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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.]

 

 

Comments

Malaysia bicycle protest updates, December 9-10

OUR CAMPAIGN VEHICLES ARRESTED
 
December 9, 2008
 
It was the most tiring day so far for me and most people will not believe that I slept as early as 12.30 after midnight. That was the reason why i could not pen down our experience yesterday December 9, 2008. Let me recall as I sit in a cybercafe near the historical forts and heritage building in historical Melaka.
 
Yesterday morning, I was rudely woken up by Ngo at 4am who said that someone threw a stone at out Pajero car. Yes, half a brick smashed into out front window and at our bas parked outside teh shop house we were sleeping in. We had two activist sleeping in the Pajero at that time. They saw a familiar silver Proton waja car but the number plate was covered with a white masking tape. We were baffled because the night before, the police were all around us and monitoring us 24 hours. Then suddenly this incident happens and the police was not around. I am sure you understand what was running in our head at that moment. We took a conscious decision not to lodge a police report because we were quite sure that this latest incident is yet another act to give the police excuse to call off our nation wide campaign.  We will not fall into that trap.
 
The incident strengthened our view that we are pedaling in the right direction.  
 
The cyclist after unable the cycle a whole day because of rain were very determined to cycle. They cycled around Labis team aided by 4 youths whom we just met the day before and cycled towards Segamat. Half way through, we took the bus and lorry and headed towards Segamat. A few kilometers before Segamat town, a massive road block led by the OCPD Majid himself greeted us. It is interesting to note that all JERIT roadblocks are either manned by the OCPD or his Deputy. Here the Traffic chief summoned our van for having a banner saying that we did not get a permit to put a banner on our vehicle. Then a heated argument resulted in our van, trooper and lorry carrying cycle being taken to the IPD Segamat while the bus is released. The traffic chief said that he has no more issue but it is the other department. All this police "stories" ...we are getting used to it.
 
So we took the opportunity to hold a press conference at the Police station. Spoke to the OCPD Majid and a DAP lawyer Pang came to assist us. But the police as usual were so confused as before :
 
The OCPD told us
1)This is not an sizable offence. We are investigating under the Printting and Presses Act as they feel our rubber stamp with our address is not sufficient. Yet the day earlier Kluang police say everything is on order. Then they said it will take around 20 minutes
 
2) Then they said that statement must be recorded but since we said we will talk in court , they said it will only take 10 minutes each
 
3) Then they said they have to search and need some exhibit
 
4) Then they said, 2 of our people will be released on police bail
 
5) Are the 2 arrested? The OCPD said no while the Crime Chief said Yes.
 
After this comedy and bad PR performance by the police, which took all in not half an hour but more than 3 hours.
 
The cycling team then left to GEMAS , the border town between Negeri Sembilan dan Johor. We reached GEMAS once again by a roadblock led by the Deputy OCPD Isa. Another big argument erupted, another stand-off .Meanwhile police had also threatened our caterer. So we were angry and hungry. When we reached at our Rest House in GEMAS. a few SB were happily taking photos. We chased them out of the areas.
 
But we had many visitors...local people in GEMAS who wanted to help us distribute leflet, assist us and just be with us. It was the kind of solidarity and good heart which is keeping us going. Many heard this others. many wnated to be JERIT members.
 
It was a whole day of fighting and arguing with the police. The police have been saying that they are there to protect us but they are there only to harass and frustrate us. That night , we went to the GEMAS police station and told them to protect our bicycles. We then parked our bicycled in the lorry inside the police station. At least if somethign happen to our bicycle, we know who to blame.
 
So bye bye to Johor and thank you for the memories. Tomorrow we move to Melaka.
 
Arul
 
* * *
 
December 10, 2008 -- Today is World Human Rights Day. Its been 60 years since the United Nation Declaration of Human Rights was drawn up and Malaysia is also a signatory to it. But then the rights of Malaysians are continously violated by the government and its agencies.
 
Today is also the 8th day of the JERIT Bicycle Campaign. It also the 8th day of police harrasment and arrests of JERIT activists. fed up with this situation , JERIT today went to make a complain in SUHAKAM on the continoues harrasment and torture done by police since the campaign started on 3rd December 2008.
 
A memo containing the violations of police was submitted.
 
