JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT – Gangster-like arrests point to police state in the making

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) and the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) condemn the gangster-like tactics of the police in arresting social activists and politicians who were involved in the Kita Lawan peaceful gatherings in Kuala Lumpur last week.

1.    On 26 March, DBKL and plainclothed police officers beat up those who were at Dataran Merdeka to collect signatures for the Free Anwar campaign, a 70-year-old woman was among those assaulted. Six persons, including Perak state assembly representative Chang Lih Kang, were arrested and remanded for four days.

2.    On 27 March, armed masked men abducted social activist Hishamuddin Rais as he was alighting from a taxi at Dataran Merdeka. It was only when a police report was made over the shocking incident witnessed by Kita Lawan participants that the police revealed that Hishamuddin was being held at the Dang Wangi police station.

3.    On 28 March, the day the Kita Lawan ‘wedding procession’ was to take place in KL in the afternoon, police arrested PAS Deputy President Mohamad Sabu in Penang at 12.20am.

4.    On 28 March, soon after the Kita Lawan ‘wedding procession’, three people, including PKR Supreme Council member Fariz Musa, were arrested; the other two were released the same day.

5.    On 29 March, at 3.20am, police, allegedly armed with M16 guns, arrested Selangor MP Khalid Samad at his home in Shah Alam after he participated in the KL procession.

There have also been other arrests a few days in the days running up to the Kita Lawan gatherings. When some 100 activists led by Parti Sosialis Malaysia staged a visit to the customs headquarters in Kelana Jaya to demand answers regarding the Goods and Services Tax, 80 were arrested. Three others were later arrested at a solidarity vigil.

In total, within the last one week, 97 persons were arrested. This is a worrying indication of a police state in the making.

Civil society denounces the brute force and heavy-handed action by police. It is even more disgusting when Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar defended his hardline “no tolerance” stance on the Kita Lawan rallies, supported by Home Affairs Minister Zahid Hamidi.

The IGP was quoted as saying, “We will take actions against individuals trying to ‘incite’ others in not respecting the system.” Yet the police can look away when pro-BN demonstrators held rallies, e.g. outside the Penang government offices or at the DAP headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The IGP has targeted social activists and certain politicians in his scheme of mass arrests, compromising the position of the Royal Malaysian Police as a neutral enforcer of the law. Such selective actions on his part must be condemned in the strongest manner.

What is even more insidious is Zahid’s announcement of the return of detention without trial under a so-called new law, Prevention of Terrorism Act. This law will bring back the dark ages of the Internal Security Act, under the guise of combating terrorists. Such a law must be resisted and rejected as it will be open to abuse by law enforcers that are acting with impunity.

We therefore call upon the government to:

1.    halt all politically motivated arrests. All charges and investigations against the Kita Lawan and Anti-GST protesters must be dropped;

2.    sack the IGP with immediate effect as he has abused his position of power and acted in violation of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to citizens under the Federal Constitution;

3.    withdraw the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Parliament as this law would bring back detention without trial, which runs against the grain of natural justice and fairness; and

4.    establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) without further delay to restore confidence in the Royal Malaysia Police.

 

Issued by SUARAM and the BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee