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Growing up, you may have heard this song playing on the radio:
If you can’t click on the video, it’s that Inner Circle song parody where a bunch of muscle men and their pimp got pulled over for speeding, and the whole song is just them begging a horribly short-sighted traffic police officer to not saman them. The police officer refused, despite them trying to be cute by going a la la la la tuk, a la la la la tuk, tuk jangan saman.
Regardless of the highly unlikely scenario, it pretty much sums up what we think whenever we see police officers: don’t saman us please. But what if the tables were turned? What if… the polis are the ones who kena saman instead?
While it sounds like a bad Soviet meme, it’s not entirely impossible. The police have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and other guidelines in place to ensure they don’t go overboard in their peacekeeping, and going against that SOP may get them some disciplinary action, or even sued by the people.
Today, we’ll be looking at those instances, starting with…
1. The guy who won more than RM100,000 in damages… for loss of hearing after being slapped
Four years ago, Mohd Faizu Ismail, a labourer, went over to his father’s house after hearing a loud noise. There, he asked Lans Koperal Mohd Erman Ahmad what happened, and Erman allegedly saw that as an obstruction to his duty and slapped Faizu in the face, causing him to bleed and experience loss of hearing in his left ear. Faizu afterwards lodged a police report about it, but unfortunately the report fell on… deaf ears. Instead of giving up and going on with his life, Mohd Faizu filed a lawsuit about it.
In this case, he named three defendants. The first one was Mohd Erman, the second one was the Tumpat District’s Head Police, Assistant Commissioner Zaharudin Rasip, and the third defendant was the Government of Malaysia, because why not.
The judge Mohd Rosly Muhammad Nawi ruled that all three defendants failed to prove that Erman wasn’t at the scene when the slap happened, and since all three defendants were somewhat responsible for it, the judge sentenced all three to pay Faizu RM12,000 for the damages, RM100,000 as a lesson and a special compensation of… RM40… bringing the total to RM112,040. So that brought the four-year case to an end.
So the moral of the story is:
slap lower you won’t be clappin’ if you do the slappin’. Moving on…
2. The guy who won a RM370,000 lawsuit for being detained before his speech
Unlike the first case, this one involves not your average Abu, but Mazlan Aliman, the then President of the National Association of Felda Settlers’ Children (ANAK). The incident happened in 2010. Sometime in March that year, Mazlan received an invitation to a dialog and discussion session with settlers at a settler’s house, Hamidun Yeop Isa, at the Lembah Klau Felda. But before he managed get all dialogue-y, he found himself surrounded by some 30 Felda police officers.
Anyways, they were armed, and he felt some sort of abuse happened, so he made a police report about it. However, at the same time, he found out that the manager of the Felda where he was surrounded had already made a police report against him first, saying that Mazlan’s intention of entering his Felda was to cause discontent and/or trespassing.
After what we assumed was some intense drama-style zooming in on each person at the police station, Mazlan was arrested and remanded for four days under Section 441 of the Penal Code for criminal trespassing. Sometime later that year, Mazlan filed a lawsuit against the Felda manager who made a report against him, Felda itself, Inspector Mohd Azran Rahmat (the officer who arrested him), and the Malaysian government, but along the naik turun mahkamah the first two defendants got dropped out of the case, leaving just the police and the government.
At the end of it all (2013), the judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir ruled that – surprise surprise – Mazlan did nothing wrong enough to be arrested in the first place, as he entered the Felda under invitation from settlers, and it was at a settler’s house, not at a community hall.
“The judge has ruled that as a citizen, Mazlan is free to go wherever he wants to as it’s his basic right. In this case, the police had done an unlawful arrest and wrongfully detained and treated someone like a criminal for two days. Mazlan did not speak at a community hall.” – Wan Rohimi, Mazlan’s lawyer, translated from Harakah Daily.
So both the police and the government had to pay out RM300,000 in damages for wrongful arrest, RM50,000 as a lesson, and RM20,000 in court costs, bringing the total to RM370,000. The moral of the story? You do a flashy arrest, you’ll get into a mess. Eh wait, that didn’t sound right…
Anyways. On to the next one!
3. Five lawyers won a suit against their unlawful arrests
So for this case, we have five lawyers suing the police for unlawfully arresting them. This happened in 2009, and there are a lot of characters for this one, so we’re just gonna put them in lists. The lawyers doing the suing:
- Fadiah Nadwa Fikri
- Murnie Hidayah Anuar
- Puspawati Rosman
- Syuhaini Safwan
- Ravinder Singh Dhalliwal
So the first four lawyers sued separately from the fifth, and with the addition of two constables and one inspector for the first four and a lance corporal for Ravinder, they both sued:
- ACP Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid (then Brickfield’s Head Police)
- DSP Judy Blacious Pereira, aka Jude
- The Inspector General of Police at that time
- The Government of Malaysia
Right. Now that that’s over and done with, in May 2009 these five lawyers showed up at the Brickfield’s police headquarters (IPD) to give legal counsel to their 14 clients being held there. Their clients had been detained for holding a candlelight vigil for Wong Chin Huat, a civil rights activist who was detained under the Sedition Act. However, the lawyers had been barred from entering the IPD by the police, and the reason given was that each of their clients had signed a form that released their rights to a lawyer.
