Palm Court police mistreatment of IT professionals – major setback to MSC’s ambition to be “a gift to the world” and “ huge test-bed for trying out not just the  technology but also the way of life in the age of instant  and unlimited information”

Media Conference Statement
after lodging a joint  report with Charles Santiago of Group of Concerned Citizens  to Suhakam on the  police mistreatment  and human rights violations of  Indian IT professionals in the Palm Court police raid (9.3.2003)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala Lumpur,  Thursday): Together with DAP MPs, Fong Kui Lun (Bukit Bintang), Teresa Kok (Seputeh), Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam) and Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah), and DAP officials including DAP National Publicity Secretary, Ronnie Liu and  DAPSY  National Secretary, Anthony Loke, and NGO activists including Charles Santiago of  Concerned Citizens Group, I visited the Palm Court condominium, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur  last night and met  and discussed with Indian IT professionals residing there who were victims of gross abuses of power and human rights violations in a most high-handed police raid and arrest of some 270 Indians, mostly IT professionals with expatriate identification documents. 

The accounts given by the IT professionals, of being  roused from bed between 6 to 7 a.m;  physical  mistreatment including slaps, punches and kicks; the breakdown of doors of toilets in use; proper documentations like passport, visa and expatriate identification papers ignored or told to be fakes; sent down to the ground floor of the condominium where they were handcuffed and made to squat like common criminals; handphones confiscated and with several not returned; and when they were taken to the police station, were still handcuffed and had to squat at the vehicle sheds all in for some 10 hours without food or drinks and denied immediate access to the employers or the Indian High Commission; the defacing of passports and visas; were most  shameful, distressing and harrowing both for the victims as well as for Malaysians as citizens of the host country. 

It made total nonsense of the statement by the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar on Tuesday that initial investigation report received by his Ministry did not indicate any police mistreatment of the Indian  IT professionals and that “They (the police) were just performing their duty according to the law”.  

All Hamid  needed to do was to either personally  go to or send Foreign Ministry  officials to  Palm Court in Brickfields to learn immediately that every single one of the IT professional caught in the police raid was a victim of police mistreatment and that the police were breaking and not upholding the law in their rampage against the Indian IT professionals. 

Hamid’s statement that the raid was not targeted at Indian citizens working here but was “merely an ongoing exercise to (identify) illegal immigrants in our country” sounded completely hollow and insincere from the horrendous accounts of the IT professionals whose valid passports, visas and expatriate identification cards  were treated as fakes! 

The attempt by the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin to explain  that it was “normal practice” for police to round up suspected illegal immigrants before giving them a chance to prove their identity is completely unacceptable, as the IT professionals were all sleeping in their apartments in the condominium and there could be no justification for the police operation to rouse them from bed to undergo what one had described as his “most unforgettable experience in his life” of being treated likely a lowly common criminal completely devoid of human rights! 

If the Police cannot distinguish between IT professionals, who are residing at Palm Court, from illegal immigrants, then either the police are not qualified and competent to carry out their duties to uphold law and order or the country is not qualified or competent to aspire to become an IT power. 

The smug reaction of the Energy, Communications and Multimedia Ministry parliamentary secretary Chia Kwang Chye that the incident would not be a setback to Malaysia’s aspiration to build a K-economy  society highlights that the government, including those heading the Ministry directly responsible for the promotion of Malaysia’s IT ambitions, do not have a clue as to what are the conditions and prerequisites necessary and vital  to ensure the success of Malaysia as a K-economy and information society. 

The Palm Court police mistreatment of IT professionals is undoubtedly a  major setback to Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)’s ambition to be “a gift to the world” and “ huge test-bed for trying out not just the  technology but also the way of life in the age of instant  and unlimited information”. 

Is the Malaysian government seriously indifferent that we are sending out the wrong message to the IT world that in the huge MSC test-bed, IT professionals with all the valid passport and visa documentations are treated no different from illegal immigrants and lowly criminals, whose human rights could be trampled upon with impunity? 

The Government should recognize that the country is faced with a double crisis – firstly the crisis in Malaysia-India diplomatic relations as a result of the police mistreatment of the Indian IT professionals and the insensitive response of the various government authorities to date, which only added  “insult to injury” and secondly, the crisis to Malaysia’s IT ambition as a result of the two recent incidents, the raid on Malaysiakini and now the raid on Indian IT professionals. 

If the government is not nimble and dexterous enough to realize the grave IT crisis facing Malaysia posed by these two incidents – which made nonsense of the IT Bill of Guarantees, in particular of no Internet censorship and to “provide a world-class physical and information infrastructure” – then the MSC is doomed to failure as sure as night follows day.  

What type of a “world-class physical and information infrastructure” are we offering in MSC when IT professionals are treated like lowly criminals completely with no human rights by a police who have utter contempt for the law? 

At the meeting last night, Indian IT professionals asked one pertinent question: whether they are welcome to Malaysia to help out in the IT development or not.  There are at present some 40,000 Indian expatriate professionals working in Malaysia, most of them  in the IT field. 

The government should  give a clear-cut answer.  If the government does not welcome the Indian IT professionals in Malaysia, say so, so that they know where they stand.  If the Malaysian government welcomes the Indian IT professionals, then policies and attitudes of the entire civil service, especially the police and the immigration, must change and what happened at the Palm Court on Sunday should never happen again. 

Finally, I wish to call on the Acting Prime Minsiter, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to exercise leadership and end the deterioration of bilateral relations between Malaysia and India, which has been aggravated by  the failure of the government to handle the Palm Court scandal in a responsible and satisfactory manner.  

Abdullah must show that the Malaysian government is capable of admitting mistakes when they are committed, as in the Palm Court incident, so that both Malaysia and India can move on to repair an unfortunate and unnecessary strain in their bilateral ties caused by the police mistreatment of Indian IT professionals in Brickfields.                                                                                         


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman