Archive for the ‘Constitution’ Category

Warning! Protesters may ‘hit’ back one day

March 24, 2007
Time and again, protesters were beaten up by police officers who were not wearing name tags and badges with code numbers. Some of these creatures do not even wear a uniform. How the hell we know they were real policemen or hired thugs? Must the authority wait until a real blood bath has taken place before they could act sensibly? That will be too late.

Warning! Protesters may ‘hit’ back one day

Fauwaz Abdul Aziz-Malaysiakini
Mar 24, 07 11:33am
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An opposition politician has issued a warning – participants of peaceful assemblies may lash back as violently as the police if the cops continue with their excessive action against protesters.

DAP leader Ronnie Liew said unless the authorities take concrete steps to check violence and other excesses by the police force in violation of the people’s constitutional right to assemble peacefully, the police may in the future find itself dealing with demonstrators willing to lash back just as violently.

“I hope Suhakam will take a very strong stand on (this) as I am worried that, at the rate we’re going, if we don’t stop the police from their acts of brutality, one day it will force protesters and the public in general to also react strongly to their violence,” he cautioned.

Liu said this when commenting on the Suhakam findings into last year’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ incident. The report was released yesterday.

Suhakam’s panel of inquiry into allegations of police violence during the anti-fuel hike demonstration on May 28 at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre concluded that the police used ‘excessive force’ in dispersing the crowd.

‘What choice do we have?’

The image of blood flowing profusely from the head of one demonstrator and of others being beaten by riot police shocked witnesses at the scene of the demonstration and those who saw photos of the incident. 

Liu also cited the assault on PAS leader Saari Sungib during last Sunday’s anti-toll hike protest outside the Summit USJ shopping mall in Subang Jaya, Selangor. 

While Malaysians have often derided demonstrators in other countries such as South Korea and Thailand when they clash with police using sticks and stones, anger at the police’s brutality against unarmed protesters in Malaysia may lead to similar developments, he said.

“If police continue to use (force with such) brutality, what choice do we have?” he asked.

Echoing Liu’s statements on the matter, Saari said while Suhakam and civil society have consistently advocate and exercise the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, the police have demonstrated only consistent abuse of their powers.

“The police have been consistent in terms of violating our right (to peaceful protests) and in disregarding the recommendations of Suhakam,” said Saari.

Public opinion vital

Liu, Saari and representatives of other concerned groups present at the release of Suhakam’s findings congratulated the inquiry panel – led by commissioners KC Vohrah, Zaitoon Othman, Choo Siew Kioh, and Dr Michael Yeoh – for the comprehensiveness of its recommendations.

Aside from recognising the excessive force with which the police and the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) had acted on May 28, Suhakam also urged for the repeal of provisions in Section 27 of the Police Act 1967 that, in requiring a license for any public assembly, conflicted with the constitutional guarantee to freedom of assembly.

Foremost among the groups’ concerns, however, was whether the police force and other relevant government agencies would act upon the recommendations and how Suhakam would ensure steps were taken towards that end, said human rights group Suaram coordinator Chang Li Kang.

Responding to these concerns, Vohrah (left) said Suhakam was not alone among national human rights institutions around the world in lacking powers to enforce its recommendations.

Yeoh suggested that the media and public opinion should not be discounted in affecting the changes that are required in the police force.

“I think the weight of public opinion is very important and carries some resonance with the police… and weight,” said Yeoh.

“That’s why we need your support to publicise the report and mobilise public opinion,” he told reporters.


Good recommendations by Suhakam but …

March 23, 2007

I have just returned from the Suhakam office after attending the “Bloody Sunday” Incident press conference hosted by Commissioners KC Vohrah, Zaitoon Othman, Choo Siew Kioh and Micheal Yeoh a while ago.The 365-page report pointed out that the police were found using “excessive force” in carrying out their duties, causing harm and wounded several protestors. The Commission also made some very important recommendations to the police. 

In my immediate response to the report, I commended the Commissioners for their thorough report and the useful recommendations made in the report.

I also echoed the call made by a former Commissioner Prof Hamdan that Suhakam must be given the enforcement power in order to be effective in checking human rights violations. I criticised the BN government for not allowing any debates in the Parliament on the various Human Rights Reports tabled by Suhakam in the past. 

