Tit-for-tat approach to investigations unjustified, says Malaysian Bar

Loghun Kumaran
Malaysian Bar President George Varughese speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur March 18, 2017. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

PETALING JAYA, May 22 — The Malaysian Bar has slammed unauthorised travel bans on police investigation targets and leaks of police investigations, calling them ‘breaches of law’.

Its president George Varughese expressed the Bar’s concern regarding reports of travel bans imposed on police investigation targets, and leaks of pictures, videos and details of ongoing probes.

Varughese stressed that all individuals were entitled to the protection of their constitutional rights, regardless of public sentiment against high-profile members of the previous government.

“The previous government may have had a less-than-sterling — even tarnished — record of respecting the rights of individuals.

“But this should in no way justify a “tit-for-tat” approach of denying these high-profile members the right to have their own constitutional rights upheld,” Varughese said in a statement today.

The statement did not mention any names in particular, but comes during a time when former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor have been barred from leaving the country.

Najib is being investigated for his role in the 1MDB scandal, and was called to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission(MACC) headquarters to provide a statement today.

Leaked photos, videos and details of police raids and seized items from Najib’s home have also been circulating on social media in the past week.

Varughese said administrative orders that limited the freedom of movement of individuals was a breach of proper due process, when issued by law enforcement agencies.

He argued that the agencies needed to get consent from the courts, as only courts could make such orders — and even then only on the basis of prima facie evidence that justified the restrictions.

Similarly, Varughese blasted the unauthorised leaking of information, videos and photos of items seized during ongoing investigations, calling them ‘unacceptable’.

He said a ‘trial by media’ should not be allowed to take place, adding that indiscipline within law enforcement agencies should not be condoned.

“Such leakages jeopardise investigations, and may undermine attempts to bring alleged perpetrators to justice. This would not be in the public interest,” he said.  

“The rakyat will no longer tolerate biased, prejudiced and unprofessional law enforcement agencies. It expects the agencies’ members to demonstrate the highest possible standards.

“Neither should there be special treatment for any person including VVIPs or VIPs past or present. The rakyat deserves no less,” he added.