KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s comment on a “shoot first” approach when dealing with suspected gang members validates previous fears that the unwritten policy existed within the police force, a human rights lawyer said today.
Co-founder of Lawyers for Liberty, Latheefa Koya, said the home minister was essentially giving the police a free pass to be trigger happy when confronting suspected criminals.

“With the home minister saying it in such fashion, it has confirmed out worst fears that there is a shoot to kill policy,” the PKR legal bureau chief told The Malay Mail Online when contacted.

“He is calling to do murder basically. It is completely wrong, completely illegal… I think he should be investigated immediately.”

In his speech at a security briefing event with community leaders in Ayer Keroh, Malacca last Saturday, Zahid reportedly said the authorities should take the approach with members of organised crime that he alleged were mainly victimising the Malay community.

“I think the best way is not to compromise with them, don’t give anymore warnings to them, [if] we have evidence, we [will] shoot first,” he was quoted as saying by news portal Malaysiakini based on a 20-minute recording of his speech from the event.

Today, Latheefa pointed to a lack of proper investigations in previous cases of fatal police shootings, adding that even when there were inquests, these usually end with an open verdict.

Separately, Padang Serai MP and PKR vice-president N. Surendran said Zahid has now cast suspicion over the circumstances of all instances of the discharge of firearms by the police.

“In light of Zahid’s statement, all previous cases of fatal shootings by police must be re-opened.

“In view of the seriousness of the matter, which involves the lives of ordinary Malaysians, we call for the immediate formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry,” Surendran said in a statement today.

Coordinator for human rights group Suaram, R. Thevarajan, said shooting suspects without warnings is against the fundamental rights of all Malaysians.

“If you have evidence, you charge them in court. You can’t be saying that you have evidence, then you’ll shoot them.

DAP’s Publicity Secretary Tony Pua said Ahmad Zahid’s remark showed he was unfit to be home minister.

“The very man who is supposed to uphold the law is totally preaching the use of police state measures, or openly preaching the implementation of police state in the country, where the police can be the judge, jury and executioner,” he said.

PAS central committee member Khalid Samad said the minister’s remarks showed a lack of respect for the lives of Malaysians.

According to a written reply in Parliament, Ahmad Zahid had said that the police shot dead 124 suspected criminals from 2009 to August this year.

Online news portal MalaysiaKini also reported that 155 people were killed by police shooting from 2000 to 2009.
BY MELISSA CHI, the Malay Mail Online