In the press conference, I also said that as one of the organisers of  peaceful demonstrations, I always made it a point to remind the police that they were not our target. They should remain neutral and their single duty was to maintain law and order. But the message seems to be fallen on deaf ears so far and there were signs that the police force was getting more and more aggressive and cruel to the protesters. I warned that if the police continues to behave like hooligans, one day, the protestors may be forced to protect themselves by reacting with force or even retaliate. I said that we used to criticise protestors in other countries for bringing sticks and stones to the demonstarations. But if the police continues to act violently against the protesters, who knows even protestors in Malaysia may be forced into corners and also resort to such measures. No one wants to see Malaysia to be reduced to such sorry state.

I repeated a point I made in the public enquiry earler, where I insisted that all police officers who were sent to control crowd must wear their name tags and number badges for identity. I believed such practise will also help to deter the police officers from using violence against the protestors. I noticed that Suhakam has included my suggestion in their recommendations. Watch this blog for more details of the Suhakam report.

Sdr Saari Sungib was also there to air his views. He said that while the Commission has been consistent in their reports and recommendations, he was very disappointed with the police force because they “consistently”used violence on peaceful and orderly protestors. Saari, a former ISA detainee and regular participant of public protests, was assaulted by the police last Sunday at the Summit toll hike protest.I can still see the bruises on his wrist very clearly.

A member of the press “cynically” remarked that the police seems to have chosen to ignore whatever recommendations made by Suhakam and the Commission was seen to be toothless and helpless. Chang Lih Kang of Suaram asked whether the Suhakam has a route map to implement all recommendations.

KC Vohrah’s response to my comments gives us an impression that he too believe in having the enforcement power, but he said that most of the human rights commissions in the world were not given such powers except for India, where the commission has the power to grant compensations to the victims. He said the Commission has been organising education roadshow with the police officers on human rights, but short of admitting that such programs have failed to work.

Both Commissioners Choo and Micheal Yeoh turned the table by asking the press to provide prominence to the Suhakam findings and recommendations. Choo says that media could play a vital role by giving good media reports and Yeoh argues that such complete media reports would help to drum up public opinion and eventually help to improve human rights conditions in this country. A picture of “toothless media vs toothless Suhakam” quickly froms in my mind. I count myself lucky because no one has told me right in my face that the opposition was also toothless. 🙂

I was arrested soon after I thanked the Sarawakians for voting in more opposition representatives as a protest on petrol hikes, among other issues like land and social injustices.

It’s not a question about whether Syariah Court is fair or otherwise

March 23, 2007
 When the Non-Muslims choose the Civil court over the Syariah court, it’s about their rights. They were not questioning whether the Syariah court is fair or otherwise. It’s unfair to disallow the Non-Muslims of their rights to refer their cases to the Civil court. No one should deny that the Civil court has a different set of laws from the Syariah court, and the non-Muslims were more comfortable with the Civil court.The so-called Islam experts have got it all wrong. Please rethink, our brothers and sisters of the Islam faith.

the Sun has the story…

Islamic experts tell non-Muslims not to be prejudiced against syariah courts
Husna Yusop

PETALING JAYA (March 22, 2007): Islamic experts said non-Muslims should not be prejudiced against syariah courts, as Islam is a religion which assures justice for all.

They said non-Muslims should not be worried about appearing before the syariah court to resolve matters concerning Muslims or Islam, as it is not given that the court will side with the Muslim party.

These are the views of two  state muftis and a syariah court lawyer, who  practises civil and criminal law. They said that if the civil court had decided for a non-Muslim to seek justice at the syariah court, he or she should do so without any fear or prejudice.

They were referring to the Court of Appeal decision last week to dismiss the appeal by R. Subashini, a Hindu, to stop her Muslim-convert husband, Muhammad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah, from going to the syariah court to dissolve their marriage and convert their children.

In the majority decision by a panel of three judges, Subashini was told to seek recourse through the

Syariah Appeal Court


The Bar Council and several non-governmental organisations have said this was unconstitutional as the syariah court only has jurisdiction over Muslims.

Terengganu mufti Datuk Ismail Yahya said: “We know non-Muslims are worried that the syariah court will always side with the Muslims but do not fear, there is still hope that non-Muslims could win the case.”

He said just like the procedures in the civil court, the syariah court’s judgment would be made based on the facts presented.

Ismail also said there were situations that could allow the children to be placed under the custody of their mother although she was not Muslim.

