The Malaysian Bar Council is gathering evidence for a legal challenge after police blocked hundreds of lawyers at Padang Merbok earlier today from proceeding with a planned ‘Walk for Justice’ to Parliament.
Bar Council president Karen Cheah said the evidence-gathering process to determine their next course of action will involve viewing footage from the ground as well as interviews with witnesses among lawyers present for the march.
“We will not sit down quietly. We are definitely taking it to court,” said Cheah during a press conference at the Bar Council this afternoon, several hours after the cancelled march.
“I think the police have failed in their duty to facilitate the walk. Police were very high-handed in their actions,” she said, citing the presence of riot police on the scene.
Cheah stressed that police failed in their statutory duties to facilitate the march, as well as possibly committing an unconstitutional act by restricting their rights to freedom of assembly.
“The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) has been around for 10 years but yet the police have not appreciated the fact there is no police permit needed,” she said.
Cheah said the Bar Council, as organisers of the march, had fulfilled all conditions under the PAA, including notifying the police within a stipulated time.
On the other hand, she said the police failed to respond within three days as stated in the act, only informing organisers through a letter received yesterday.
“If we were to follow the PAA, if the police do not come back within three days with any conditions, we (organisers) are entitled to go ahead as if no conditions have been imposed,” she said.
Cheah said police officers involved in two failed negotiations with organisers at Padang Merbok only cited “safety” concerns with no further reasons given to stop their walk.
“I don’t know the safety of what, safety for whom,” she added.
She confirmed that organisers turned down an “offer” from the police for up to 20 lawyers to march to Parliament, as all who gathered had expressed their intentions to walk.
Meanwhile, Dang Wangi OCPD ACP Noor Dellhan Yahaya said today the police will call up all participants of the “Walk for Judicial independence” march to give their statements, despite blocking the walk from occurring.
He said that the police have observed about 220 Bar Council members and other individuals this morning and opened an investigation paper under Section 15(3) of the Peaceful Assembly Act and Regulation 6 and 7 of the Regulations on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within Local Areas of Infection) (National Rehabilitation Plan) (Transition to Endemic Phase) 2022.