Monday, September 25, 2023

Do cops have expertise to probe Lee?

Do cops have expertise to probe Lee?

COMMENT | The media reported that Bukit Aman is investigating Ipoh Timor MP Howard Lee for allegedly making his own interpretations of verses from the Quran.

The investigation is in relation to two police reports lodged against him at Jalan Tun Razak (Kuala Lumpur police station) and in Perak. The investigation is being undertaken by Bukit Aman’s Classified Crime Investigation Unit.

Lee is being accused of insulting Islam by some PAS leaders for misinterpreting the Quranic verse from surah An-Nisa’ (4:59).

This article is never intended to support either Lee or PAS. I am only interested in ventilating this issue only through the lens of law.

Since two police reports have been made against Lee, the police have no alternative but to open an investigation paper and, in turn, carry out the investigation.

The very idea of any police investigation is primarily to find out whether any crime has been duly committed. To determine whether any crime has been duly and properly perpetrated, the investigator must be able to fully understand and comprehend the issue at hand.

The issue at hand entails an allegation made by some leaders from PAS that an MP from DAP has made a statement purportedly insulting and smearing the religion of Islam by “interpreting” the Quranic verse in his TikTok posting.

It goes without saying that to determine whether the statement made by Lee is tantamount to insulting Islam would entail the necessary comprehension of Islam and the Quran on the part of the investigating agency, namely the police force.

Is our police force clothed with such a necessary expertise?

Islamic-related issues

To begin with, Lee is a non-Muslim and the issue at hand has to do with Islam - which falls squarely under the jurisdiction of a state.

Constitutionally speaking, the police, with due respect, have no business at all to deal with any Islamic-related issues. Such issues are simply beyond the purview of police work. Period.

Therefore, such issues should be properly handled by the religious department in the state. The lingering dilemma of this case is that Lee - being a non-Muslim - is not beholden to any Islamic authority.

Hence, the issue seems to revolve around politics rather than law, let alone criminal law.

However, the police may argue that they have the power to investigate the case under the Sedition Act or the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (Act 588) respectively. A quite fair proposition but it still does not solve the problem.

Criminal prosecution

Anyway, the result of any investigation would be a prosecution of crime. And the aim of any criminal prosecution would be to secure conviction. Otherwise, it would be a waste of huge amounts of time for everybody and public funds too.

And to secure a conviction, the prosecution badly needs a top-notch investigation. If the police are not equipped with the necessary expertise to investigate any Islam-related matter, it would be preposterous to expect our police force to carry out a splendid investigation on this case.

As far as criminal law is concerned, the rule of the game would be “investigate first and then prosecute” and not the other way around.

The nation does not want the “(Ahmad) Zahid (Hamidi) tragedy” to recur in our criminal law system whereby the rule has been unduly reversed, i.e. “prosecute first and investigate later”.

It is high time, perhaps, for Malaysian politics to be defined by a new political culture.

MOHAMED HANIPA MAIDIN is a former deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law).

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