Madhavi from JERIT said that, this programme is a programme endorsed by 4 Chief Ministers and well publicised. So why does the police treat us as if we are terrorists. Cheng from Empower mentioned that after 60 years of the UDHR and 51 years of Independance, Malaysia is becoming a police state. Action need to be taken to stop this violation.
 
Selvam from PSM mentioned that the police are systematically sabotaging this campaign. he mentioned that police are criminals in blue. Selvam also said that te police are acting this way to do the bidding of the political masters.  Letchimi from PSM requested to SUHAKAM to be assertive this time in order to safeguard the rights of the people.
 
After all this comments Dato Siva , the commissioner present said that it is very regretful that the police is behaving this way. They have much more important work to do such as fighting crime then just putting road blocks to stop cyclists. He mentioned that other countries will laugh at us for stopping the JERIT activist from cycling and leafletiing. Freedom to move and leaflet is a democratic right. Police should be neutral and do not take political sides. Dato Siva also mentioned that the demands of the JERIT campaign is good for the people of Malaysia as a whole and is in line with the aspirations of SUHAKAM. Lastly Dato Siva said that SUHAKAM will continue to monitor the campaign and situation and congratulated JERIT for coming up with this campaign and putting forward the demands.
 
So far today , we have not had any arrests yet though police harrasment is continuing. JERIT really hopes SUHAKAM will investigate the abuse of power by the police and action is taken to ensure this incidents are not repeated.
 
*  *  *

A road-block free day

Today is human rights day. 10 December 2008. We left our luxury stay from Gemas Rest House to Melaka. The day was pleasantly quite. When we crossed border from Negeri Sembilan to Melaka, we were rather shocked that there were no Road Blocks to greet us. In the last few days, we have become familiar to Road Blocks and it has become a routine and when we didn’t see one, we were puzzled.

Then we reached a small town called Cheng. We were greeted by youths in orange. Yes, they are supporters of Hindraf. They led us in their motorbikes while our cycles paraded proudly. Many people showed support while we rode our bicyle towards Batu Enam road. Then Jayanthas � Hindraf took us for lunch. By then a lot of policemen have gathered around out lunch point.

After lunch, the cyclist rode into historical Malacca. Once again they were the attraction besides the old forts which is still standing. The Melaka cycle tour had been a success and incident free. Then we went back to Negeri Sembilan for a launch of the event in Negeri Sembilan. By then we got many calls that the police is not going to allow any event and have taken steps to cancel all the events. The police have even blocked some roads.

So the notion that there will be no road-block on human rights day has been proved wrong. What was even worst was when the Acting OCPD Isa threatened to arrest us because he considers our press conference an illegal assemble. There were some exchanges as usual and finally the police allowed us to hold a press conference. The Press conference was held under heavy police presence. That is the start of our campaign in Negeri Sembilan. Tomorrow we will hit Rembau.

Signing off 1am 11 December 2008, Tampin

 
 

Malaysia: Jerit cyclists move forward despite police threats

December 12, 2.30pm : JERIT CYCLISTS MOVE FORWARD DESPITE POLICE THREATS


  
Friday, 12 December 2008
12/12/2008
Today's campaign is fairly smooth except for 2 road blocks in the northern route , Simpang Pulai and Gopeng. YB Lee Boon Chye ( Gopeng Member of Parliament) hosted lunch for the northen team before they moved on to Kampar an Tapah. In the southern region , the southern team submitted a memorandum with the JERIT demands to the Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar's representative , Dato Firdaus bin Harun ( Political Secretary) and also to the Pakatan Rakyat representative YB  Loke.
 
The only other obstacle faced today is the statement by the Deputy  IGP warning the public  not to participate in the campaign and claiming that JERIT is an illegal organisation and so on. The normal allegations when they feel threatened by a succesful campaign supported by the rakyat. This statement gives an indication that the JERIT cyclists might have problems reaching the parliament. But we are not giving up. we have fought all the way long to reach this far with support from concerned groups, individuals, media and bloggers, and we  are not giving up at this stage. The struggle will go on and all your support is crucial in ensuring the success of this campaign.
Both the northern team and southern team will be reaching Selangor this weekend. Next Thursday we will be in Parliament. Join us in the parliament on 18/12/2008 at 10.30 am to welcome the cyclists and at the same time to submit the memorandum to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader
People the Force of Change. !
Sekretariat JERIT

Malaysia: Jerit bike protest update, December 13

Mission accomplished - N9 (Negeri Sembilan): memorandum submitted

The day started with news reports that the Deputy IGP has declared that any member of public who participated in JERIT bicycle campaign would be considered a criminal offence. Besides that he also said that JERIT is not a registered body, it is exploiting children and being used by some political parties. All this accusation is familiar but we started the day with caution.

