KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) said today it was concerned about the hold that Islamic religious authorities appeared to have over the police force, after yesterday’s episode involving lawyer Siti Kasim and her client.
Suhakam today accused the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) of influencing the police, which it said may result in public apprehension over religious policing in Malaysia.
“Suhakam is equally concerned that the rights of Siti Kasim’s client, an adult were not fully taken into account, and that religious enforcement bodies, in this case Jais has been able to influence the police without the police sufficiently determining the facts beforehand, that can lead to a situation where people will be apprehensive that there is religious policing in the country,” it said in a statement here.
Siti was arrested yesterday over claims that she obstructed a public officer in his line of work and kidnapped a client, Anis Nur Izzaty Ruslan, as the latter was taken into custody by the police.
The lawyer was said to be sheltering her client from the latter’s allegedly abusive mother, who had told Jais that her daughter’s religious faith is in question, and accused Siti of kidnapping Anis.
In response, Suhakam said the police must investigate a complaint thoroughly before acting on a suspected wrongdoer.
It also warned the public against lodging false police reports, an offence under Section 182 of the Penal Code.
“The police must stop what appears to be targeted police harassment of Siti Kasim as there was no justification or necessity to arrest and detain her for performing her duty as a lawyer in defence of her client,” its chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail added.
Razali said the way the police handled Siti’s apprehension was “alarming”, especially after Putrajaya formed the Institutional Reform Committee to restructure, rebuild and improve the performance of government agencies, which among others included the police.
“Suhakam underscores that the problem of police abuse has not been comprehensively addressed by the government over the years,” he said.