Saturday 11 June 2011

Three days in lock-up for not wearing seatbelt

Bank manager Hiew Kok Ming, 26, was arrested and put in the lock-up for three days in Malacca late last month just for not wearing his seatbelt while driving.
Hiew, who is a member of a DAP branch headed by Petaling Jaya Utara parliamentarian Tony Pua, said that the prosecuting officer told the magistrate during his remand hearing that he was charged under Section 186 of the penal code with obstructing a government officer from discharging his or her duties.

However, he claimed that he was never informed of the actual specifics of his charge during his arrest or while he was in police custody, only being informed about it when presented before the magistrate for remand.

Hiew Kok Ming press conferenceThe police are alleging he questioned the traffic sergeant who stopped him: “Lu apa kuasa mahu ambil gua punya lesen dan IC?” (What authority do you have to take my driving licence and IC?).

That statement he allegedly uttered during the 9.30pm incident on May 28, said police, earned him his arrest and time in the police lock-up.

Hiew (right), who incidentally spoke in good Malay, however disputed the police claim, saying that the traffic sergeant who stopped him got angry when he took the officer's picture and immediately radioed a patrol car and four other officers to apprehend Hiew.
He also claimed that the police officer then threatened to put him in jail and then informing his employer so that they would fire him.

'Name tag and badge covered'

“I think that was the tipping point,” he told reporters at a press conference in Petaling Jaya today.

He also described how the police officer who stopped him had his name tag and badge number covered by a leather strap that supported his Sam Browne belt, a type of harness worn by military and police officers named after the British officer who invented it.

Police initially argued for an additional four days remand from the magistrate, allegedly for more time to investigate. However the judge decided on two days instead after Hiew protested.

The remand was later extended for another day after a second remand hearing as police said that they had still to obtain Hiew's photo and fingerprints despite having him in their custody for an initial 24 hours plus the additional remand period of two days.

Hiew was released after his third day of remand without conditions. He was not told to report to the police station nor charged with anything.

He related, however, that a police officer who escorted him out apologised on behalf of the police and told him that the matter was settled now that he is allowed to leave and he should not make a big deal about it.

During his arrest and time in the lock-up, Hiew explained how other police officers told him that his offence of driving while not wearing seat belt was a minor offence, but told him that he has made the sergeant angry and that caused him his predicament.

Pua, who was also at the press conference, condemned the inaction of police despite the “clear abuse of power” by their colleague, calling for an independent body to be instituted to investigate such wrongdoings in the enforcement agency.

'Denied rights'

The bank manager also alleged that during his three-day ordeal, he was not informed of his rights by police and was denied his request to contact his family and friends after he was put into the lock-up at the Melaka Tengah Traffic Headquarters.
He confirmed that he was not informed of any of his rights as detailed under section 28A of the Criminal Procedure Code which guarantees the rights of an arrested person about which police must inform them.

Hiew admitted that police did allow him to contact his family and friends prior to him being put into the lock-up.

However, no one told him that he has the right to see a lawyer, something that police are procedurally bound to do as prescribed in section 28A, and he was not allowed to speak to anyone once he was in the lock-up.

Segambut Parliamentarian Lim Lip Eng, who also was there, explained that the right to contact an attorney and his family and friends should have been made available to Hiew.

“If you are arrested, you have rights just like in the police movies. This is something that the public and police must be made to understand,” he concluded.

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