The arrest of four legal aid volunteer lawyers for distributing the Redbook pamphlet was clearly wrong.
On the auspicious date of 10.10.10, 4 lawyers were detained by the Police at Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur.
Why were they detained?
Apparently the Police party who arrested the 4 lawyers was suspicious of some red-coloured pamphlets which the Police thought was an anti-police pamphlet.
The 4 lawyers were taken to a Police Station after their Identity Cards were seized by the Police and a few hours later, the 4 were released.
The OCPD of Cheras, Supt Abdul Rahim was quoted in The Star in a report of this arrest as saying “It is not a big issue, they were released a few hours later.”
It is ironic that the lawyers were detained for distributing pamphlets which contained guidelines for the people on the general powers of the Police in areas of arrests, search and remands, amongst others.
The Redbook pamphlet was a direct reaction of the nude-squatting video fiasco in 2005. Back then a video of a lady forced to strip and performing repeated squats before a Policewoman, was heavily circulated on the Net, and the ruckus caused was so profound, that the former Prime Minister called upon a Royal Commission to investigate into the powers of the Police to perform bodily Search.
Minister, Dato Nazri launched the Redbook, not once but twice. In 2006, the Minister graced the initial launch of the original Redbook at the Bar Council Building, and again in 2009, the amended Redbook, now in pamphlet version, was re-launched by the same Minister.
So the Redbook is not only supported by the Bar Council, but a Minister, what more, the de facto Minister of Law.
At the last portion of that Redbook Pamphlet, the pamphlet acknowledges the contribution of a group of lawyers, who banded together to draft the Redbook. Calling themselves TANGKAP – Tindakan Anti-Penyalahgunaan Kuasa Polis, these lawyers intended to produce a simple mini guide book for the people, to help them understand some aspects of the powers of the police.
The pamphlet was originally in a format of a small note book (hence the name Redbook) but was reformatted to a pamphlet in 2009.
Ravin Singh, Chairperson of the KL Bar’s Legal Aid Centre had indicated that the Police was probably focused on the words “Anti” and “Polis” in that pamphlet. The 4 lawyers who were detained, had informed him of the same.
Hearing that, one can’t help but conclude that the Police either needs better eye sight, or are just so afraid of lawyers.
What happened on 10.10.10 was just wrong. This is not the first time we hear of Police arresting Legal Aid lawyers. The last time around in 2009, the Police arrested a group of Legal Aid lawyers are Brickfields police station claiming that they were part of an illegal assembly when they were actually at the gates of the Police station to meet clients.
This time around, merely for distributing pamphlets (which contained words like “Anti” and “Police”) we read of young Legal Aid lawyers, being arrested.
The way the entire matter is brushed aside by the Police just shows how the Police lack respect for a person’s right & liberty. The reasons for the arrest is displeasing and the fact the people detained, were lawyers, just makes the arrest more significant.
Also, this continued mistrust by the Police over the activities of the lawyers, albeit via Legal Aid or other Committees of the Bar Council, must stop.
In this matter, the Redbook pamphlet was in fact produced to assist and help the Police. Instead of arresting the Legal Aid lawyers that day, the Police ought to have joined in to distribute the Redbook pamphlet.
In fact on many occasions, the Police have shown massive reluctance to work with the Bar, on projects like the Redbook. Logic would dictate that if the people understand why the Police do certain things, and also understand their rights when dealing with the Police, it may help the Police & the public.
As mentioned earlier, the Police was wrong on this occasion to arrest the legal aid lawyers, as they were equally wrong in arresting the other legal aid lawyers in 2009. An apology may suffice, though the 4 lawyers arrested on 10.10.10 should consider bringing an action in Court against the Police for wrongful detention.
LB: Richard Wee is a massively loyal supporter of Everton FC since 1984. He dislikes the KPI, loves to eat, and wishes that the Police will arrest the thief who broke into his house a few months ago.