Saturday, April 3, 2010

A True Story

For those of you who may have glimpsed the local news about Benjy’s arrest may have just as quickly averted your eyes and move on to some other page. After all, in our crime-ridden society, this is fairly common – especially since the Royal Malaysian Police is most determined to reduce crime, now that we have a KPI! Anyway, there is an interesting story to this, not just because Benjy is Azean Irdawaty's son – Azean is a well-known award-winning local actress, for those of you who didn’t know – but that Benjy was recently arrested for apparently in possession of 800 grams of cocaine, and 140 grams of methamphetamine. If true, that would make him a presumed trafficker under our law, and he will face the mandatory death sentence.


What’s making all of this utterly confusing – if I understand it correctly – is that he was only charged with being in possession of 0.24 grams of metaphetamine. So, what happened to the 800 grams of cocaine? And 139.76 grams of metaphetamine which he supposedly have? To top it up, the Star reported that the "powder" found was not cocaine after all! (March 30, 2010)

After bail was granted, he was re-arrested under the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985. This Act is the drug version of the ISA, and it allows detention without trial. In addition, Amer Hamzah, his lawyer, was manhandled by the police.

Anyway, please read Benjy's story as told by his sister, Elza.

“On March 11th, he was arrested at his apartment's parking lot in Segambut. Police brought him to an apartment he rented in Kepong, and after entering, claimed that in that residence, he possessed 800 grams of cocaine, and 140 grams of methamphetamine, and accused him of processing and trafficking, putting him under the risk of being charged under Section 39B, which carries the death penalty.

On March 12th he was remanded for 7 days. When my parents inquired if we can engage a lawyer, the Investigation Officer told us "No need".

On March 17th, after our family waited more than an hour, we were allowed to see him for the very first time, under supervision.

Again my mother asked if we should get him a lawyer, again the I.O advised against it, claiming "Lawyer tak boleh buat apa-apa sekarang. Buang duit je. (Lawyer can't do anything now. It's simply a waste of money)."

On March 18th, his remand was extended another 7 days. The magistrate inquired why there was no lawyer present for him, and whether he was made aware he had the right to a counsel of his choice. He replied "No." Therefore, he requested for one, and only nine hours later, did the I.O call to inform my mother, who promptly engaged Amer Hamzah Arshad. But the very next day, the police used their Executive authority under Section 28A that vetoed his right to a counsel. All requests made by our lawyer to visit him was denied.

Only after we complained to SUHAKAM, did the police allow Amer to visit him.

On the last day of his remand. After the investigations were concluded. For only 15 minutes.

On March 25th, he was brought to court, and charged under Section 12(2) for possession of 0.24 grams of metaphetamin in his Segambut residence. Nothing the police claimed they found in the Kepong residence, the cocaine and shabu that was "already packaged to be distributed" or the so called "cocaine processing mini-lab" was brought to court.

Because there WAS none.

He was released on bail. A trial date was set. He was so close to being free, and seeing his 4 year old son again.

But as he was signing the papers of his release, the Plainclothes were outside waiting.

Not two steps after he came out of the bail department, without any explanation, they re-arrested him. Amer was restrained from protecting him, and only after Amer repeatedly asked them to show their I.D, did they do so. Still, no explanation was given to the family. We were merely told to go to the Headquarters and speak to Inspector Kang. The same guy who claimed my brother possessed the cocaine they NEVER found.

He never saw us, he was "in a meeting." He wasn't too occupied to give the press a statement, but was unavailable to see us.

We were told by the new I.O for this case, and the DSP (the guy who signed the papers denying my brother the right to a counsel) that they are detaining him for 60 days under the Special Preventive Measures Act (LPK), after which, they could further detain him for 2 years if found guilty.

Guilty according to THEM. For under this act, it is a detention without trial, like the Internal Security Act. Any information gathered from "witnesses" and "investigations" will never be disclosed to him or his lawyer, or the court. He will also not be able to defend himself against any allegations. Under this act, he will never have his day in court.

On March 25th, my brother, Ben, was denied his Constitutional rights.

For 2 weeks, our family went through hell. Sleepless nights, press waiting outside our door, Ben had asthma attacks after the police delayed themselves in acquiring the requested medication for 3 days, Mama, who is a cancer patient herself, suffered chest pains and lost her voice.
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We felt it was all worth it, for we would be able to have him back.

But now, a new nightmare has begun.

Whether or not Ben is guilty, should not be for the Police to decide. If they HAD the evidence to strengthen their warrant for re-arrest, why was it not brought to court? Why is Ben not given a chance to defend himself? How can we ever know the authenticity of these so called witnesses and their statements? If there were ANY to begin with?

Under this act, I could simply be caught for any crimes of drug offences the police accuse me of, because they can claim they have enough information (even if they have absolutely nothing) and detain me. For 60 days, for 2 years, and even EXTEND it after.

Acts like this and the ISA are licenses for ARBITRARY arrest and detention. Anytime. Anywhere. Anybody.

My family and Amer will not back down. We will fight for Ben's right. We will speak up for all of those who were silenced before us, who will be silenced hereafter.

But we seek your help. In any way at all, help us fight this. Re-post this, write on your blogs, write to your local representative, to our newspapers, and together we shall use our voice, our art, our space, to stand up not just for Ben, but for all our rights.

Liberty is a Constitutional right. It's time to get it back.”

Like many Malaysians, I too believe that detention without trial is an abomination. As Art Harun (http://art-harun.blogspot.com/) posted on March 30, 2010: “Detention without trial...causes more damage than the damage which it is designed to avert".

Iit has been claimed that the above story is but ONE of the thousands of untold stories about detention without trials. It can happen to anyone and to anybody at any time. Don’t ignore it – write to your Member of Parliament to get him or her to know you are dead against these repressive laws. It is not only an affront but a challenge to a citizen’s fundamental liberties.