A concerned rakyat turned civilian reporter, Pamela Lim reports on last Sunday’s Anti-ISA candlelight vigil that was quashed by police. She documents in writing and video the excessive use of force by the police against a peaceful and orderly gathering of the rakyat. 29 people were arrested under another oppressive law for demonstrating against a draconion law.
At 8.00 p.m. on August 1, a group of about 200 people walked towards the field opposite Amcorp Mal. The moment the first person set foot on the pavement of the fiel, they were met with the police. The police shouted “Ini adalah pehimpunan tidak sah” and refused to hear the organisers explanation that all they intend to do hold a candle up for the people who were still detained without trial, a sign of solidarity and peace but a symbolic call for the 50 yeard old act to be repealed. After several exchanges the FRU blockcade charged foward and the group that consisted of many young Malaysians was forced to fall back into the carpark.
They started singing the national anthem, Negaraku followed by chants of “Hidup rakyat! Hidup rakyat! Mansuh ISA! Mansuh ISA!” (Long live the citizens! Abolish ISA!). Before long, the sound reverberated across the carpark as shouts, yells followed by screams were heard when the police and FRU surrounded the young people and swarmed them into the mall.
It was like a scene out of a mob movie – flashing lights, yellow reflector police vests, Black Marias, helmeted, shielded and bulletproof vested FRU personnel that lined-up to create a blockade before we even stepped onto the grass of the padang! Combine that with the sporadic civilians made up of shoppers, curious-onlookers and a multitude of photographers and journalists running up and down to catch headlines that would never be made public.
One by one, the police arrested people, some they beat up. The ratio of police to the civilian arrested was at least 5:1. There was a scene where 20 police mugged(pictured above) a demonstrator who was unarmed nor unruly. The cries got louder inside when the shutters came down to hole them in. The flock of the force had gone into the mall. The stall operators at the entrance were scurrying to close up as the remaining police started to form a human barricade along the entire entrance of the mall. Each time someone was manhandled by the uniformed personnel, dragged out by their shirts and whatever else they could hold onto, onlookers would yell, “Hold your head up! You are doing it for the country! We are proud of you!” Echoed by, “Yeah!” from others.
Civilians were holding up little cameras, Berries and Apples to film the fiasco, which was quite unnecessary if they had left them at the field to do what they came to do in peace. The next scene was like a director of the movie calling for retake because there was complete silence. Suddenly the uniformed force rushed out. They were told by their leader to form lines – a blockade that extended to the middle of the carpark. Anyone who as much as squealed or chanted was forcefully dragged away.
The police seemed to favour the brave ones whom they deem as instigators to the demonstration. They engaged in warfare tactics against the rakyat – taking out the leader to cause others to submit or go into disarray. In the midst of the chaos that ensued the final showdown, they sang the national anthem, Negaraku while the police were yelling, “Tangkap dia! Tangkap dia!” each time the group inched forward out of the mall to the field. Just as anyone lit a candle, they were grabbed – women too were not spared.
The final scuffle was when they arrested their 25th civilian. The whole force then retreated to the opposite side of the road near the field. In their effort to disperse the vigil-ers who began singing Negaraku again, they used such disproportionate force and every right minded person who witnessed the tyranny against a peaceful congregation of the rakyat – many of whom were young Malaysians who want nothing more than a just Malaysia.
Under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression and all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. If the powers that be had the foresight to engage and listen to what the citizens want for their future, they would not need to demonstrate (a peaceful candlelight vigil in this case) nor have their request fall on deaf ears in muted leaders. It is not even a question about which political party had organised this effort as the citizens of Malaysia are not blind nor are they deaf to the plight of their fellow citizens and their own country.
Police Giving Statement to Press re Arrest of Anti-ISA from Goodness Gracious on Vimeo. Contrast with the Star’s report here.
When something is not right, a law is unjust, the people take it to the top. But when the top appears to not even respect the rule of law and subject needless aggression on civilians, then you will see the people becoming less inclined to want to subscribe to a law that causes that disorder.
The Rakyat’s consciences cannot and should not be overruled by the Government.
I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement; indeed, they are more alive than ever before. Whether expressed in a sit-in at lunch counters, a freedom ride into Mississippi, a peaceful protest in Albany, Georgia, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, these are outgrowths of Thoreau’s insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice.– The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.