Arrest and Detention of Minors

By Elizabeth Wong, Suara Keadilan

Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s statement on the federal government’s plan to take stern action against parents, guardians and organisers who allowed children and teenagers to participate in the peaceful gathering on Saturday reveals the stunning superficiality of her understanding of the democratic process and the rule of law.

Public gatherings are a constitutional right of all Malaysians. The gathering last Saturday, 1 August, 2009, was a peaceful demonstration attended by ordinary citizens from all walks of life who felt compelled to stand against the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA).

If Datuk Seri Sharizat was sincerely concerned about the safety of minors, she would have condemned the violent tactics employed by the police against Malaysians armed with nothing more than their convictions.

Despite being voted out by Lembah Pantai residents in the last general elections, Datuk Seri Sharizat was given the opportunity to serve as the Women, Family and Community Development Minister.

Unfortunately, instead of using her position to protect the welfare of minors, she has chosen instead to sustain the unprecedented brutal tactics of political persecution of children as young as 13 years old.

Instead of ensuring that the police complies with both the Child Act 2001 and the United Nations International Convention on Children’s Rights, of which Malaysia is one of the signatories, she spreads the outlandish lie that children were used as shields.

This blatant falsehood serves as Barisan Nasional spin to portray the parents among the demonstrators as cruel. Instead of being worried about the welfare of the young Malaysians arrested, Datuk Seri Sharizat now chooses to further the lack of compassion by demanding for the arrest of their parents.

One of those arrested, Faizudin Hamzah, 16, will be remanded for four days.

Any minister worthy of her position would ask why the young man was arrested, while asleep, close to midnight at KL Sentral without a reason given. Malaysians would have at least expected the minister to investigate claims by Legal Aid Centre lawyers that juveniles were denied food last night.

Or question why they were kept in the same lockups as adults. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Political persecution by the ruling elite is already at an all-time high. Is it now reaching a new low with underaged children victimised for Barisan Nasional’s political gain?

[YB Elizabeth Wong is the  Information Chief of  Wanita Keadilan and the State Assemblyman for Bukit Lanjan]