Sunday, February 29, 2004

Demokrasi Ala Malaysia

Police use water cannon to disperse ‘police abuse’ demo, 17 arrested
- Malaysiakini

Yap Mun Ching
11:02am Sat Feb 28th, 2004

Police arrested 17 activists for illegal assembly after using chemical-laced water cannon to disperse a crowd, which was gathered there to protest against alleged police abuse of power and brutality.

Key Keadilan leaders Tian Chua, R Sivarasa, Dr Xavier Jayakumar and Latheefa Koya are among those arrested. Also taken in are human rights activists Elizabeth Wong and Eric Paulsen.

In all, 17 people - 13 males and four females - were taken by the police to the city police headquarters in Jalan Hang Tuah.

They were all released by 6pm after recording their statements with the police.

Artist-activist Fahmi Reza, 27, was the last one out as police had found him to be in possession of a paper cutter.

Lawyers representing the group, N Surendran, M Manogar and Ramdas Tikamdas said they were denied access to the group until their release this evening.

About 60 people had gathered since this morning at the Bukit Aman police headquarters to protest against "numerous incidents" resulting from abuse of police powers.

They had put up posters and banners highlighting several examples of police abuse.

'Proves our point'

Eye witnesses say an equal number of police, if not more, were present as well.

"The police exposed the brutality the demonstration was about and they took the whole gathering very personally," one participant told malaysiakini.

Sivarasa, just after his arrest, said: "Feel the chemical on your skin... this is police brutality. This proves what we have been saying."

According to human rights organisation Suaram, Fahmi - who was the first to be arrested - was beaten and trampled on.

"The police tried to take away his glasses and belongings, but Fahmi resisted. He is bruised and his shirt was torn," said Suaram's Mary Agnes James.

James added that both human rights activist Wong and Keadilan vice-president Tian Chua "were also manhandled by the police and sustained bruises and injuries".

All three had lodged a police report against the assault.

The gathering was organised by the Coalition Against Police Misconduct, an initiative set up under human rights organisation Suaram.

The coalition, which is backed by 46 NGOs and political parties, is calling for inquiries into numerous complaints of abuse of power including the high incidences of police shootings.

Effective way

When met, Kuala Lumpur police chief Mustafa Abdullah defended the use of the water cannon, saying that was most effective way for a quick dispersal of the crowd.

He also said that he was only expecting a memorandum handover from the organisers.

"This is what they told us and we were ready to accept a memorandum from three representatives of the group. However, they wanted to bring in at least seven people," he said.

"Things got out of control when the crowd sat down to protest and refused to move even after we told them to disperse".

Three Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) officers were also present to witness the peaceful demonstration.

In an early reaction, legal adviser to the Police Watch and Human Rights Committee P Uthayakumar called for the royal police commission to investigate the incident this morning.

"We urge the police commission to set up a special inquiry panel within 48 hours to investigate this police abuse," he said in a statement.

Uthayakumar, who is the chairperson of the pro tem Parti Reformasi Insan Malaysia, also called for Dang Wangi police chief Hadi Ho Abdullah who oversaw the operation to be suspended pending investigations.

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