Sunday, August 02, 2009

Protest Crackdown Draws Flak - malaysiakini

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.

Najib slammed

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.

Today, he defended the police action, saying they had a duty to preserve security.

"Street demonstrations should not continue and the authorities can take action," he was quoted as saying by the national news agency Bernama.

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.

PET+BLOGSPOT is the official online blog of the Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (Petpositive).

Our blog which was first established in October 2007 currently has more than 25,000 hits. Kindly take note that views expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of Petpositive.

You may also visit our Webpage by browsing:

No comments: