Not right to send police after PM's critics, says Lawyers for Liberty

PETALING JAYA: It is unacceptable for the newly-formed government to call for police action against the critics of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, says Lawyers for Liberty director Zaid Malek.

He added that the Prime Minister does not hold any special status at law and cannot call on the police to defend his reputation.

“It would be an abuse of power for the PM to order police investigations into people who make accusations against him, as he is an interested party,” he said in a statement on Wednesday (Nov 30).

Like other Malaysians, Anwar should file a defamation suit in civil court if he feels aggrieved by adverse comments, he added.

ALSO READ: Baling MP probed for calling PM ‘an agent of Israel’

“The job of the police is to prevent crime, not to protect the PM from insults or criticisms,” said Zaid.

Zaid also pointed out that Pakatan Harapan was previously on the receiving end of similar police action during former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s tenure, particularly over the 1MDB saga.

“Indeed, Pakatan has always taken the position that it is untenable for the Prime Minister to use police force to silence critics,” he noted.

Zaid was referring to a remark by Pakatan communications director Fahmi Fadzil on Monday (Nov 28) that Anwar wanted the police to take action against those who made false allegations against him.

Zaid pointed out that after Fahmi’s remarks, Baling MP Hassan Saad was questioned by the police over allegations against Anwar.

ALSO READ: PM issues letter demanding apology from Baling MP over audio alleging Israel links

“He (Hassan) is being investigated among others under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

“This even goes against Pakatan’s own promise in its manifesto to repeal Section 233. The fact that the police probe is apparently at Anwar’s behest is inappropriate and potentially unlawful," he said.

Zaid said police intervention can only be justified when offenders make statements which incite harm, violence or injury to the public.

“In a functioning democracy, police action cannot be taken against politicians or critics for issuing objectionable or insulting or false statements against anyone, including the PM.

“If the police initiate criminal investigations into every accusation or insult to the prime minister, it will be a slippery slope towards authoritarianism,” said Zaid.

He added that the new government and Anwar as the Prime Minister should uphold their promise of reform in Pakatan’s GE15 manifesto.

Zaid also said all investigations on critics of the Prime Minister should be halted.

ALSO READ: Anwar wants cops to take action against those who falsely accuse him, says Fahmi

“This new coalition government must avoid the pitfalls and excesses of previous governments if it truly wants to empower free speech and a robust democratic culture.

“No matter how objectionable or insulting the speech may be, criminal action cannot be the response. That is how we foster a healthy democracy,” said Zaid.

Bukit Aman opened an investigation into Baling MP Hassan Saad for allegedly calling Anwar an “agent of Israel”.

The police said reports have been lodged against the PAS MP and the probe will be carried out by the CID Special Investigations Unit.

The case has been classified under Sections 504 and 500 of the Penal Code for intentionally insulting and provoking any person and defamation, respectively.

Hassan would also be investigated for the misuse of networking facilities under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Separately, Anwar also issued a three-day deadline beginning Tuesday (Nov 29) for Hassan to apologise over allegations on social media that the Prime Minister was in contact with Israel.

In an audio clip posted on Twitter, an unidentified woman with a northern dialect claimed that Hassan had made the allegations concerning Anwar and Israel.

According to an English daily, Hassan has denied any involvement in the viral audio recording.

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