The Malaysian Bar is perturbed by the recent actions of the Royal Malaysia Police (“PDRM”) in investigating some doctors and healthcare workers involved in the Code Black and Black Monday campaigns.1 We understand that the purpose of this solidarity campaign, which is spearheaded by the Malaysian Medical Association (“MMA”), is to highlight the plight of contract healthcare workers who seek a clear pathway to specialisation, detailed and transparent criteria for permanent posts, equal and fair treatment between contract and permanent staff, and job security for all doctors and allied healthcare workers.2
The Malaysian Bar has always been a firm advocate of one’s right to freedom of speech and expression — these are vital components of a functioning democracy. It allows for intellectual discourse and facilitates the discussion of important sociopolitical questions. The constitutional right to freedom of speech, assembly and association is enshrined in Article 10 of our Federal Constitution. Such liberties are internationally recognised — Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”3 These rights are integral in ensuring an active civil society and a well-informed public.
While we acknowledge that PDRM has the power to investigate, we urge them to exercise restraint in the treatment of doctors and healthcare workers, as they are merely exercising their constitutional rights in good faith. Any unwarranted restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression will give the impression that Malaysia is regressing as a society. PDRM should not view the legitimate exercise of one’s constitutional right as a threat to public order; instead, such rights must be upheld and protected, in adherence to and in observance of the Federal Constitution.
A G KALIDAS
16 July 2021
1 “MMA urges cops to stop harassing docs who took part in Code Black, Black Monday campaigns”, New Straits Times, 13 July 2021.
2 “Malaysians, social media go black in support of contract doctors”, Free Malaysia Today, 1 July 2021.
3 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, United Nations.