Police in Malaysia have raided the headquarters of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR, or People’s Justice Party). They were searching for evidence to back up the allegation that the MP for Pandan, Rafizi Ramli, who is also the PKR secretary general, is guilty of sedition.
Police allege that Rafizi’s call for PKR members to attend yesterday’s Kita Lawan (“We fight”) protest rally in Kuala Lumpur was seditious.
Rafizi, who was arrested on Friday afternoon, was brought handcuffed and dressed in purple prison garb to the PKR HQ. He reportedly agreed that the locked door of his office could be broken open. Not finding what they wanted in Rafizi’s office, police went to other areas of the HQ and seized four computers, a copy of the Kita Lawan circular, and a statement Rafizi had made to the media about the rally.
Rafizi would have been one of the leaders of yesterday’s rally, along with the MP for Batu, Chua Tian Chang (better known as Tian Chua), and the deputy president of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), Mohamad Sabu (better known as Mat Sabu), who were both arrested ahead of the protest.
Latheefa Koya, who is one of the lawyers representing the jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, tweeted that the police had “absolutely no reason whatsoever” to seize computers from the PKR HQ as they already had the circular they claimed was seditious.
The executive director of Lawyers for Liberty, Eric Paulsen tweeted: “Police raiding PKR HQ on the pretext of investigating #Kita Lawan is an assault on democracy.”
Tian Chua (pictured left), who was arrested yesterday afternoon just after attending a town hall dialogue with Batu residents, the Mayor of KL, Ahmad Phesal Talib, and the Federal Territories Minister, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, has now been released, along with Mat Sabu.
It was the second time Tian Chua had been detained since a Kita Lawan rally on March 7 that brought 10,000 people out onto the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
Mat Sabu was arrested by a group of armed and masked police as he arrived at a restaurant on the Penang mainland at 12.20 a.m. yesterday.
Tian Chua, who is the PKR vice-president, tweeted: “Mat Sabu’s & my arrest was clearly an abuse of law, the authorities used preventive detention to stop us from attending #Kita Lawan rally.”
The PAS MP for Shah Alam, Khalid Samad, who was arrested at his home at about 3.30 a.m. today, was still in custody this evening. The PAS MP for Sepang, Hanipa Maidin, said Khalid’s son informed him that the police had turned up at their family home in five cars, and some of them were brandishing M16 assault rifles.
Hanipa Maidan tweeted earlier this evening: “Khalid Samad is still in police custody despite magistrate’s order to release him with immediate effect around 1 pm today. Shame on you IGP!”
The IGP is Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar,who has come under heavy criticism for his policing of twitter and his rounding up of opposition leaders and other activists.
Tian Chua tweeted that the arrest of Khalid Samad was outrageous. He was “dragged out from home at 3am as if he was a hideous criminal or terrorist. Ridiculous!” Tian Chua wrote.
Yesterday’s rally went off peacefully, but activist Fariz Musa was arrested again shortly after the protest ended.
Fariz, who is the chief coordinator of the Jingga 13 non-governmental organisation, was arrested in KL’s Chinatown and is being detained under Section 143 of the Penal Code. He has been remanded in custody for two days.
He had already been arrested at the end of a Kita Lawan rally on February 21, and again on March 10.
Fariz (centre) speaking at yesterday’s rally.
Two undergraduates were also arrested when they were in the KLCC park after the rally. The PKR communications director, Fahmi Fadzil, said they had been detained for carrying placards bearing the words Undur Rosmah Undur (Step down Rosmah; Step down). Rosmah is the wife of the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Rasak.
The arrested students were named as Basyiruddin and Hafizol Hakami. They were detained in the Sajang lock-up pending their remand hearing. The magistrate ordered their release.
The Kita Lawan protesters have been holding rallies every Saturday afternoon since Anwar was jailed for five years on February 10 after being found guilty of sodomy. They are calling for the opposition leader’s release, the resignation or sacking of the IGP, the resignation of the prime minister, Najib Razak, and reform of the judiciary.
They are also focused on the forthcoming implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is due to come into effect on April 1. Protesters say it is an unfair tax, which should be abandoned as it will cause hardship.
Protesters also point to the financial scandal over the debt-ridden government-owned sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Yesterday, police were brought out in force to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the KLCC Convention Centre, the venue for Najib’s daughter’s wedding reception. A police blockade was set up and the rally organisers agreed not to try and proceed any further.
Including Tian Chua and Nurul Izzah Anwar, who is Anwar’s eldest daughter, five MPs have been arrested since the March 7 rally. The following people are currently being detained:
- Rafizi Ramli, who has also been arrested twice this month;
- Fariz Musa;
- activist Hishamuddin Rais;
- the state assemblyman for Teja in Perak, Chang Lih Kang;
- the assemblyman for Simpang Pulai, also in Perak, Tan Kar Hing; and
- activists Michael Tamil, Gan Zhi Mou, Chee Chu Sang, and Yong Ming Chong.
Former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan tweeted to the IGP: “@KBAB51 We object to citizens being treated like criminals for things they say. I am making this formal complaint to you by twitter.”
Khalid Abu Bakar (pictured left) today defended the arrests over the Kita Lawan rallies. He told reporters that freedom of speech was not an excuse for the gatherings he deems are illegal, and said police could make arrests at any time of the day or night. He said the police would take action against any activities or actions that were deemed to be seditious. The police, he said, would not “allow the freedom to incite”.
The Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary general and MP For Bagan, Lim Guan Eng, said in a statement today that the IGP was commanding “high-handed and arbitrary arrests”, which had given Malaysia “an international black eye in terms of human rights”. An estimated 120 people had been detained or questioned in just over a month since Anwar was jailed, Lim said.
The black eye reference harks back to 1998 when the then IGP Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor punched Anwar when he was in police custody.
Had Malaysia descended to new depths where a peaceful gathering was now a more dangerous offence than crimes that caused bodily harm, or financial scandals that caused billions of ringgit in losses, Lim asked .
Law on peaceful assembly
Lawyers for Liberty tweeted this evening that there would be an attempt by the government in the Federal Court tomorrow to reverse a landmark decision on the freedom of assembly.
The Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA), introduced in 2012, imposes restrictions and conditions on matters such as the date, time, duration, place, and manner of an assembly.
Nik Nazmi, who is the PKR youth leader and assemblyman for Seri Setia in Selangor state and has been arrested twice over the Kita Lawan rallies, challenged the constitutionality of a previous charge and, last year, the Court of Appeal ruled that no penal sanctions could be imposed on organisers for failing to give police ten days’ notice of an upcoming rally.
Nik Nazmi had at that time been charged with failing to give the police sufficient notice before organising the Black 505 rally at the Kelana Jaya stadium on May 8, 2013.
On April 25, 2014, the Court of Appeal ruled that the charge against Nik Nazmi under Section 9 (1) of the PAA for failure to give notice to the police before the rally be struck out.
The court also ruled that Section 9 (5) of the PAA – which provides for punishment for failure to give a 10-day notice to the authorities before a protest – was unconstitutional.