Six people have been arrested during a sit-in at Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) in central Kuala Lumpur. They include two Perak state assemblymen who are reported to have been assaulted by police.
The assemblymen are Chang Lih Kang, who represents Teja, and Tan Kar Hing, who represents Simpang Pulai.
The other activists arrested are Michael Tamil, Gan Zhi Mou, Chee Chu Sang, and Yong Ming Chong.
“The Kita Lawan legal team has been informed by the investigating officer that they were detained in the Sajang police lock-up under Sections 186 and 188 of the Penal Code,” the Kita Lawan secretariat said. “They will be brought to the Jalan Duta court at 2 p.m. for a remand hearing.”
The secretariat added: “After being arrested, Mr Chee Chu Sang had to be taken to hospital for treatment after suffering injuries before being taken to the lock-up.” It added: “Evidence at the scene clearly shows that the young people who have been brutalised were assembling peacefully.”
The organisers of the Kita Lawan (“We fight”) sit-in, which has been going on since Saturday, say plain-clothes police and city hall officials raided the protest site at about 12.15 a.m. today (Friday).
The secretariat said the two assemblymen were assaulted before being pushed into police vehicles. “A video recording by a witness who was at the scene clearly shows police used excessive force and acts of violence.”
Witnesses said even 64-year-old activist Siew Yean was assaulted and had to go to hospital.
The director of Lawyers for Liberty, Eric Paulsen, who was recently arrested under the Sedition Act, tweeted today: “Very concerned that the law enforcement personnel who roughed up the peaceful assembly at Dataran were not uniformed or identifiable.”
In his tweets about the arrests, the Inspector-General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar, referred to Kita Lawan as an illegal group and said the protesters were the ones who were violent.
The sit-in organisers have called on the public to come to Merdeka Square to show solidarity.
There will be a major protest outside the SOGO department store on Saturday (March 28) and demonstrators are also planning a political rally (ceramah) tonight (Friday) at Merdeka Square.
There have been protests outside SOGO every Saturday afternoon since the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed for five years for sodomy on February 10. On March 7, 10,000 people took to the streets, and marched to KLCC, where the famous Petronas twin towers are located.
The protesters are calling for Anwar’s release, the resignation or sacking of Khalid Abu Bakar, the resignation of the prime minister, Najib Razak, and the reform of the judiciary.
There have been a series of arrests since the start of the demonstrations in February.
Arrests since March 7
The authorities have also clamped down on separate protests specifically focused on the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is due to come into effect on April 1. More than 80 people were arrested when police broke up a demonstration outside the Customs Department in Kelana Jaya on Monday (March 23).
Amnesty International stated after those arrests: “The arrests of scores of protesters as well as two human rights lawyers in separate incidents yesterday and today in Malaysia are the latest troubling signs of an escalating crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly.”
Amnesty International’s Malaysia Researcher, Hazel Galang-Folli said: “These latest in a string of recent arrests point to a clear and worrying trend and reveal the very grim reality of the Malaysian authorities’ stance on upholding basic freedoms.
“The space for dissent and debate in Malaysia is rapidly shrinking, under the guise of punishing ‘sedition’ or maintaining public order.”
Article updated at 18.33, 27/03/2015