As the dust settles somewhat with more reactions and counter reactions, it’s good to relook at what happened on November 9, 2008 in slower motion. But before that, the statement from civil society groups is demands us to pay attention.
I’ve included some videos I managed to capture as we were waiting in solidarity with those arrested outside the police station. An apology to Dr. Jayakumar for failing to record his comments in full as my memory card was full.
While those who spoke were from the Pakatan Rakyat, and wearing politician and NGO related hats, we can view it symbolically from the perspective that they represent those from different races, ideologies and religions who can be united as Malaysian citizens to demand the right to peaceful assembly as highlighted in the Malaysian Bar’s Press Release: Respect the Right to Peaceful Assembly
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We, the undersigned civil society groups, express our strongest condemnation of the brutal attack by policemen on a 100-strong crowd of Malaysians who were singing the national anthem Negaraku. The event took place last night (Sunday, 9 Nov 2008) at the BERSIH peaceful gathering outside MBPJ’s Civic Hall, Petaling Jaya.
Members of the public had gathered to commemorate the first anniversary of the BERSIH rally on 10 November 2007 as well as demand for the abolition of the ISA. The attack was not only an outright human rights violation, but it also demonstrated outrageous contempt of the Nation and Hia Majesty The King.
A 53-year-old woman named Dian Abdullah was attacked from behind by a few policemen, causing her to fall and injure the back of her head. A bystander took her to the hospital where she received four stitches for the cut.
MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, Tony Pua and Kampung Tunku state assemblyman Lau Weng San were manhandled and punched respectively. A PAS member was set upon by six police officers on the five-foot-way right outside Lotus Restaurant.
We would like to stress that, first and foremost, it is every Malaysians’ birth right to peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. The police dispersal of citizens’ peaceful gathering is unwarranted and an act of contempt against the Constitution.
We are deeply appalled by the unusual manner of the police dispersal of citizens in a peaceful gathering. Under ‘more normal’ circumstances, the police officer in charge would order the crowd to disperse within five minutes before taking any action. While Malaysians are taught from young to stand to attention when the national anthem is being played or sung, the behaviour of the police was such that they felt they had to stop the peaceful crowd from finishing the song and then proceeded to punish them violently.
We urge Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Syed Albar to immediately apologize to Malaysians and we demand that the Selangor Chief of Police, Deputy Comm Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar to take responsibility for his part in this fiasco and resign.
We call on all Malaysians to unite, regardless of our political persuasion, to defend the national symbol and basic human rights.
The 9 November police attack on the citizens, the nation and the monarchy has yet again reminded us of the urgent and immediate need for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
1. Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH)
2. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
3. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
4. Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI)
5. Workers Organisation of Malaysia
6. Group of Concerned Citizens (GCC)
7. Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation (MSN)
8. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Selangor
9. Malaysian Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
10. Civil Rights Committee, KLSCAH
11. Citizen Think Tank (CTT)
* BERSIH is a coalition of five political parties and over 70 NGOs.
Please share this with as many friends as you can. Malaysians must come together to demand for the resignation of the Selangor Chief Police Officer.
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Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression were again dealt a severe blow yesterday with the arrests of 23 citizens – including journalists and activists, a Member of Parliament, State Assemblypersons and a City Councillor – who were participants in a peaceful gathering to commemorate the first anniversary of last year’s BERSIH rally.
The Bar Council is alarmed at the disproportionate and heavy-handed approach adopted by the police, who purportedly began dispersing people as early as an hour before the start of the vigil. Needless physical force was allegedly used during the arrests, causing injuries to a number of participants. Such unprovoked intimidation and oppression is unjustifiable as the group was reportedly calm, did not pose any threat to public order and was merely exercising its democratic rights.
While the Bar Council disagrees with the laws curtailing the right to assemble and express dissent, we are concerned that the authorities seem to use these laws selectively to disperse and arrest demonstrators. Several demonstrations against the Pakatan Rakyat government’s policies in Penang and Selangor have proceeded without much harassment nor arrests by the police.
This gives rise to the perception that police actions are not based on any objective criteria relating to preservation of public order. Such subjectivity breeds the notion that the authorities act in a biased, or even arbitrary, manner.
We call on the police to protect the rights of speech, expression and assembly of all those who legitimately engage in expressing dissent, fairly and without bias.
10 November 2008
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