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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Indiscriminate Arrest - What Is the Police Trying To Proof

Malaysiakini reported that Tuition teacher Paula Khoo arrested at anti-ISA vigil on Saturday night. More at Malaysiakini
Everyday as you move along from one destination to another you are bound to notice that the law "prohibiting the gathering of more then four people" (illegal gathering) were broken every minute of the day and everywhere.

Our country's top leaders keep on reminding us that action will be taken should anyone broke any of the country's law. Their big dirty mouths keep spitting out this holy statement of theirs The "law is the law and no one is above the law".

Do they really meant what they say and order the police to act strictly according to the law, even if a crime is committed by the sons or son in laws of any leaders or members of the ruling parties?

I am 100% agreeable for the police to take action against anyone who broke the law of this country. But when action is taken against a person who committed an offence while another person is allow to commit the same offence with no action taken, then, there is a cause for concern.

Let me take you back to the latest arrest of Paula Khoo and the "Penang Anti ISA Light A Candle Vigil" on the 15th Nov 2008.

The Esplanade as usual is flooded with people on a Saturday night. I can see groups of people walking, sitting or fishing along this beautiful seafront. Nearby, the hawker center with two separated areas, one for selling halal food and the other for non halal were crowded as well.

You can see family members of 8 enjoying the tasty food while another group of 10 people talking ever so loudly as they drink their beer. As I walk towards the location where the vigil is to be held, I saw a bus load of passengers, most likely local tourist, disembarking. They look very happy upon seeing the beautiful night scene of the Esplanade, some started clicking away with their modern digital cameras. I roughly estimated there are about 30 people in this group.

I could easily see at least 10 groups comprising more than 5 people enjoying themselves at various parts of the Esplanade.

At this moment my mind does not provide me any hint at all that almost all the people having a good time at the Esplanade were committing an offence according to the law of the country.

The vigil started at 8pm sharp with the welcome message from the MC. She invited speakers to take the stage to speak their thoughts and bring awareness to the public about the expired draconian ISA Act. The ISA is good to fight the communists and terrorists but when it is used indiscriminately against those who speak or write the truth and voice their concern against the ruling government, then, this ISA Act does not serve its original purposes anymore and must be repealed.

In between speakers, the MC also played the guitar and sang a few songs to the delight of the audiences who join in the singing as well. A carnival like environment, I should say.

Many people knew that a few SBs were mingling among the crowd before the event starts and they could not be bothered with them. Half way through the event, 6 to 8 uniformed police arrived and stand along side the crowds. Everything was peaceful, just like the other crowds that I mentioned earlier, everyone just having the fun and enjoyment spending their weekend time at the Esplanade.

What could go wrong, nothing, the crowds are not going to start a riot or start hurling stones even with the arrival of 5 FRU personals just five minutes before the event ended.

The event came to a close just before 9pm and while the organiser start to pack their things, we heard the police issuing orders for the crowd to disperse within ten minutes. The police was clarifying with one of the organiser that this gathering was without permit.

While everyone was busy talking, organisers moving their equipments and others just standing around, two policewomen quietly escorted the MC to a white van which we learn a little later that she was taken to the Pattani Road Police Station for interrogation.

More details of the arrest and the aftermath at the police station from Lucia, Zorro, Antares and Malaysiakini.

Why the arrest or rather the indiscriminate arrest?

If the police are just doing their job and following the law they need to arrest her as the gathering is without a permit. Fair, very fair I would say. But what about the other groups hanging around the Esplanade, why are they not arrested as well?

The government had spoken, "nobody is above the law". Right and good. Can I ask a stupid question, did the 5 FRU apply for a permit to gather at the Esplanade? If not why? They cannot be above the law. Did the 6 to 8 uniformed policemen apply for a permit to gather at the Esplanade? We do not care whether its their job or they are performing their duties, but the law specify very clearly that any gathering of more than 4 people must have a police permit and nobody is above the law.

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar had written "An Open Letter To The Inspector General of Police" and I abstract a portion to highlight what I am trying to say as well.

Compare, for instance, the experience of protestors outside the Bar Council and UITM students demonstrating against the admission of non-Malays this August with the treatment of participants in the anti-ISA vigil held earlier this month. While the third event had dispersed, spontaneous peaceful gatherings of small groups of citizens were acted against with force and culminated in numerous arrests. Though the earlier two events were by any comparison that much more aggressive, no action was taken despite the protest outside the Bar Council having disrupted a closed-door event.

Fellow Malaysians, where are we heading. The door to Freedom for this country is closing so fast that if we do not do anything now, a full police state will be installed when you wake up one fine day.

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