to lawyers to their clients is also unacceptable.
We are disturbed by these blatant disregards of the fundamental human rights of citizens in Malaysia as enshrined in our Federal Constitution.
These arbitrary arrests and the extraordinary charge should be seen as further examples of the over-reaction of the ruling coalition and their agencies to the proposed Bersih 2.0 rally on July 9th and the series of events nationwide in the lead-up to this. Clearly there has been instruction to the police to crackdown against any Bersih 2.0- related activity as is evidenced by police actions from Johor, Selangor, KL and now Penang. The arrests and charges serve nothing more than the self-interest of the BN-led government, and this is not the first time that the Barisan Nasional has allowed the pursuit of their own self-interest to override the basic human rights of ordinary Malaysians.
PSM, as a registered political party, has every right to produce leaflets and to organize and participate in events in the lead-up to the next general election. Opposing the policies and track-record of the ruling party is an absolutely legitimate activity and one that should be encouraged and supported as one of the most basic ingredients of a democracy. For the ruling party to invoke state power and draconian clauses in Penal Codes and/or threaten arbitrary detention through the use of legislation such as the ISA merely demonstrates its contempt for the rule of law and the basic tenets of democratic societies.
Given the urgency of the situation, we would urge the authorities to:
1. Release all the detainees immediately!
2. Ensure action is taken against any police personnel who misuse their power
Any policeman or policewoman involved in any ill-treatment of any detainee, or any abuse of lock-up rules or standards, should be held accountable, and to be investigated and charged accordingly.
3. Respect basic democratic rights, including the right to oppose through peaceful activities. This is related to the need to respect freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
The police should stop disrupting peaceful assemblies and any other activities, such as leafleting. The rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are enshrined in our Federal Constitution and should be respected.
The police need to stop reacting to self-interested orders from members of the ruling party and should concentrate instead on protecting the rights and safety of the citizens of this country. So instead of the oppressive harassing, arresting and charging of those engaged in legitimate activities, the police should instead concentrate on chasing, finding, charging and convicting those who engage in criminal activities in this country. That will restore some credibility to the police force, which as is common knowledge, continues to be at an extremely low point. The detention and charging of the PSM activists have only added to public outrage and dismay at the actions of the police and other authorities.
29 June 2011
1. 528 Media Action Group
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