|Protest crackdown draws flak|
The government faced criticism for arresting hundreds of people and using tear gas and water cannon to break up a protest against laws that allow for detention without trial.
More than 60 of the 589 people detained in yesterday’s protest, which saw at least 15,000 people massing in chaotic scenes in downtown Kuala Lumpur, were still in custody today according to media reports and lawyers.
“I experienced first-hand the indiscriminate police use of tear gas and its corrosive effects,” said DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang who took part in the protest.
Lim accused Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan of ‘wreaking personal vengeance’ against him and other Pakatan Rakyat leaders for the Parliamentary Roundtable last week calling for a new IGP to create a safe Malaysia.
He also condemned Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak over the heavy-handed police response, which saw 5,000 officers including riot squad members play a cat-and-mouse game with protesters through city streets.
“Is this an indication that the Najib premiership is going to be the most draconian of all prime ministers since independence in 1957?” he asked.
Najib had criticised the protest plans, saying that he had already promised to review the controversial legislation after taking office in April.
Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is charge of the police force, reportedly said the Internal Security Act (ISA) could be amended as soon as the next parliament session.
But the opposition and rights groups are calling for the colonial-era ISA – which has been used to detain government opponents as well as suspected terrorists – to be abolished.
Latifah Koya, a lawyer for the detained protestors, said that police were continuing to hold senior opposition lawmaker R Sivarasa, as well as the wife and son of an ISA detainee. Two other children were also in custody.
“We totally condemn the police action. People who merely wore T-shirts with an anti-ISA logo were also arrested. We demand their immediate release,” she told AFP.
‘People want change’
Rights campaigners also condemned the police response.
“Aliran is appalled at the determined effort by the police to crush the peaceful march,” said P Ramakrishnan, president of Aliran.
“Thousands of concerned and caring Malaysians have undertaken this march out of a patriotic duty to highlight their revulsion for the ISA which has gained notoriety for the mindless use of this law by the Barisan Nasional.”
Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said that the results of 2008 elections, which saw a major swing away from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, showed Malaysians were demanding greater freedoms.
“The people want change. If the Barisan Nasional wants to remain in power they have to listen to the people who desire liberty and respect for individual rights,” he said.
“They took to the streets because the government has not provided an alternate platform to engage the people,” he said.
Khoo said the coalition, which has struggled to claw back support since the landmark 2008 polls, faced defeat at the next general elections if it failed to introduce democratic reforms.
|In political retaliation, police remand children over ISA rally|
|Posted by admin|
|Sunday, 02 August 2009 15:25|
|By Wong Choon Mei, Suara Keadilan
In a move smacking of political vengeance and in gross violation of international rules on children’s rights, Malaysian police have detained three youths aged 16 and below without giving any reasons, neither allowing their parents nor legal counsel access to them.
Despite a barrage of civil society leaders, children NGOs and lawyers rushing to the scene, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration has refused to give an inch, even forbidding the government-run welfare department from assisting in the case.
“The children are being used as bargaining chips. It is a violation of the International Convention of Children’s Rights of which Malaysia is a signatory,” human rights lawyer and PKR communications director Jonson Chong told Suara Keadilan.
On Friday, police arrested 16-year old Faizudin Hamzah at the central station at 11.55pm. They did not give any reasons. Yet the magistrate went ahead and gave a 4-day omnibus remand order without seeing the boy, who was sleeping when he was detained.
The other two youths – one aged 16 and another only 13 – are being taken to the Bukit Jalil police station where they will be remanded.
Growing civil unhappiness, rising police brutality
It is believed that the arrests were part of the police crackdown against the mammoth anti-Internal Security Act rally held on Saturday.
Ten of thousands of Malaysians from all walks of life and all parts of the country had flooded the city centre to hold a peaceful demonstration against the oppressive law. They wanted to present a memorandum to the King but were crushed by unprecedentedly harsh police violence and attacks.
The authorities began setting up massive roadblocks on Friday night to corral the city, causing a traffic gridlock unseen for years.
Throughout Saturday, sirens tore into the air and round after round of tear gas and chemically-laced water were fired without any consideration for the health or safety of the crowds, who were mostly peaceful and whose aim was merely to be a part of a democratic march to better their society.
In its 49th year, the ISA allows the Umno-BN government to detain civilians especially political foes for indefinite periods without trial. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department was defiant, refusing to show any remorse for the display of brutality.
“As long as Barisan Nasional is leading the government, the ISA will not be abolished,” Nazri told reporters on Saturday.
Who will be responsible?
Unsurprisingly, while the police used their batons on the anti-ISA groups, they allowed representatives that supported the continuance of the law to hand their letter to the King’s aide.
Such is now the level of bias openly extended by the police and other key institutions including the courts to Najib’s regime – a main factor for the rising civil unhappiness as Malaysians disdain the deteriorating quality of fair-play in their country.
Meanwhile, welfare officer Daing Terpateh Khairi would only repeat that he could not help the children without getting the green light from the police.
Faizudin has been placed in a cell with adult prisoners, bare-footed and made to wear inmate uniform. No investigating officer has come to see him yet. Neither has any statement been recorded from him so far.
“This is terrible. It is the welfare department’s duty to come immediately to the scene, but they are saying they don’t have any instructions from the police to do so,” said an irate lawyer at the scene.
“Who will look after these kids then? They are now in jail with all the adult criminals. Who will guarantee their safety, who will be responsible? Will PM Najib take responsibility if they are beaten or even raped by the hard-core ones?”