Malaysia: Brutal attack on price rise protest

Sixty arrested and held in police cells

We are carrying an account of the arrests made on Saturday of activists in the ‘Protes’ alliance of opposition groups and parties. On hearing the news, the Committee for a Workers’ International faxed the letter below to the government and the police authorities, demanding the release of all those detained, the dropping of all charges and for the right of public protest to be honoured.

We have learned that all have now been released after ‘investigation’ and in many cases, two nights in police cells. Dr. Kumar of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia, many of whose leaders, including his wife, Rani, were amongst those arrested, told us by phone today that the party is discussing the next steps to take. There is widespread anger at the unwarranted and even ‘illegal’ clampdown against all forms of protest and peaceful opposition to the government.

Urgent messages should still be sent to the addresses given in the letter, condemning the police action, demanding the dropping of all charges and demanding that the government upholds all basic democratic rights.

Please send a copy of protests to

Brutal attack on price rise protest

cwi letter

To: Prime Minister’s Office, Malaysia, Fax: +603 8888 3444

Tan Sri Musa Hassan, Ketua Polis Malaysia (Inspector-General of Police), Fax: +603 -22725613

Ibu Pejabat Polis Kontinjen Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur Contingent Police (HQ), Fax: +603 -20726786

Copy to: Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) Fax: +603 -26125620

January 27, 2008

The Committee for a Workers’ International, with sections, groups and members all round the world, was appalled to hear today of the latest arrests of peaceful demonstrators in Malaysia.

More than fifty people have been taken into custody while protesting against the massive price rises in Malaysia which are making the lives of working and poor people unbearable.

Why, when the government boasts in the run-up to an election, that the economy is going well, does it authorise the harrassment of all those who call for a better deal.

The information we have is that many well-known figures on the left in Malaysian society are being held, including leaders of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia.

We condemn this latest round of arrests and the the clampdown by the BN (National Front) government against all opposition, in defiance of basic democratic and human rights.

We demand the immediate release of all those arrested (among them those listed below) and that all charges against them to be dropped.

If this is not done, we will call for a world-wide campaign of protests.

Clare Doyle,

On behalf of the Committee for a Workers’ International

Names of those arrested on the demonstration on 26 January who should be unconditionally released forthwith:

S. Arutchelvan (PSM Secretary General) Mai Suharah (Female) Siti Fatimah (Female)
Nor Aziyati (Female) Aiman (Female) Nashita (Female)
Hidayat (Female) Zamri Effendi Marzuki
Solahuddin Syed Jaymal Badrul Hisham
Dino Dr. Nasir Hashim (PSM President) Simon (released at 9.15 pm)
Dr. Hatta Muhd Ramli (PAS) Thevarajan(released at 9.15 pm) Saraswathy (PSM Vice-President)
V.Selvam (PSM CC member) Rani Rasiah (PSM CC member) Ganesan (PSM Kajang Branch President)
Ramalingam(released at 9.15 pm) Kartik (released at 9.15 pm) Gana (released at 9.15 pm)
Vijaya Sugumaran Thinakaram (released at 9.15 pm)
Nehru Kohila Yanesegaran Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad (PAS)
Dr. Badrul Amin Mohd Sabo Mohd Yusof
Khairul Nizad P. Mohan Thinamaran (released at 9.15 pm)
Ginie Lim  Tian chua Johson
Zaid Ibrahim (16 year old) Tan ah kau Nuridah Mohd
Mohd Azemi Azman Azmi Chou/Chan
Isa Mudin Mohd Aminuri Mohd b. Nawi
Tan Chee Hooi Fathi Othman Gomathi A/P Gunalan
Saravanan A/L Teruma Mohd Azah b. Yaakob Nur Mohd Faizal b. Harun

PSM’s Arul to be charged, others expected to go free

Fauwaz Abdul Aziz, Jan 26, 08 10:12pm

Of the some 60 people who were detained by the police for taking part in the Protes rally today, only PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan has been placed in the city detention centre in the old Pudu prison.

