(Malaysiakini) After a night spent in the Seremban district headquarters lock-up, freedom is still out of sight for the 22 Human Rights Party activists arrested in last night's police swoop.
While their brethren arrested nationwide are already out on bail since the arrest, those in Seremban have been threatened with up to seven more days in the can for refusing to remove their distinctive Orange shirts.
Last night, the 22 were denied bail and told to remain in the lock-up for the night because of that.
"Those detained were told to remove their shirts and hand them over (to the police), before they could be bailed out. But they stood firm. There is confusion now. We are negotiating," said the movement's Selangor chief K Selvam, when contacted.
Selvam and others are in the movement are currently trying to bail out their Negeri Sembilan colleagues which included its state chief, from police custody.
Yesterday, police moved to arrest members of the movement as they drove in convoys from several locations in the country to protest the use of the controversial novel 'Interlok' as required reading material in secondary schools.
According to police, the HRP activists were arrested for obstructing traffic and moving in a large group.
The 22 detainees have been on a hunger strike last night, revealed Selvam.
In a statement, meanwhile, human rights lawyer and PKR vice-president N Surendran (left) condemned the arrests as being "planned and concerted" and "intended to persecute and intimidate HRP members."
The arrests were unlawful, oppressive and in breach of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution guaranteeing the right to freedom of assembly and expression, said Surendran.
"Once again the government and police have displayed blatant disregard for the rule of law and democratic freedoms," said Surendran.
He also expressed being disturbed over the presence of five children among those detained by police.
"This action by police is in bad faith and gross disregard of laws protecting minors... The arrests were also carried out with excessive force and vulgar abuse was heaped upon some of those arrested," said Surendran, citing the assault on a Malaysiakini Citizen Journalist by police.
Commenting on the police's order for their Hindraf-Makkal Sakthi t-shirts to be confiscated, Surendran this was in "complete breach of the law" and "demonstrates the arbitrary conduct of the police."
"We call upon the IGP and Home Ministry to respect the Federal Constitution and the people's right to peaceably gather.
"We call upon the government to cease using police powers to stifle political dissent and to persecute legitimate opponents of the government.
"Finally, we demand that the government establish the IPCMC (Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission) immediately to prevent the Home Ministry and police from continuing to abuse their powers.
YB Dato Seri Anwar IbrahimOpposition Leader of Parliament
A-1-09 Merchant Square
No 1 Jalan Tropicana Selatan 1
47410 Petaling Jaya
YB Lim Kit Siang
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46300 Petaling Jaya
Fax : 03-79575718
YB Dato Seri Hadi Awang
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14th Feb 2011
Re: Invitation to join us in the March Against Institutionalized Racism Exercised By UNMO
I am writing to you for youto join hand with us for the Peoples’ march on February 27, 2011 which is against racism practiced by UMNO.
As you may be aware, our recent car convoy activity yesterday was clamped down by the police with the arrest of numerous key HINDRAF activists/supporters across Malaysia. However this has not hindered the spirit of the HINDRAF members and we are geared up for the march.
Although we may differ in our opinions and approach, but I believe that our common objectives are the same to ensure human rights & liberty is prevailed for all Malaysian in equality.
The upheaval that we had witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt is the unity of the people irrespective of their race or religion battling for humanity to sustain against oppressive and suppressive governments similar to UMNO.
The audacity of the government to move ahead with the INTERLOK novel shows their arrogance and their effort to enhance racism and segregation within its society similar to BTN.
The criticism and the demand to withdraw Interlok is not purely an Indian issue but rather to curtail racism as a whole for the nation irrespective whether it is an Indian issue or not.
I trust as a seasoned and genuine leader of the nation, you do understand the insensitivity and racism that is created towards a particular segment of the society and will be glad if youcan join us on February 27, 2011 to ensure that Malaysian society should not be cowed by such outright racism practiced by UMNO and its mandores.
At least 30 Human Rights Party (HRP) members in Selangor, Perak and Kuala Lumpur have been arrested as police came down hard on their nationwide convoys.
Six were arrested at Jelapang, Ipoh police station while five more were nabbed near Jalan Templer in Selangor, as police mounted roadblocks to stop the convoy to promote an upcoming anti-racism rally.
A member of the Malaysiakini citizen journalist programme covering the convoy in Selangor had her camera grabbed from her and was hit in the face by a man believed to be plainclothes police.
In Perak, police were said to be "very harsh" towards HRP members during the arrest.
“The police raised their fists and threatened to hit (the HRP members),” an eyewitness said when contacted.
The six in Perak who were detained - Perak HRP chief P Ramesh, his deputy N Subramaniam and four other Perak HRP members - were charged with obstructing police on duty.
They were released at about 3pm under police bail.
There were similar convoys in Johor, Negri Sembilan and Kedah.
According to HRP information chief S Jayathas, who was contacted moments before he was arrested along with Selangor party chief K Selvam and three others, police also mounted a roadblock in Rawang.
“They only stopped our cars, not other road users. We staged a small protest and they let us pass.
“We have the right to use the road. They can only check our road tax and drivers' licences,” said Jayathas, who is now held at the Selayang district police station.
Around 3pm, HRP activists in a convoy of three cars were taken into custody by police officers just after they alighted from their vehicles in Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur.
Twenty activists had just arrived from Brickfields when police officers stopped them and took them into custody. They are currently in the Travers police station.
During a press conference later, Brickfields OCPD Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid said that 21 people were arrested and brought to the Travers police station because they were obstructing traffic and moving in a big group.
“As we know, Brickfields is a very busy area,” he told reporters at the station today.
He added that the 21 detainees will have their statements recorded and will be investigated under Section 27 of the Penal Code.
Those arrested were 15 men and five women aged above 40, and a boy aged 10.
“We hope to release them under police bail by today,” he said.
Also confiscated were 55 posters, ten flags and 200 leaflets.
“We will also return their cars when we release them,” he said.
There are reports, meanwhile, that arrests have also been made in Kedah, Negeri Sembilan and Johor.
This includes 26 HRP activists who were arrested in Seremban and brought to the district police station there. Negeri Sembilan HRP chief S Sivakumar was among those held by the police.
Perkasa demonstration undisturbed
Seremban police chief ACP Saiful Azly Kamaruddin told Bernama that the group, including four children and four women, were arrested at 2.15pm as they did not have a permit.
HRP had yesterday expressed its fears of a crackdown after Perak police warned them not to proceed with the convoy.
Those detained at the Travers police station were released under police bail at about 9pm.
HRP officials informed Malaysiakini that those arrested in Seremban will be staying the night in the lock-up as they refused to remove their HRP T-shirts when instructed.
In a text message, pro-tem HRP secretary-general P Uthyakumar asked why members of Malay rights group Perkasa were not arrested when they held a demonstration in Seremban Square today.
When contacted, Perkasa Youth information chief Nurul Izham Anuar confirmed that its members had a protest gathering at the venue today.
He could not, however, offer any more details of the event.
The rally's estimated to be 100 000 people gathered outside the Petronas Twin Towers at midnight, early Sunday morning.At least 240 people were detained, but half of them were later released. One day before the rally, police arrested three HINDRAF lawyers, P. Uthayakumar, P. Waytha Moorthy and V. Ganabatirau for sedition charges. Uthayakumar and Ganabatirau posted bail of 800 Malaysian ringgits each, but Waytha Moorthy refused bail as a sign of protest.