Police in Malaysia have detained two activists and tried to arrest Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party) youth leader and state assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.
Leading student activist Adam Adli Abdul Halim and the head of the PKR-backed Jingga 13 non-governmental organisation Fariz Musa were arrested at the end of a rally yesterday (Saturday) in Kuala Lumpur in support of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Both were taken to the Jinjang lock-up in Kuala Lumpur and were detained under Section 143 of the penal code, accused of taking part in an illegal assembly. They were held overnight, but lawyers expected them to be released some time this afternoon (Sunday).
Adam, who is a law student, has been arrested in the past. In September 2014, he was found guilty of sedition, sentenced to 12 months in jail, and released on bail pending his appeal against the conviction.
When there was an attempt yesterday to arrest Nik Nazmi, who is the Selangor state assemblyman for Seri Setia, the politician’s supporters wrested him away from police.
Nik Nazmi said later that he would cooperate with police, but only if any arrest was carried out in the proper fashion.
“Police in plain clothes tried to arrest me after they got Adam. I condemn them for not identifying themselves nor informing me of my offence in their attempted arrest,” he said later in a statement.
In 2013, Nik Nazmi was charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act for failing to give police ten days’ notice before holding the Black 505 rally at the Kelana Jaya stadium after the May 5 elections. The charge was dropped after he challenged the constitutionality of the law at the Appeal Court.
On February 10, the federal court upheld a ruling by the Court of Appeal last year, which found Anwar (pictured left) guilty of sodomising his former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008, and sentenced the former deputy prime minister to five years in prison.
The verdict has been heavily criticised both locally and internationally. Amnesty International said the decision to jail Anwar was an oppressive ruling that would have a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in Malaysia.
Anwar says the case against him was fabricated by his political enemies.
Adam was one of the speakers at yesterday’s rally outside the SOGO shopping centre. He was arrested as he was walking to his car.
A crowd of supporters raced after the activist and there were scuffles outside the police station as he was dragged into custody. Adam was taken from the Dang Wangi police headquarters to the Jinjang lock-up. Fariz Musa was arrested separately.
Adam’s father, Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid (pictured left), spoke to the crowd after his son’s arrest. He said he would stand by Adam and others fighting for justice. He urged the youth not to give up their struggle and called on the demonstrators to go the Jinjang lock-up to support Adam. He said he had come all the way from Penang because he sensed that something might happen to his son.
Protesters call for justice and reform
Yesterday’s rally was also attended by Anwar’s second daughter Nurul Nuha Anwar, who said that her father was in severe pain with back problems. “We want to push forward that he is a political prisoner so should be treated differently,” she said.
Anwar’s lawyers say he is facing serious health risks because he is living in a bare cell with just a two inch-thick foam mattress on the floor, a bucket for bathing, and a squat toilet.
Nurul Nuha again urged the youth of Malaysia to continue the reform agenda. “We are the future of Malaysia,” she said. “The struggle must continue.”
She said she was not dispirited by the small attendance at yesterday’s rally. “We have lots of support coming, through emails and phone calls, showing solidarity.
“We have been told that the German embassy is going to check on [my father’s] prison conditions, and other ambassadors, especially from the European Union countries, will be checking on his case.”
Mohd Fakhrulrazi Mohd Mokhtar (pictured left) , who is treasurer of the youth wing of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia or PAS), called on voters to defeat the government in two upcoming by-elections.
While it was primarily a rallying cry for justice for Anwar and reform in Malaysia, yesterday’s protest also had a festive air, with Chinese lion dancers invited to perform.
Clampdown on opposition
Yesterday’s arrests are further evidence of the serious clampdown on opposition that is taking place in the country. The Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general, S. Arutchelvan, was arrested under the Sedition Act on February 19. Police confiscated his computer, modem, and mobile phone.
He was detained over a PSM statement that condemned the Federal Court for upholding Anwar’s conviction. The statement said the Malaysian courts were not independent and were politically driven.
Just after S. Arutchelvan was released, police arrested activist Lawrence Jayaraj, also under the Sedition Act, over comments he posted on his Facebook page.
On February 11, the cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, was arrested for sedition over his criticism of the judiciary. A cartoon posted by Zunar on Twitter showed Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, as the judge in Anwar’s case. “Those in the black robes were proud when passing sentence,” Zunar tweeted. “The rewards from their political masters must be lucrative.”
The government had previously pledged to repeal the 1948 Sedition Act, which critics say is being used to stifle dissent, but it later announced that the Act will be retained and expanded.
On January 15, a new loose youth coalition was formed. The coalition, which is called Kita Lawan (“We will fight”), has called for a mass demonstration on March 7 and 8 in protest at Anwar’s jailing.
The coalition is also demanding the immediate resignation of the prime minister, Najib Razak, and reform of the judicial system “to restore its independence”. The youth movement also condemned the conviction and jailing of Anwar as a “political conspiracy”, for which they say Najib is responsible.
The grouping was formed when about 80 young people from different sections of society met to discuss the way forward.
The meeting followed a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on March 14, during which hundreds of young people marched through the city, calling for Anwar’s release, an independent judiciary, and an end to the 57-year rule of UMNO (the United Malays National Organisation).
Rallies are being held every Saturday afternoon outside the SOGO shopping centre.
Article updated at 12h05 on 22/02/2015.