Lawyers fight off bid by Malaysian police to remand minors

By Wong Choon Mei, Suara Keadilan

Human rights lawyers fought off an application by the Malaysian police to remand two youths aged 16 and 13 for allegedly taking part in an August 1 mammoth rally to protest a draconian law – the Internal Security Act – that allows for indefinite detention of civilians without trial.

“The two kids are free now. The application was denied but it was an eye-opener to see the grounds put forward by the police. They were so flimsy,” said Jonson Chong, who together with a team of other lawyers including N Surendran and S D Arunasalam challenged the bid to put the under-aged pair in jail.

Suhaib bin Mat Sah, aged 16, and his schoolmate Ammar bin Bad Latiff, aged 13, were alleged to have taken part in a peaceful demonstration that later turned violent due to unnecessarily rough police attacks against the protestors.

Hundreds were injured in the scuffles that ensued. Prominent opposition politicians, including PAS leader and Kuala Krai parliamentarian Hatta Ramli, were beaten up while pleading with the police not to use violence.

“We were taken aback because they came from behind and there was no warning whatsoever to us to disperse,” Hatta told reporters on Saturday.

Political vengeance and the spectre of Teoh Beng Hock


Both Suhaib and Ammar were also picked up on Saturday at 12.30pm at the Pertama Shopping Complexs in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

Suhaib’s father is under ISA detention. His mother had also taken part in the march to the Palace where the crowd had wanted to hand a memorandum to the King, pleading for the abolition of the dreaded law used frequently by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Umno-BN government to jail political foes.

Ammar’s mother, Nashita, cried when she heard her son had been detained. In fact, both mothers were hauled to police lock-ups and held overnight. Malaysian police arrested 589 people, including 40 women and 44 youths under the age of 18 on Saturday. Many are still in jail.

But perhaps another key reason for the hysteria over the remand of the children was also because of the long string of custodial deaths. Through the years, hundreds of suspects and witnesses have died suspiciously while in the custody of federal agencies such as the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Barely two weeks ago, a 30-year Selangor state political officer Teoh Beng Hock fell to his death from the 14th floor office of the MACC after a marathon investigation. There is widespread belief that his interrogators contributed to his demise and an inquest is now taking place.

“Police ought to be trained in children’s rights. This is so basic. But what happened was that they were only concerned to carry out the bidding of their political masters without respecting the children’s rights. These two are clear cut cases of political retaliation because both parents are known activists,” said Jonson.

Disallowing civil expression amid concerns of deteriorating fair-play

Another 16-year old Faizudin Hamzah was less fortunate. Arrested at 11.55pm on Friday night at the central bus station, he was remanded for four days. Police have still not given any reason. The magistrate granted an omnibus remand order without even seeing the boy, who was sleeping when he was detained.

There is rising unhappiness amongst Malaysians with Najib’s regime, which has made full use of the federal institutions including the courts to support his political agenda.

In 2009, it began with Najib’s political coup d’etat of the Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak six months ago.

Disregarding the rule of law and the federal constitution, his Umno-BN party managed to pressure an extraordinary chain of judgments from the courts to cling to power in the state, despite nationwide condemnation for the slanted rulings especially from the legal fraternity including the Bar Council.

In the past few days, ten of thousands of Malaysians from all walks of life and all parts of the country have flooded the capital city to support a peaceful demonstration against the ISA.

But the authorities refused to allow their civil expression and began setting up massive roadblocks on Friday itself to corral the city, causing a traffic gridlock unseen for years.

Throughout Saturday, sounds of sirens tore into the air and round after round of tear gas and chemically-laced water were fired without any consideration for the health or safety of the crowds, who were ordinary folk and whose aim was merely to be a part of a democratic march to better their society.