Citizen Nades - Selective persecution?

IN late 1981, we sat before a youthful inspector-general of police (IGP) Tun Hanif Omar, and were engaged in an animated discussion on apathy and public perception vis-à-vis the police force. After all these years, I remember that part of the interview, which is still embedded in my memory, and use this to illustrate when the police are accused, sometimes, wrongly of certain mistakes.

Touching on the lack of information and tip-offs from the public, Hanif said something along these lines:

"When you were young, did your mother threaten to get 'policemen to catch you' if you did not finish the food? This is the problem. We all grew up with this inherent fear of the policeman. So, when they see something or know something, there is this fear of even making an effort to relay the information or meet a policeman or go to a police station."

With so much progress this country and its people have made; with the advent of information technology; with information and communication becoming instantaneous, the situation may have changed. They no longer "fear" those dubious threats but view the police from a different perspective altogether.

The knowledgeable ones see the police as "bullies engaged in selective prosecution" and when asked, they offer some justification and incidents to support their theory.

Journalists have also been victims. After covering the Bersih 4 rally two years ago my colleague then, Radzi Razak, was brutally beaten up by a group of policemen, which required him to be hospitalised for a week. The police were supposed to be investigating their own men and to date, there has been no news.

Remember the episode of policemen jumping over the gates of journalist Sidek Kasimo's house in the wee hours of the morning two months ago? What offence did he commit? They arrested him and drove him all the way to Johor Baru and even sought a remand order to further detain him, which was rightly refused by the magistrate.

His supposed offence in the eyes of the police was that he had posted about holy water and a religious leader. To date, no charges have been filed and neither has he been told that he's been exonerated.

What about Jeluting MP Jeff Ooi being "ordered to surrender" by the IGP? What was his offence? He used the word "adios" (goodbye) in a parting message to a religious leader who had passed on. Two months after that grand order, which was given prominent coverage in newspapers and on prime time television, the whole issue fizzled out with a whimper.

Last week, Malaysiakini was on the receiving end of similar treatment. The police want to investigate the news portal under Section 124C which reads: "Whoever attempts to commit an activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy or does any act preparatory thereto shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to fifteen years."

The basis for such action are media reports that it received funds from George Soros' Open Society Foundations. How does this constitute such an activity? Does it mean that the receipt of money is a preparatory act?

If this is the case, I must make a confession before they come after me. When I was studying in England, I was given a grant by the university to undertake a study trip to the Sports Law Institute at the Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the US. Many Malaysians who are studying overseas are under the auspices of foreign governments and companies. There are also many NGOs including consumer movements which receive funding from foreign sources. Can the police assume these are preparatory acts and cast aspersions on us?

Then again, a group of men turned up at the Malaysiakini office on Thursday, demanding that the management produce the accounts and threatened to "runtuh" (bring down) part of the building on Saturday.

The mere utterance of the threat is tantamount to criminal intimidation under Section 503 which reads: "Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as a means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation."

The police did not act on the threat despite a report being lodged on Friday. The same group of men and many more turned up on Saturday to "protest".

IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar pooh-poohed the threat. He was quoted as saying: "You know him (Jamal) right? Everyone knows him. He has threatened a few things in the past, but nothing came true. But if Malaysiakini thinks it is serious, then lodge a report."

Is the IGP implying that I can go around threatening to damage government offices or throw paint on police stations and they will not do anything until I carry out the threats?

Many of my friends in the police force, some in retirement know my stand when it comes to protecting the sanctity of the force and their integrity. In all honesty, I must confess that I had previously severed ties with some of them for what I can describe as nefarious activities. But I must also add that I have held the torch for straight, no-nonsense and honest officers who served the country and upheld the law.

So, do I agree with the people who claim there is "selective prosecution"? I would be a fool to say anything otherwise.

R. Nadeswaran himself was a victim of the process when he appeared as a prosecution witness in a recent court case. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com