Some of our young cyclist had to go to Petronas station to have a bath. That was an interesting experience, they said. Breakfast arrived late but we started the cycling from DAP office in Seremban Jaya on time. Guna, the local State Assemblyman flagged off  and the South team who then cycled towards the capital of Negeri Sembilan, Seremban to submit a memorandum to the Menteri Besar.

The team arrived within 50 minutes, a record time. Soon many DAP and PKR State Assemblyman arrived to give support. Members of Hindraf also lend their support. There was a very low key presence of police. I was relieved that the negotiation the day earlier with SB Chief Ang did materialize. He said that he will tell his boys to avoid confrontations and hoped for our assurance.

Soon we were told that Dato Firdaus Bin Harun, the MB’s secretary will receive the memorandum. He was initially very reluctant to meet the campaigners. He asked for two reps to come up and pass him the memorandum. I then went up and convinced him that it would be in the best interest of the State Government for him to receive the memorandum. Failing which, all credit will go to the opposition who are very forthcoming in accepting the JERIT’s demands.

He then came down. Soon the cyclist walked in. Two cyclist then rode their bicycle. Our banner unfolded and the memorandum was submitted. Kok Wei and Yogenderan  passed the memorandum to the Chief Minister;s rep as well as to Anthony Loke, MP as well as the DAP State Opposition leader. We proceeded with a press conference to denounce the deputy IGP’s statement and rode off from there.

The team then went to PAS Markas in Jalan Pantai for a rest and lunch. At 3pm, the team proceeded to Kirby estate via Labu Road. By now , our young cyclist team seem very confident in cycling, they seem to  move faster, efficient and have became some sort of a pro. Our escort team led by Mani from PSM Seremban also marshaled the cyclist through the heavy Seremban town. It was a good day but it seems that the number of police following us after lunch had increased suddenly. We became a bit worried.

Upon arrival in Ladang Kirby, we stopped the police from entering the line side of workers. This created a big commotion as the Deputy SB Chief was very angry because our people stopped a police officer. An argument erupted and the police were talking about monitoring us and we spoke about encroachment of our freedom of movement and privacy. Later the police retreated and  left and we were back in Ladang Kirby, one of our home town. We will not allow anyone to bully us in our own turf.

The cyclist still full of energy then went on to play football. That night,  a meeting was held to share experience at the temple. The day ended late with more meetings but our mission to Negeri Sembilan had been accomplished as we have successfully handed the memorandum to the Chief Minister. It was “kathikai” and oil lamps were put all round the estate. Our hearts were also lighted on this day as well went on well.
WE are now heading south and would reach Selangor tomorrow.

Signing off
Kirby estate 7am 13 December 2008

Aliran (Malaysia): `Stop harassing peaceful citizens'

Stop harassing peaceful citizens: Go after the criminals

Friday, 12 December 2008 01:12

Aliran is appalled at the determined effort of the police to stop a peaceful campaign mounted by Jerit to raise awareness of issues such as food shortages, environmental problems, draconian laws and the financial crisis. In a unique way, Jerit is highlighting these very important issues affecting the great majority of our citizens by getting two teams of cyclists to “Ride for Change”.

 

Both these teams took off simultaneously – one from Johor Bahru and the other from Alor Setar on 3 December 2008. It would have taken them 16 days to reach Kuala Lumpur on 18 December 2008 where both the teams would converge and proceed to Parliament House to deliver a six-point memorandum to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Why are the police in a frenzy to frustrate this attempt in such a serious manner? Why is this endeavour by peaceful means viewed as if it posed a threat to the peace of the nation? Why are so many police personnel and vehicles used when crime is so rampant and needs urgent attention all over the country?

What is bewildering is the fact that in spite of having informed the Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan of this “Ride for Change” programme, these harassments, intimidations and arrests have taken place on a daily basis in a routine manner. There has also been an allegation of sexual assault which allegedly resulted in the breasts of a participant being groped. The police as an institution have not lived up to the expectations of the public as a moral guardian looking after our safety and well-being.