The politician and social activist is expected to be charged for violating a court order which bans the staging of the rally today. 

As at 10pm tonight, half of those picked up have given their statement to the police. The group included Malaysiakini journalist Syed Jaymal Zahiid. They are now holding out in the canteen within the police headquarters and are expected to be released later.

Already, 12 have been given the green light to go home but they chose to stay with the waiting group as a sign of solidarity.

About 45 are still having their statements taken.  The delay is due to the process which began only at 8pm.

Arrests began at 2pm

More than 60 individuals were detained by the police near the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) and Ampang Park shopping complex ahead of a protest against price hikes organised by Protes.

Protes consists of several non-governmental organisations and opposition political parties PAS, PKR, PSM and DAP.

Police had declared the rally today as illegal and obtained a court order yesterday banning five people, in particular, from attending.

About 200 police personnel were present at KLCC and Ampang Park, their numbers equaling if not exceeding the protesters who turned up.

Starting at about 2pm, five women and four men were picked up near the Ampang Park LRT Station and brought to the Kuala Lumpur police contingent headquarters (IPK) for questioning in connection with the rally.

Those picked up included PAS Wanita leader Aiman Athirah Al-Jundi and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S Arutchelvan.

Arutchelvan, who was taken away in a separate car, is one of five people named in the Kuala Lumpur magistrate’s court order prohibiting their presence within a one-kilometre radius of KLCC and the nearby Al-Shakirin mosque.

Before he was arrested, he was shown a copy of the court order by one of the police officers and told he was being brought to the police headquarters for questioning.

This led Arutchelvan to question why he was being brought to the police station when the court order was not an arrest warrant.

Like Arutchelvan, PKR’s Tian Chua was also shown a copy of the court order before being taken away.

Contacted later, Chua said the arrest was wrong on several grounds, including the fact that his name and identification card number contained in the order were wrong.

"For one thing, there was no arrest warrant. Secondly, I was not even within the area specified in the court order from which I was prohibited," he told Malaysiakini from inside the police headquarters.

He had blasted the government for cracking down on social and political activists decrying the price hikes when it should instead have spent its energies on formulating and coming forward to the public with concrete measures to tackle inflation.

At about the same time, at least 100 members and supporters of PSM and grassroots organisation Jerit arrived by bus and had marched from Ampang Park towards KLCC. They were led, among others, by Jerit leader Y Kohila.and PSM central committee member V Selvam.

Upon reaching the area in front of Avenue K opposite the towers, the group was blocked by a barrier of police officers who had locked arms and prevented them from proceeding any further.

Teenagers and elderly women were seen among the PSM-Jerit group who were caught in the ensuing scuffle that occurred between the two groups. Both activists and police officers – led by Dang Wangi OCPD Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman – screamed at each other to "stop pushing".

One of the ’casualties’ of the melee was one woman who said her right shoulder was in pain after being struck during the pushing and shoving. She refused, however, to be brought by ambulance to the hospital for medical treatment.

OCPD barks

Orders by Zulkarnain for the activists to sit down where they were standing were ignored. Instead, the latter crossed the road towards Avenue K, at which point Zulkarnain barked orders for their arrests.

"Drag them back (to this side) into the trucks! They were rough against us, be rough against them!" he was heard telling the police officers.

From the scores of PSM supporters and leaders who were arrested included Selvam. Several of the other activists were seen being kicked and struck as they were taken by force by police officers.

This prompted Kohila, speaking to reporters as the group dispersed in the direction of Ampang Park, to decry the state of democracy and freedom of speech in the country.

"We cannot do anything in this country! We cannot even talk about our grievances! We cannot even stand (up for rights)!" she screamed.

Met later, Zulkarnain denied any excessive force had been used against the protesters.

"You saw how I told them to sit down and not to proceed. They acted rough, so we were (only) equally rough," he said.

He also said those picked up were only being brought to "assist investigations".

By about 4 pm, most of the police personnel and those protesters still on Jalan Ampang had left.

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January 2008