LFL Press Statement
3 October 2014
The police must not misuse their powers to safeguard their image
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the recent spate of arrests and charges under the Penal Code that were brought against persons who had allegedly criticised or insulted police personnel. This is a serious abuse of the Penal Code as the provisions, archaic as they are, were never meant to protect the police from public criticisms or insults.
Some recent examples of those charged for offences against the police are as follows:
i. Section 499 – Criminal defamation
On 25 September, a man who allegedly referred to a few policemen as “monkeys looking for extra income” in a Facebook posting was arrested at midnight from his home and remanded for three days.
ii. Section 504 – Intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace
On 15 September, a Twitter user was charged for tweeting “Bastardization of @PDRMsia. Thanks to the ruthless@KBAB51. Henrich Himmler of Malaysia” in reference to IGP Khalid Abu Bakar.
iii. Section 509 – Word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of a person
On 12 August, MP Tian Chua was charged for insulting the modesty of police personnel when he allegedly uttered some rude remarks when they came to seize his mobile phone.
Although the IGP may deny, it is hard to dispute the poor public perception of the police force. Needless to say, this public perception cannot be improved by further abuse of power and arrest for frivolous matters to safeguard the image of the police.
We wish to remind the IGP that the authority and respect for the police force do not come from fear but from public confidence and this in turn depends wholly on their own conduct and integrity.
The police must never misuse their wide powers to uphold their own dignity but must rely on their conduct to be its own vindication – by eradicating corruption, impunity in death in custody and wrongful shooting cases, abuse of power and double standards in targeting opposition politicians and dissidents for political offences especially sedition.
We call on the police to go back to basics – to be a professional, impartial and competent police force in maintaining law and order, preventing and detecting real crimes and apprehending real criminals rather than be concerned with frivolous matters like defamation, insult and annoyance against the police.
Lawyers for Liberty
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