The lawyers claimed that their clients had denied signing such forms when they contacted them using cell phones. So they kept requesting to meet their clients, and at one point a police officer showed up with a loudspeaker and asked them to leave. They didn’t, so they were detained there as well, albeit separately. The first four lawyers claimed that they were brought by car to the Travers Police Station at 5 am on the 8th of May, and were released on police bail at noon on the same day. Ravinder, on the other hand, claimed that he was detained for 16 hours on the 7th.
They then filed lawsuits as we’ve detailed above, and in 2014, the High Court judge Datuk John Louis O’Hara ruled that the arrests back then were wrongful and denied the lawyers their constitutional rights, so the defendants were ordered to pay the five lawyers RM15,000 in general damages, as well as RM60,000 to each lawyer as a lesson. They were also ordered to pay RM60,000 each in costs to the first four lawyers, and RM40,000 to Ravinder. That brings the total to…
…RM163,000! Hwah. So the moral of the story is: exercise restrain before you detain. Aiyoh so hard to come up with morals that rhyme. Still got two more cases…
4. The cartoonist Zunar won RM18,000 after getting his work confiscated
If you are the kind who reads up on political news in the Najib era, then you’ve probably heard of a political cartoonist named Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, aka Zunar. Being in the political drawing scene, you can probably guess that he got in trouble several times with the authorities, but of interest is an episode that happened in 2010. Sometime in September, a police team led by ASP Arikrishna Apparau raided Zunar’s office in Brickfields and seized 66 of his new comic books, a hair collage of Rosmah, and Zunar for sedition.
Zunar was released on police bail two days later, but the rest of his seized artwork were not, so in June 2011 Zunar along with his company Sepakat Elektif Sdn Bhd sued several parties, including two police officers (ASP Arikrishna from earlier and ASP Marina Hashim), the IGP at that time, the Home Ministry and the Malaysian Government for unlawful detention and false imprisonment. The court later ruled that Zunar’s imprisonment was indeed lawful, but taking his artwork was not, so in March 2015, Zunar finally got his confiscated artwork back, but the hair collage had been damaged.
For the confiscation, the High Court of Kuala Lumpur in 2017 had ordered the government and the police to pay Zunar RM18,000 in damages. But as Zunar had earlier said in an interview, it’s not so much about the money.
“The important thing is that it’s not about the quantum. It’s about the principal. The police were forced to admit they are wrong. They cannot go around raiding people’s office confiscating their belongings.” – Zunar, in an interview with Cilisos.
So the moral of the story is… um… well, you guys come up with one. Finally…
5. The guy who won RM30,000 after being shot while escaping a roadblock
This one happened in 2009 in Shah Alam. A container equipment operator, Shahril Azlan Ahmad Kamil, was driving home with his friend sometime in April late at night when they encountered a police roadblock. Shahril claimed that he panicked because his road tax had expired, so he reversed his car in an attempt to escape. However, that’s when he heard several shots being fired, and one bullet went through his arm and rib cage before finally lodging itself in his spine.
We’re not sure what happened next, but Shahril was later hospitalized for a month. However, it wasn’t until a year after his incident that he decided to do something about it, so he filed a civil suit against the officer who shot him, the Shah Alam district police chief, the IGP and the government of Malaysia, asking for an unspecified amount in general damages and RM18,120 in special damages for the 15-month rehab following the shooting as well as repair costs for his car.
As the case progresses, it was revealed that the officer who shot him had originally aimed at the front tyres of his car, but the bullet ricocheted and hit Shahril instead. Shahril, on the other hand, had claimed that after he was shot, the police had delayed calling him an ambulance and accused him of posessing drugs. Regardless of all that, the judge Hanipah Farikullah had said that according to the IGP’s Standing Order, a policeman can only use his firearm when his life or that of others was in danger, and in this case, nobody’s life was endangered, so the shooting had been wrong.
“It is an indisputable fact that the plaintiff suffered an injury as a result of being shot by the defendant. Under the orders of the Inspector General of Police, an officer can only fire a shot when his life is in peril. However, in this case, the defendant’s action of releasing shots is wrong, as there is no evidence showing that his life is threatened.” – Justice Hanipah, translated from The Rakyat Post.
She then ordered the authorities to pay Shahril RM30,000 in costs, but did not award Shahril his claim in special damages (the RM18,120) as Shahril did not have documents to prove that claim. So the moral of the story is… well, just because you have a gun, doesn’t mean you have to shoot it lah. Or something. Anyways, we guess the overall lesson to take away from all these cases is…
Let’s not blame the whole tree for a few bad apples
The reason we’re writing this is not to say that “urhh police bad. uhh anarchy good. duhh people rise up!”, but rather to highlight the sacrifices of the police in their line of work. Even if they’re going up against criminals or even terrorists, they can’t just go around doing what they like, instead having to conform to a strict procedure to ensure that they stay within the law they’re trying to uphold.
However, while we’d like to believe that most of our police officers do the challenging thing and conform to the rules, as evident by the examples above, sometimes there are cases where they don’t. So it’s important for the rakyat to know that they have rights as well, and they don’t have to bow down to officers who overstep their boundaries.
All in all, it takes a lot of discipline and willpower to be good police officers, so for those who are, keep up the good work!