People are wondering why can’t the police put in as much enthusiasm and determination in going after the criminals who have become the bane of society with crimes escalating to worrying levels. Snatch thefts, murders, house-breaking, robberies, kidnappings, and rapes have become daily occurrences in our country simply because the police are no longer perceived as being effective in combating crime.

Why are the police hell-bent in wanting to stop this peaceful campaign which is undertaken on behalf of the people and for the good of the people? Where is the threat and who is being threatened by this endeavour that is aimed at compelling the Barisan Government to focus on the real issues affecting the rakyat instead of indulging in politics to perpetuate their power. So many police reports have been lodged with regard to corruption, abuse of power, violations of human rights, and disregard for rule of law, but why have the police not displayed as much enthusiasm in trying to solve all these grievances?

So far 23 arrests have taken place involving the team from the South and 53 arrests involving the team from the North. On each occasion those arrested were taken to police stations for statements to be recorded and particulars to be checked before being released. This has resulted in a lot of time being wasted - time which could have been devoted to fighting real criminals and curbing crime.

It is very unfortunate that the police are being perceived as the tool of the ruling party in the way they conduct themselves. They seem more intent in going after dissidents and social activists to ensure the power of the BN rather than tackling crime and criminals to make the country safe for the ordinary citizens.. This police conduct is definitely not acceptable to the people in a democracy.

We are going through, in the words of the Greek poet, Aeschylus, “one of the periods of hope and endeavour which now and again light up the dark pages of history”. Clearly there are Malaysians who will not be brow-beaten to submission but will on the other hand stand up for justice and what is right. These brave cyclists will complete their journey on behalf of the people and the memorandum will surely be delivered to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on 18 December 2008.

If the police resort to brutal means to stop this endeavour. which provides hope for change, then we will have to ensure that there is a change in the government in the next general election to put a stop to this unhealthy behaviour of the police and teach the BN a lesson that there is a limit to their undemocratic rule. The dark pages of history will not dominate our lives forever.

 

P Ramakrishnan

President

11 December 2008.

Asia Sentinel: Bicycling with the Police in Malaysia

http://www.asiasentinel.com/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1613&pop=1&page=1&Itemid=189

Written by Jed Yoong   

Monday, 15 December 2008

ImageOur Correspondent dares arrest by riding with potential threats to the state



What should be a pleasant if sweaty ride through nearly 400 kilometers of rubber and oil palm can be anything but if Malaysia's police are on your trail. And they were – out in force against a handful of riders, 30 of them kids, who had taken a bus south from Kuala Lumpur for a human rights bike ride sponsored by Jerit, or the Network of Oppressed People.

The ride, of about 50 people, mostly ethnic Indians, was supposed to start in Skudai, a Johor Bahru suburb, at 8:30 am on December but it was almost immediately interrupted when police appeared outside the headquarters of Suaram (The People’s Voice), a non-government organization. If one of the basic precepts of military engagement is to make sure you have overwhelming firepower against the enemy, the police succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

The riders’ purpose was a quirky protest by a small non-governmental organization for a flock of liberal social causes -- protection of workers caught in the global financial crisis, agitation for minimum wage legislation, the restoration of local government elections, abolition of the draconian Internal Security act, which allows for detention without trial, a plea for decent public housing and an end to the continuing privatization of basic state-owned facilities.

A long-distance bicycle ride, in Malaysia’s jungle heat and humidity, is rare indeed. After spending the night at a tuition center atop a nearby shop, we were to get on our way to eventually meet on December 18 with cyclists on the northern leg, who started from Kedah, at the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur to hand over the list of demands to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. There was a momentary bit of excitement when our group was confused with another threatening to stage a nude bike ride somewhere else.

Skudai is like any other Chinese-majority area in Malaysia with its mossy rows of double-storey shop lots. A crowd of mostly Chinese were having breakfast at Chinese and Indian Muslim (mamak) coffee shops located at a corner.  Traffic was heavy and cars filled parking bays in front of the shops. But last Saturday, to our amazement, police trucks circled the vicinity with a couple parked near the Suaram office, with a roadblock erected about 50 meters away. About 30 uniformed policemen were scattered about and other plainclothes policemen blended in. Were there international criminals lurking about?

