GEORGETOWN, Nov 13 – A Penang state assemblyman today said officers from the Registrar of Societies (RoS) had told him that it never regarded the state’s Voluntary Patrol Unit as illegal. DAP’s Sungai Puyu assemblyman Phee Boon Poh told the state assembly that following the mass arrest of PPS members on August 31, the officers said RoS had only responded to queries on the status of the PPS by replying that it was not registered with the body.
Phee said this transpired during his meeting with the RoS on September 5 at his office in George Town. “We met with them even though there was no official letter and they had not received any reports against the PPS,” he said in his wrapping-up speech, which was snubbed by Barisan Nasional (BN) assemblymen who entered the house only after he finished.
“The main question is why they (Home Ministry and police) took action on the PPS,” he said. “This is because there are certain people who were serving their own interests, with an agenda to wipe out the PPS.” Phee, a state executive councillor, added that on October 10, he handed RoS copies of executive council documents on decisions pertaining to the formation of the PPS, to show it was a legitimate entity under the state government.
A total of 157 PPS members were arrested on August 31, shortly after they participated in a march-past during the state Merdeka Day celebrations at the Padang Kota Lama in George Town. They were later released on police bail. Police said the PPS members were arrested under section 43 of the Societies Act 1966, for involvement with an unlawful organisation.
On November 3, Home Minster Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi declared the PPS illegal under section 5(1) of the Societies Act, using his ministerial power to declare an organisation illegal. Phee said the PPS had participated in Merdeka Day parades previously in 2012 and 2013 without any problem. He showed the state assembly photographs of senior police personnel in Penang, including Chief Police Officer Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi, attending briefings participated by PPS members before the allegations of illegality surfaced.
Phee said PPS committees at the constituency and district levels were chaired by state assemblymen and MPs, and the district officers respectively. This showed that the PPS was a government body. “They were all appointed under state government’s orders,” he said, adding that this contrasted with a society whose posts are based on elections.
Phee said he was appointed the PPS Commissioner as he was the state executive councillor for Caring Society. Dr Norlela Ariffin (PKR-Penanti) said PPS members had provided significant rescue and relief aid during at least nine flood incidents in her constituency before August 31. She said when floods hit the area again on October 17 and 21, the PPS members were unable to help due to action against them.
She said members of the Village Security and Development Committees (JKKKs) who instead came to help were elderly, as the JKKKs consist of many senior community leaders. “We would like the federal government to have a re-think on the PPS, especially in village areas, where they have been of help,” she said.