Stop the witch-hunt, being rude is not a crime
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the concerted attempts made to criminalise some Bersih 4 participants who were photographed stepping on a picture of the Prime Minister and Pas President Hadi Awang.
While the act itself may be rude, it is certainly not criminal in nature as the law does not concern itself with trifles. Our civilised society will come to an end if any mere abuse, discourtesy, rudeness or insolence like in the present case, a person found himself or herself exposed to all the trouble and worry of arrest, detention or criminal trial.
There is nothing in the law that elevates the PM or a political party leader to a special status beyond reproach, that mandates them to be “protected persons”. Their status in law is the same as any other ordinary person and they should likewise be treated equally as per Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.
This witch-hunt against the Bersih participants is a serious abuse of the Penal Code as the provisions, archaic as they are, were never meant to protect the PM or public figures from public criticisms or insults. This latest incident, adds to the alarming increase of cases that were brought against persons who had allegedly insulted the authorities or figures seen to be aligned with the authorities.
We also note that such a ‘rude’ form of protest is not unique to the present case and various opposition and civil society leaders have suffered similar or worse forms of protest including threatening behaviour but no action was taken against the perpetrators. Needless to say, questions must be raised on the selective nature and double standards in approaching insult cases by looking at the personalities involved and their political alignment.
The PM should acknowledge that he suffers from poor public image but this is unlikely to be improved by the further abuse of power for something as frivolous as stepping on his picture which is not a crime, no matter how unpleasant it may be.
We wish to remind the PM that the authority and respect for his administration do not come from fear but from public confidence and this in turn depends wholly on his administration’s own conduct and integrity, for example by tackling corruption and abuse of power.
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 PM or political party leaders.
Lawyers for Liberty
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