The Bar Council shares the concerns expressed by civil society and SUHAKAM in relation to the Inspector-General of Police’s reported suggestion that the authorities may resort to deploying armed forces to maintain public order, particularly in relation to assemblies.
The Bar Council notes that there has never been any necessity to take such measures in the past. On two recent occasions, in fact, assemblies were conducted peaceably and without incident.
Resort to the use of armed forces to control such assemblies is unwarranted and heavy-handed, and we call for this move to be abandoned. The threat of such deployment is intimidating to members of the public who have shown the desired maturity and responsibility in the conduct of such assemblies.
The public had in fact understood that this Government was moving towards loosening the grip on assemblies. The threat of the use of the army is wholly inconsistent with this and any process of democratisation that we are aiming for. Recent events in the course of the week have also created much disquiet. We call on the Prime Minister to address this disquiet.
We need to know that we live in a Malaysia that upholds fundamental freedoms and respects the Rule of Law. We need to know that our enforcement agencies are there to protect the public and not to instill fear in them, and that their officers will have the courage to carry out their duties without fear or favour. We need to know that all the organs in the administration of justice are functioning fully and flawlessly.
We need to know that the freedoms that we believe existed do not become a fiction.
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
4 July 2008