You are wrong, IGP!
SHAH ALAM: Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar seems to think that it is all right for police to quiz children without the parents’ presence. But he is wrong, say children rights activists.
Khalid (pix, top) said on Sept 5 that the law does not require police to seek parental consent if they want to question children.
"If you are a parent, how would you feel?" asked Anderson Selvasegaram, executive director of child rights advocacy group Suka Society.
"It is only common sense and logical for parents to want to accompany their children [if questioned]," he told theantdaily.
He said that parents will instinctively want to know why the authorities are talking to their children.
"If my primary school kid is questioned, I will want to be there."
Anderson said that parental presence is necessary not only for the parents' knowledge but to provide assurance to the children who can potentially be intimidated by the police, even if the interview was congenially conducted.
The activist said that the situation may be different if it involved serious offences, and the minors were offenders, but even then there should be considerations.
Asked if such things are provided by the law, he said he is unsure, but added that it is part of natural parental instinct that should be implied even if it is not directly mentioned in the laws.
"If it is not, it should be," he added.
Fellow children rights activist Dr Hartini Zainuddin points to the Child Act and United Nations' Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Malaysia is a signatory of, to rebut Khalid's claims.
"Best interest of the child and role of child protectors [Child Act] and right of child to privacy [CRC] – bottom line is no respect for child," she said in a Twitter posting.
She argued that as provided for in the Child Act, children must not be interviewed without the presence of parents unless Welfare Department- appointed child protection officers are present to monitor.
Article 16 of the CRC states: "Children have a right to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their family and their home.”
Khalid told the media that police need not obtain parents' consent or presence when questioning children.
He was referring to the Sungai Buloh police interviewing schoolchildren from SK Seri Pristana without parental presence last week.
"Why can't we [question without parents' presence]? There's nothing in the law that says we need to get their consent... who said we can't question children?" Khalid asked.