Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Saturday, 24th January 2009:
Introduce IPCMC in the February seating of Parliament
I strongly denounce the action of the police to charge 21 people for illegal assembly as they were exercising their freedom of expression which is protected under the Federal Constitution.
They were at the Petaling Jaya City Council field on November 9th to protest against the draconian Internal Security Act which flouts the very grains of democracy by allowing for indefinite detention without trial.
It is appalling to note that all of them also face a second charge of failing to adhere to a police order to disperse. Video recording of the candle light vigil clearly shows the protestors were preparing to disperse after singing the national anthem. In fact, they were arrested while singing Negaraku.
Furthermore, charging them two days before the Chinese New Year only goes to show the arrogance and insensitivity of the Malaysian police force. Thirteen of the total 21 people charged are ethnic Chinese and they include my DAP colleagues and elected representatives Ronnie Liew, Tony Pua and Lau Weng San.
Also arrested was Catholic Priest Rev Father Paulino Miranda.
If the police could wait more than two months to charge them, they could certainly wait a few more days for the new year celebrations to be over. Failing to do so only shows the police are trying to intimidate the public.
The police force has been plagued by controversies following blatant abuse of powers, arbitrary arrests and physical abuse of detainees under custody. The recent custodial death involves a 23-year-old man A. Kugan, whose body had deep wounds, bruises and cuts.
Although it is heartening to see Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail classify the case as murder, more has to be done to stop the abuse of police powers. I hope that an independent team of investigators would be formed to look into the grievous bodily injuries sustained by Kugan.
Despite the reports of police abuses not playing up positively among the Malaysian public, the Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar is still reluctant to come clean about the barbaric behaviour of his officers.
The current situation and alarming rise in cases relating to police abuse and custodial deaths calls for an urgent implementation of the IPCMC.
The public have lost all faith in the police force and nothing less than the formation of the IPCMC will help regain the confidence of the people.The watered-down Special Complaints Commission will not solve the problem. In fact it might make a bad situation worse.
Furthermore, an independent commission is needed to put an end to police brutality, both in custody and in public. We have seen too much harassment for exercising our fundamental rights - human rights activists and members of non-governmental organisation, and opposition politicians have been beaten-up and arrested during peaceful protests, journalists have experienced intimidation while doing their jobs and suspects on remand to facilitate police investigation end up dead.
As a start to a long-process of police reforms, I urge the Attorney-General to drop all charges against the 21 people who took part in a peaceful candle light vigil. I also appeal to the government to make a concerted effort to implement the IPCMC.
* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang