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Malaysia: Bicycle protesters for workers' rights defy police intimidation

Cycle protesters in Penang, December 5

By Oppressed People’s Movement (Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas, Jerit)

December 6, 2008 -- The Oppressed People’s Movement (Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas, Jerit) is conducting a cycling campaign throughout Malaysia to highlight demands for workers' right, which will be presented to the prime minister of Malaysia. The campaign officially began on December 3 at Wisma Darul Aman Kedah, where 50 cyclists were flagged off. They will cycle for 16 days through Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor. On December 18, they will hand a memorandum to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, at the national parliament in Kuala Lumpur.

The six demands are: 1. Legislate a Minimum Wage Act; 2. Abolish draconian laws; 3. Adequate housing for the people; 4. Control prices; 5. Stop the privatisation of public services; 6. Revive local municipal council elections.

The cyclists are riding the unique route to advocate change. The ‘People the force of change' campaign is one of the Jerit's ways of raising awareness about issues like food shortages, global food shortage, environmental problems, draconian laws and the financial crisis -- in an eco-friendly way to boot.

The cycling campaign is inspired by the class struggles of the Bukit Asahan estate workers in Malacca in the 1970s, who then marched to Kuala Lumpur to meet the prime minister to resolve their problems.

On December 5, police stopped the Jerit cyclists from leafleting in Teluk Kumbar, Penang. The whole team was asked to go to Teluk Kumbar police station. Inspector Lokman (the police officer on duty) stopped the cyclists and warned them not to continue and threatened them to arrest them if they ignored the order. A bus and lorry containing riders' bicycles was also brought to Teluk Kumbar police station.

The police have continuously intimidated and threatened the cyclists since the campaign started on December 3. On December 4, Ruben a/l Loganathan was arrested by the police in Merbau Pulas, Kedah, for handing out leaflets containing the demands of Jerit’s bicycle campaign.

The most serious police attack came on December 6, in the vicinity of Skudai in Johor. The area turned into an emergency zone, when the police units mobilised, from the Light Strike Force, the Federal Reserve Unit to traffic police, erecting road blocks which caused a massive traffic jam and massive public nuisance. This was to prevent the young and energetic young cyclists entering the area.

When the riders attempted to negotiate with the police, they were threated with arrest for illegal assembly. At least 12 people were arrested, including Socialist Party of Malaysia (Parti  Sosialis Malaysia, PSM) secretary general S.Arutchelvan, PSM treasurer A.Sivarajan, Jerit coordinator K.Simon and a 13-year-old boy. Another four Jerit and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (the human rights group Suaram) coordinators, including Ngo Jian Yee and Nyam Yee Han.

While the 16 people were held in Skudai police station, the police put the others under "house arrest" at the Suaram office. After negotiations between police and S.Arutchelvan, the police allowed everyone to leave with the condition that no cycling would continue in Skudai. Police said they would arrest any person found cycling, even after assurances that the cyclists would travel in a single line. The only assurance the police gave was that the cyclists and their lorries would be allowed to leave the district without problems.

However, police then intimidated one of the lorries and plainclothes police harassed the cyclists by snapping photographs. With less bicycles and after the bullying by the police, the Jerit southern team decided to cycle one by one, even if it meant arrest.

The team was met by the Kulai police, who allowed the cyclists to continue but warned them that they would be arrested if they committed any traffic offences. Braving the intimidation, the Jerit team cycled on but after less than 2 kilometres the police once again diverted all the cyclists to the police station and this time said that they had been stopped because they didn't have reflectors. This further delayed the journey. The lorry carrying the remaining cyclists was again harassed.

With this, since it was getting dark, the organisers decided to move on to their next destination, Simpang Renggam. On arrival, the police were once again harassing the team. The cyclists were met by some supporters from the opposition People's Justice Party (PKR), and the team stayed in its local office.

It was a day when the police from three districts in Johor had nothing to do except monitor a group of cyclists, a day when it seems no other issues mattered in Johor.

For the cyclists, it was a frustrating day, yet their spirits remained high. By midnight, the young cyclists were putting on their reflectors and and were ready to pedal the next day.

Suaram has strongly condemned the police for their ongoing intimidation and attacks on the freedom of expression, a fundamental right which is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the federal constitution of Malaysia. Suaram demands that Malaysian government allow the cyclists to continue their ride and respect their freedom of expression as stated in the constitution.

Despite constant police harassment, the cyclists are determined to reach parliament house as scheduled.

Send protest letters

We would like to urge the international concerned citizens to continuously send protest letters to the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan to stop intimidation against the cyclists and the activists in Malaysia.

Sample letter:


[Letterhead of your organisation]

Inspector-General of Police
Tan Sri Musa Hassan
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia,

50560 Bukit Aman,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: +603 2262 6015
Fax: +603 2272 5613

Email: rmp@rmp.gov.my

Please cc the letter to jerit2002@gmail.com and enalini_elumalai@yahoo.com

Stop intimidation by the police against the Jerit cyclists and the activists

Dear Sir,

We are writing to you, once again, to express our outrage and our strongest condemnation over your government's ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression, a fundamental right which is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. We demand the Malaysian government to allow the cyclists to continue cycling and practice their freedom of expression as stated in Federal Constitution.

We are appalled by your government's and the police's latest actions and view this as yet another attempt by your government to intimidate Malaysian citizens from participating in any form of public assembly and exercising their freedom to express their views.

We further demand that your government stops the assault on freedom of expression.

We strongly urge you, once again, to stop bringing shame to Malaysia, a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. We would like to remind you that freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Yours sincerely,
[Name]

[This article is based on information posted on the Jerit, Suaram and Aliran websites, and the blog Surind.]

 

 

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