About 10 minutes later, a coordinator for Suaram found me where I was downloading pictures from my laptop and told me the police would begin arresting people. About five minutes later, concern rising in his voice, he came up to say the Jerit coordinator for the Southern leg, S. Arutchelvan, who is also secretary-general of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM, Socialist Party of Malaysia), and V Selvam, PSM central committee member, had been arrested, and that the police were threatening to break the grill door with a pair of massive pliers if we didn’t open up.

I contacted the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Ismail Omar, to ask if he was aware that his officers in Johor were threatening forced entry.  He said he had to check the case and "there must be a good reason" that the police wanted to break in. 

He has since reportedly said that the campaign was illegal as Jerit had not applied for police permits to hold "gatherings" and "parades," which is what the police were calling the cycling group, and that Jerit is also unregistered and flouted the law. 


Image
Special Branch officers interrogating
participants at the SUARM office.
"This group has organized a series of rallies and mass gatherings without our approval as well as allowing children to take part in their campaigns," he said Saturday, adding that "a few politicians have been exploiting the campaign for their own interests." 

Jerit maintained that cycling does not require a permit and that freedom of assembly is a constitutional guarantee, although the Police Act deems a group of three or more as an assembly requiring a permit.  "We don't apply for permits," Aru said yesterday.

The next thing I knew, the police came in and demanded our Malaysian identity cards.  Nyam Kee Han, the 25-year-old Suaram coordinator, was arrested along with two volunteers. In total, Jerit said, 16 people would be arrested that day.  The rest of us, including over 30 teenagers as young as 13 and some Jerit coordinators, were not allowed to leave the premises.  I was refused when I asked the police guarding the door if I could go out for a cigarette. 

"We are effectively under house arrest," Y Kohila, JERIT secretariat coordinator said.

Everyone was released before noon but the cyclists were barred from cycling in the Skudai district. Outside Skudai, we were then told that we could not cycle because it might endanger the children.  So the adult organisers cycled, only to be stopped by traffic police and summoned for not having light reflectors – an offence for which half the bicyclists in Johor could be charged.

The police didn’t stop there.  The special branch followed us, often taking photographs and videos of us.  "It's just intimidation," Kohila said.

After an action-packed first day, we thought the second day in Kluang, up the road, would be better.  Distributing leaflets to the public about their campaign and gathering signatures, however, seemed to be another no-no.  Two Suaram volunteers were arrested at the Kluang Parade shopping mall.  I was also brought into the Kluang police headquarters for snapping photos without my press card.  The police accused me of lying about being a journalist but refused to call my editor to verify my status.  In the end, after sitting around the Criminal Investigations Department, with a poster of prime ministers that did not include Badawi on the wall, the police let us go and even offered to drop us back.

Our comrades up north didn't fare any better.  Some bikes were burnt when a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the compound of Yayasan Aman, a charity connected to Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, in Penang.  Even D Jeyakumar, was arrested. He is an opposition member of parliament who defeated the long-serving president of the Malaysian Indian Congress, S. Samy Vellu.
"Why are the police hell-bent in wanting to stop this peaceful campaign which is undertaken on behalf of the people and for the good of the people?” P Ramakrishnan, the president of the reform organization Aliran, asked in a prepared statement. “Where is the threat and who is being threatened by this endeavour that is aimed at compelling the Barisan Government to focus on the real issues affecting the people instead of indulging in politics to perpetuate their power?"

The Malaysia Bar Council agreed. “The police are not being fully utilised for crime prevention when they are asked to stop and arrest (the campaigners) throughout the country,” said Ambiga Sreenasvasan, the organization’s president. “The Bar Council finds this to be unacceptable as crimes are increasing every day, and yet the authorities are using the police (against) youth who are exercising their civil rights,"

At press time, the cyclists were about 20 kilometers south of Kuala Lumpur and their goal, where they were met last night by songs and dancing by residents in a local low-cost flat development – and by the police, who have been following them throughout the ride, and who detained them again today, this time to investigate whether the kids had their parents’ consent. They have fixed their light reflectors, however, and no longer appear to form an outsized threat to the state. They plan to make their goal of handing over the letter to Abdullah Badawi Thursday — if the 50 are deemed not to be a force that might bring about the immediate collapse of the government.

Socialist Party of Malaysia: Police, stay out of politics!

