Fadiah Nadwa Fikri

On 10 April 2011, eight university students who participated in “Jelajah Mahasiswa Selamatkan Rakyat”, a campaign against lewd politics were arbitrarily arrested by the police in Kuala Lumpur public transport hub while they were dispersing. In fact, the students were on their way home when the Police highhandedly arrested them and confiscated a number of leaflets in their possession.

This arbitrary action perpetrated by the police demonstrates continued assault on the right to peaceful assembly guaranteed under Article 10 of Federal Constitution. The grave violation of the students’ rights to peaceful assembly was further aggravated when the police deliberately denied the students’ rights to legal representation when the students’ demands to meet with their lawyers were turned down without any justification.

What was demonstrated by the police in this case is not an isolated incident where the right to legal representation enshrined under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution and section 28A of the Criminal Procedure Code is being subjected to systematic assault by the police.

The Prime Minister, Najib Razak on 25 February 2011 launched the National Legal Aid Foundation (NLAF) which aims at providing legal representation to Malaysians upon arrest. NLAF in reiterating the importance of upholding criminal justice system emphasizes the urgent need in providing legal representation to arrested persons where the police together with other enforcement agencies are required to notify NLAF details of arrest where duty solicitors will be assigned to the respective police station to give advice to the arrested persons.

The setting up of the NLAF recently, which is aimed to uphold the criminal justice system indeed fails to sugarcoat the harsh reality of the systematic violation of the right to legal representation by the police. This situation is further aggravated by condonation on the part of the ruling government by failing to ensure full accountability which renders the government complicit with this heinous crime against rule of law and constitutional guarantee.