I have only one comment when I read with great disbelief that Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil had been arrested together with her administrative officer, Norhayati Shahrom.
I think it was nothing but punitive to put two helpless women under arrest and remand them for three days for a statement that Sabrina made in her capacity as president of Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka).
I have known Sabrina and her husband for a few years now, but Sabrina, who is also the wife of a member of the Selangor Royal Council, has never come across to me as a “threat to national harmony and well-being”.
In fact, I have always praised her as being a vibrant and down-to-earth Puan Sri. She is hands-on. I have seen her – someone with the title of Puan Sri – helping her staff with some menial work. In fact, seeing her at work at her Tanah Aina café in Shah Alam impresses me that she does not put on airs, unlike some members of the elite society.
Lover of nature and the tropical rainforests
Sabrina is one who has a deep love for Mother Nature. She is particularly concerned about peninsular Malaysia losing its tropical rainforests, which leads to a number of cases of environmental degradation.
She has hit out at several states, raising a number of environmental concerns. Besides Johor, the Peka Malaysia website has highlighted environmental issues in Kelantan, Pahang and even Selangor.
In fact, she is apolitical. She just wants to preserve the beauty of Mother Nature the way God has given us as a heritage to be passed on to the future generations of Malaysians.
Based on feedback that I received, as a fellow Malaysian, I find it hard to accept her arrest and detention. Despite the full cooperation that she and Norhayati gave to the police, they were arrested and later taken to Johor Baru.
I find it hard to understand that if anyone can now lodge police reports from any police station in the country, the police could not have brought them before a magistrate in Selangor. There is no reason why they could not be told to appear before the magistrate, failing which a warrant of arrest would then be issued against them.
And frankly, if it is over a statement that she had made on Facebook, I find it hard to believe that the assistant registrar decided to grant a three-day remand order.
How much time or information do the police really need in carrying out the investigation? What crime have the duo carried out to deserve the detention, even for one night? As far as I know, detention is only necessary if the person is known to be a violent criminal, capable of bringing harm or influencing the witnesses, but Sabrina and Norhayati?
Cause for concern
Having seen the way how political cartoonist Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque or Zunar’s arrest was carried out last week, it appears that we are entering into a dangerous phase, and unless this is checked, we may be in danger of becoming a rogue nation.
According to the duo’s lawyer, Siti Kasim, from the moment the two were arrested, the police have not yet even recorded any statement from her clients. Siti argues that this should have been the priority of the investigating officer, whenever a person is under arrest. So, why arrest and detain a person, when the statement could have been recorded within a few hours?
Unlike hardcore criminals, this is a case involving two civilians where detention, in my opinion, is unnecessary especially since Sabrina, apart from being the wife of an important business tycoon, has built her own credentials around Peka over the years.
She has become respected within media circle as someone who is deeply passionate about the way how the country is fast losing its natural resources. Who wouldn’t be concerned, if suddenly we wake up one day to find that all the natural resources are gone!
Through her efforts, Peka has highlighted numerous issues relating to the environment through its Facebook page. This is what any activist would do especially if the people in the corridors of power fail to listen to the voice of their own conscience.
I see no basis for the detention of both Sabrina and Norhayati, even for a night. We must ask whether Maria Chin Abdullah’s detention under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 was, in fact, legal. Since she was released after being placed in solitary confinement, has she been a threat to national security?
The trend is indeed worrying with the number of arrest and detention of civilians, opposition leaders and activists – and it is time that civil society should voice out our concern over the latest developments in the country.