Issued by Lim Chee Wee, President of the Malaysian Bar

The Malaysian Bar remains opposed to the use of the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 (“EO”) and the Internal Security Act 1960 (“ISA”) by the police as a means of apprehending those suspected of having committed criminal offences.

In recent days, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs has signed orders restricting the residence of three youths allegedly involved in motorcycle thefts.  Muhamad Arif Abu Samah, 20, has been placed under restricted residence in Mersing, Johor pursuant to the EO.  Two brothers –  Mohamed Ramadan Mohamed Ali, 22, and Mohamad Rafe, 20 – were placed under restricted residence pursuant to the EO in Chemor, Pahang and Kulim, Kedah respectively.  All three are suspects involved in alleged motorcycle thefts in the district of Gombak, Selangor.

In addition, it was reported in the press earlier this week that the police have also detained three persons in Sabah for alleged involvement in human trafficking.

These detentions under the EO and ISA raise serious questions, such as why action has not been taken under the Penal Code and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007.  Instead, the authorities have chosen to rely on preventive detention legislation that is devoid of any proper regard and safeguards for human rights.  The EO and the ISA are convenient tools for the police, as their use means that no evidence need be produced in a court of law to support the police’s allegations.  This entirely sidesteps adherence to the due process of the law.

Proper police investigations should be conducted to prove the necessary ingredients of an offence. What is worse is that incompetence and inadequacies in police investigations may be covered up, including false arrests and instances of corruption, by recourse to the EO and the ISA.  This is because there is no transparency or accountability in the use of these laws.

The EO and ISA, together with other preventive detention legislation, are archaic laws whose “use by” date is well past.  Their continued use is repugnant to civil society.  No less a person than the Prime Minister himself announced that preventive detention legislation would be reviewed, in order to make them more “human rights friendly”, in a speech given in April 2009.  More than two years on, we have yet to see anything forthcoming.

The Malaysian Bar calls on the government to declare its respect for the due process of the law and to charge those recently detained in open court, and disclose the evidence against them so that they may receive a full and fair hearing.  Otherwise the police should release them.

The government must display, through action, its commitment to the rule of law.

This statement was originally posted by The Malaysian Bar on 1 June 2011. Click to view original post here.

Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR) is a non-profit based in Kuala Lumpur with the mission of promoting active democratic participation and human rights awareness.