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By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, March 11: As Alister Cogia, 22, from Singai, Bau, was not represented by legal counsel when he pleaded guilty last Friday to five charges of causing disunity on grounds of religion and another five charges of making offensive comments online, a coalition of seven NGOs today expressed their support for a revision of the case as Alister is potentially a mentally ill person.
The seven NGOs are Sarawak Association for People Aspirations (Sapa), Persatuan Adat Asal Dayak Bidoyoh, YATT Society Sarawak, Dayak Bukit Kelingkang, DRAF, Solidarity Anak Sarawak and Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia).
“Every accused has the right to be heard and be accorded legal advice since the charges against him carried severe penalties. We do not know if he really understood the charges and the consequences of pleading guilty,” said Sapa’s Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) Monitor coordinator Alim Mideh at a press conference here today.
He said the prosecution should have told the court about the mental condition of the accused at the material time.
“In the course of conducting investigation, the police investigating officer (IO) should have known that Alister is not mentally stable. Since small, he used to be frequently ill. He gradually became introvert and preferred to keep to himself in his room. Occasionally, he would get very irritated and angry and would curse and swear at people passing his house in Bau,” he said.
Alim also revealed that Alister had also defamed Christianity and Adat Asal on his Facebook.
“In Bidayuh, he is considered as ‘bako’ but not yet ‘gila’ (mad). He is just mentally unstable. So, we are of the view that the correct procedure would be to subject him to observation to determine his mental status and to see if he was capable of understanding what he has done or to be fully responsible for his actions.
“It is our stance that we are against anyone insulting any religion, and not just Islam,” he stressed.
Alim also expressed regret that none of Alister’s family members was informed when he was charged in court.
It has been reported that a team of lawyers led by Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How has filed an application for criminal revision of Alister’s jail sentence and fine. It is understood that application will be heard on March 13 at the High Court here.
Alister was slapped with five charges under Section 298A(1)(a) of the Penal Code and another five charges under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998
Meanwhile, the seven NGOs also called for the setting up of the ‘Pemantauan Isu Hina Semua-Agama’ unit to be set up Putrajaya under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department as well as here in Sarawak. — DayakDaily