Friday, May 15, 2009

Bar Council wants Home Minister, IGP to resign

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar Council has called for the Home Minister and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to resign over the alleged unlawful detention of five Legal Aid Centre (LAC) lawyers.

At the same time, the Council would also be filing a civil suit against the Government, IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan and OCPD Asst Comm Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid, said Bar president Ragunath Kesavan.

“There are two aspects to the suit: It’s for unlawful arrest and detention (of the LAC lawyers).

“Secondly, it is for the public interest issue of police excess under Section 28A(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC),” he told reporters after the Bar’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on the matter Friday.

The Bar passed a resolution containing 11 motions to condemn police action in denying the LAC lawyers access to 15 detainees who were arrested for participating in a candlelight vigil on May 7.

The five LAC lawyers were also detained by police when they arrived at the Brickfields police station intending to act as counsel for the 15 during the same evening.

The candlelight vigil had been organised in support of Bersih activist Wong Chin Huat who urged the public to wear black to protest the ongoing Perak political crisis.

Ragunath said it was necessary for a lawyer to be present when a person was arrested or being questioned by police so that accountability in the criminal justice system was maintained.

“If a lawyer is present, it promotes accountability so that lawyers can correct any police excess on the spot,” he said.

Ragunath said the call for the resignations was due to the five being wrongfully accused by the authorities of participating in an illegal assembly and for not allowing them access to the other detainees to act as their legal representatives.

“The lawyers were accused of asking for preferential treatment. It was publicly said that we were not above the law, implying that we had broken the law in front of the police station, which is not true,” he said.

He added that the Bar would be seeking a meeting the Prime Minister to present a memorandum on the Bar’s resolution on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Advocates Association of Sarawak also condemned the detention and interrogation of the LAC lawyers.

Its president Frank Tang King Hung pointed out that detained persons had the right to access to legal counsel under Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution and Sections 28A(2) to (7) of the CPC.

“The police action makes an absolute mockery of the constitutional right to legal representation and is a gross abuse of power,” he said in a statement in support of the Bar’s EGM Friday.

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