“The syariah court will decide in the best interest of the children, based on their welfare. If the non-Muslim mother is more fit to take care of them, the court will give her the custody,” he said.

Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin noted that during the time of Saidina Ali, one of the early Muslim caliphs, a Jew had won a case against Ali in an Islamic court.

He said the prejudice against the syariah court stemmed from two reasons – non-Muslims do not understand that Islam promises justice for all, and the syariah courts themselves sometimes fail to reflect the level of professio­nalism required by Islam.

Syariah Lawyers Association adviser Muhammad Burok described the Court of Appeal’s decision as a recognition for the syariah court.

Commenting on the argument that the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land and any law passed after indepen­dence which is inconsistent with the constitution shall be void, he said:

“Syariah law is not a written law as it is based on Allah’s revelation. Obviously, it did not come after indepen­dence. That is how I see it. But, in
Malaysia, it becomes a problem because the syariah law is written.”

When it was pointed out that this may not be acceptable to non-Muslims, Muhammad said: “They have to learn to accept it.”

He invited non-Muslims to learn to accept the syariah law, saying if Muslims can go to the civil court, there was no reason why non-Muslims cannot go to the syariah court.

Ismail, on the other hand, cited Article 121 (1A) of the constitution, which states that the civil court has no jurisdiction in matters within the syariah court’s jurisdiction.

Mohd Asri said the argument of whether it was unconstitutional or not was a matter of interpretation.

He said to him, being a Muslim, the syariah law was the supreme law as it was based on the Quran.

In Subashini’s case, although the marriage was a civil contract, Islam would still recognise it because the couple were non-Muslims at that time.

“Islam does not require a couple who have converted to Islam to repeat their marriage procedure in the Islamic way. Islam does not consider their children as illegitimate. Islam recognises their marriage,” he said.

“All courts deliver justice, more so the syariah court. All lawyers and judges must hold on to this fact,” Muhammad added.



Civil laws for civil marriages only suggests MP

Pauline Pua

KUALA LUMPUR (March 22, 2007): Registered civil marriages should be mitigated by civil laws only, says Wong Nai Chee (BN-Kota Melaka).

“Couples have been given the choice to register their marriages under civil laws or syariah laws. If you have chosen to register under civil laws, then you should be answerable under the civil laws when one party converts,” he said in his debate on the Royal Address in Parliament today.

He said there was a “loophole” in the system when one half of a couple who married under the civil laws converted to become a Muslim, the other half is left without legal recourse.

“Although (if one) has converted as a Muslim, you should carry out your obligation to your wife and children under civil laws,” he said.

The debate on the jurisdiction of syariah and civil courts were highlighted again when the Court of Appeal on March 13 dismissed non-Muslim R. Subashini’s appeal to stop her Muslim-convert husband – Muhammad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah – from going to
the syariah court to dissolve their civil marriage and convert their children to Islam without her permission.

Wong suggested amending Article 12 (4) which stipulates that “a person under the age of 18, the religion or faith should be decided by his guardian or parent”.

“Although Schedule 11 says that “parent” refers to singular and plural, but the courts have not been using it anymore. So let’s just amend the word ‘parent’ to parents’,” said Wong, a lawyer.

Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad (BN-Ketereh) said the perception that syariah courts is only for Muslims should be changed while Salahuddin Ayub (PAS-Kubang Kerian) said the question of non-Muslims not having remedy in syariah court should not arise.

Wong stressed he did not question which laws were fairer but “the option one chooses to seek judicial redress”.

“I don’t question whether syariah court is just or not. What I said was the options they have. If they have already chosen a particular system, they should not be asked to go to another system as it involved two totally different laws,” he added.

Earlier, Wong also urged the government to set up a special select committee to study the state of press freedom in the country.

He said a select committee should be set up to study how to rationalise laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Sedition Act, the Official Secret Act (OSA) and the Internal Security Act (ISA).

“These laws are overlapping hopelessly and curbing press freedom and causing undue self-censorship. Media should play a check and balance role in a democratic country,” he said, adding that the provision requesting the press to renew licence annually should
also be scrapped.

Wong said a “Right to Information Act” should be drafted so the public will have access to public interest information.

“Only information relating to defence and security, cabinet and state committee meetings should be made secrets. Other documents like environment impact assess reports and toll agreements should be made public,” he added.