Anti-ISA protesters arrested

News source: Patrick Lee

UPDATED PETALING JAYA: The police have arrested 25 people after cracking down on a candlelight vigil held here in protest of the security law.
Among those arrested were Anti-ISA movement president Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, PKR supreme council member Badrul Hisham Saharin and Parti Sosialis Malaysia secretary-general S Arutchelvan.

Four more activists were arrested in Penang.

The protest, which took place at several locations nationwide, was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the law, which allows detention without trial.

In Petaling Jaya, anti-riot personnel moved in on some 300 protesters when they started singing the national anthem at 8pm.

The protesters were stopped from making their way to the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) field, as the police declared the gathering an illegal assembly.

When chased, the protesters fled into the nearby Amcorp Mall amid chants of “Hidup Rakyat” with the police in pursuit.

Following this, the protesters attempted to march to the Petaling Jaya Civic Centre but this was thwarted by the police, and the crowd retreated back into the mall.

Later, the crowd gathered outside the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters, where those arrested were taken, and sang the Negaraku and lit candles.

Once again the police moved in to disperse the protesters, who then sought refuge in nearby mamak stalls.

‘Violent and unacceptable’
The police’s action was condemned by several quarters, with a Bar Council’s Siti Kassim calling it “violent and unacceptable”.

Rights group Suaram director Kua Kia Soong was “disgusted”.

“This could have been a peaceful protest… it’s going to make Malaysia more of a police state,” he said, adding that it was the first time he had seen policemen storming a mall.

Kua said it was “shameful” that Malaysia still had laws like the ISA, but the police’s behaviour was even more embarrassing.
Human rights lawyer N Surendran told reporters that the “true face” of Malaysia was revealed tonight.
“Some of the lawyers have been denied entry (into the police headquarters), the police are being very difficult,” he added.
Wan Intan, who operates a stall in Amcorp Mall, also expressed disappointment with the police.
“The police should be taking care of the situation… it was dangerous for them to rush into the mall like that. We didn’t know that there was going to be a protest, the police should have informed us,” she said.

Police chief: We had no choice
Speaking to reporters later, Petaling Jaya police chief Arjunaidi Mohamed said his men were forced to act against the protesters.

“We had no choice. They defied our orders (to disperse) and were advancing towards us,” he said, adding that six women were among those detained.

“We told them to disperse, but they refused and went into Amcorp Mall. When they came out, they scolded the police and challenged us, so we arrested them,” he said.
Arjunaidi said the organiser did not obtain a police permit.

As for the organiser’s claim that MBPJ had issued them a permit, he said: “The council is not the authority to issue such permits and the organiser, with their legal knowledge, should have known this.”
He also chided the protesters for bringing their children along.

In Ipoh, scores of policemen stood guard at the Dataran Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh and the area had been cordoned off whereas in Penang, the police had posted notices warning the public not to participate in the illegal assembly.