It was indeed a Black Thursday

Why Black Thursday? Well, it was the one day in Malaysian history that lawyers were arrested while trying to see their clients – that sure seemed like a black day to me.

On 7 May 2009 we attended court as usual that morning. I had a matter fixed for submission at the Sessions Court in Jalan Duta. Nothing was significantly different about that day except for some discussion about the arrest of certain members of the public who had been involved in a vigil the night before.

The day ended without incident. At around 9 p.m. I got the news that 10-12 people had been detained while participating in a vigil outside the Brickfields Police Station. After a quick meal I headed down to Brickfields where I met up with four other Legal Aid lawyers who had been there for some time.

Our ONLY aim at the time was to speak to someone in charge, either an arresting officer or Investigating officer. However, we were stonewalled by the front line security of the Police Station who kept saying, “Dia dalam mesyuarat”.

At around 11 p.m. we heard the detainees chanting loudly and saying, “We want lawyers! We want Lawyers!” The remaining vigil participants and/or members of the public outside the Police Station singing “Negaraku” soon followed the chanting.

Within minutes, a DSP (Deputy Superintendent of Police) came to inform us five lawyers that he was invoking Section 28A (8) of the Criminal Procedure Code. He relied on that section as a means of refusing the detainees access to legal counsel. Immediately after invoking the section, he walked away briskly, completely ignoring the questions that we posed following his announcement.

My learned colleagues have already written significant details about the sequence of events that led to our arrest. I would like to make just one note to clear the air – we were NOT part of any protest!

We were only trying to see our clients. The videos showing this are easily available, including on YouTube, and it can be clearly seen that we posed no threat to anyone, nor were we disturbing the peace or trying to organise an illegal gathering amongst the five of us. Till now I still don’t know what caused the OCPD of Brickfields, Wan Bahari, to think that we were there in an illegal/unpermitted gathering.

After the OCPD gave us three minutes to disperse and then proceeded with his very accurate counting of the three minutes, the arrests began. His attempt to so-call “disperse” a “crowd” led to the arrest of six of us, namely us five lawyers and one journalist.

After being detained, we obviously were of no help to our clients anymore. We were first kept under a shade on the left (as one faces the police station). After around an hour I was removed from the group and taken for questioning.

I am not too sure how to describe the questioning. I will however say that the Police did not take kindly to being told, “Saya akan menjawab semua soalan Tuan di Mahkamah”. The two police officers who tried to take my statement were not too happy with me asserting that I will only answer the questions in court. Why? I haven’t the slightest idea.

I was soon reunited with my comrades for a short stint while the earlier DSP called us into his room individually, with his juniors sitting all around the room. The purpose of these visits to his room was to explain to us that WE TOO were being refused right to counsel under Section 28A (8).

Not too long later, once we had all completed our complimentary crash course in Section 28A (8) of the CPC, we were moved to a room one floor below. The journalist and I were transferred between various rooms for no apparent reason a few times.

At around 3.30 to 4 a.m , the two of us were asked to make our way downstairs where two police cars were waiting. I was put into the second car, flanked by two police officers in the very snug back seat of a Proton Waja. Just before we departed, I asked one of the police officers, “Tuan, kita sekarang pergi ke mana?”. To which he promptly replied with utmost confidence, “Tak tahu”.

To my benefit, a fellow Legal Aid lawyer saw me being removed from the Police Station by car, which confirmed for them that I was no longer being held in Brickfields.

After a 15-minute joyride, I was produced at the Taman Tun Police Station. Only the journalist and I were taken there. Here, our belongings were listed and placed into an envelope that was later sealed, and I was told, taken for safekeeping.

We were required to change into prison clothes, which consisted of black track pants and a faded pink T-shirt with the words, among others, “Lock-up”. I must say, although it read XL on the collar, it was rather snug, which gave a rather suggestive look.

We were put into a cell where five other detainees were being held. It was now around 5 a.m. We heard nothing from anyone and were left in the cell. At 12.30 p.m. that day, the same police officer who attempted to question me at the Brickfields station came to Taman Tun to take my statement. My answers remained the same, and for some reason, had the same effect.

At 2.30 p.m., we were allowed to change back into our own clothes and were driven back to the Brickfields Police Station where we were finally released on bail.

Several integral parts of this sequence of events have been deliberately omitted to avoid anyone misquoting or misunderstanding the situation we had to endure.

However, we intend to enlighten our fellow members of the Bar on the complete details of the events at the upcoming EGM on 15 May (this Friday). Please do make the effort to attend, to show that this is one of those times where strength in numbers is of paramount value!

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Posted on 13 May 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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One Response to It was indeed a Black Thursday

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