PARTI SOSIALIS MALAYSIA

PRESS STATEMENT : 15 DECEMBER 2008


SELANGOR CPO AND DEPUTY IGP!

STAY OUT OF POLITICS

 

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) condemns the arrest, harassment, intimidation, humiliation and ill-treatment of JERIT cyclists and activists in Selangor. Both the JERIT's 'Ride for Change' campaigns were sabotaged and disrupted by the Rawang and Kajang police who had acted on orders with the sole intention of putting an end to the JERIT's nationwide campaign which is gaining momentum by the day.

The Police stooped so low today when they claimed that the children were exploited and were investigated under the Police Act for illegal procession and the Child Act for using children in their campaign. This is utter rubbish coming from the police force, which has long lost all its credibility.

All the young school children involved in the campaign have got parental consent and therefore the police action today is sheer intimidation and foul play.

The CPO of Selangor and the Deputy Inspector General of Police have been unscrupulous in their actions and statements. The have acted as cheap stooge to the ruling party rather than being neutral and professional in their work. That have clearly taken a bias political stand in trying to disrupt the JERIT campaign.

We call for the immediate release of all the cyclist, PSM National Deputy Chairperson M.Saraswathy, Treasurer A.Sivarajan and Central Committee Member and MP for Sungai Siput Dr. Jeyakumar immediately without any condition. We also call for the release of Rawang state assemblyperson Gan Pei Nie.

The police action in Kajang and Rawang today besides being unlawful is a sheer waste of public funds. The police instead of fighting crime, should be doing something more productive

 If the police cannot be neutral, they might as well join politics

 Released by

 S.Arutchelvan, PSM secretary general

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Cross-country, human-rights biking: a Freedom Film Fest winner

October 8, 2009 -- In the first week of December 2008, two convoys of bicycles set off from Alor Setar and Skudai. Aside from protective gear, the cyclists sported red T-shirts - these identified them as participants of the "People - The Force of Change" campaign. For the next two weeks, they became Public Menace No 1.

Only natural: the cross-country ride was organised by Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (or JERIT, auw!), a coalition of blue-collar workers, students, urban settlers, and non-governmental organisations. Late in the course of the campaign, the authorities detained many of the (mostly) teenaged participants, to "save them from being misused and exploited by irresponsible people".

The journey was hazardous - no doubt about it. Riders had braved arson (8 bikes were torched during a stopover in Penang), arrests (more than 80 busts were made), and police harassment (road-blocks, questions into whether the cyclists belonged to secret societies). So yeah. These kids really needed saving.

Such speed-bumps notwithstanding, the bikes eventually got to Parliament, where they served a memo advocating workers' rights, universal housing, and other such worthy stuff.

As you can tell, the JERIT campaign got a tonne of press coverage - but Soh Sook Hwa's Kayuh - one of the three Freedom Film Fest (FFF) 2009 competition winners - offers a visual, insider's perspective of the 16-day odyssey. We talked to Sook Hwa about what the bike-ride was like, what it wanted to achieve, and why it is important for Malaysians to participate in our democracy.

~Your film, Kayuh, is an account of the JERIT cycling campaign. What was your part in it? What was it designed to achieve?

I was a coordinator for the northern part of the bicycle campaign. I followed the whole 16-day journey.

The campaign was a timely effort. After the March 2008 election, people are looking for more real changes in our society. However, a lot of core issues have been overshadowed by twisted political scenarios, and the economy - which distract people from the underlying causes of their problems.

We wanted to raise awareness on 6 main issues: the need for a Minimum Wage Act; adequate housing; repeal of draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act (ISA); control of the price of goods; no privatisation of basic amenities and services; and the importance of restoring local council elections.

Finally, we would go to Parliament to submit a memorandum consisting of these points.

What was it like, on the road? You came under fire by the authorities - your bikes were even torched. How did participants react to these obstacles?

As the campaign was aimed to reach out to the public at each stop, we purposely used the old trunk roads that connect the small towns and rural areas. We organised local programmes at some stops, and did leafleting.

Both teams of cyclists were harassed by the police. They mounted roadblocks, carried out their so-called "regular checks". They used various excuses to stop us. They served summons to the Johor team for riding on bicycles without reflectors. They accused us of exploiting children. We ended up using a lot of time to deal with the police.

We tried to fulfil some of their requests - but if they were not reasonable, we had to stand strong. It is our right to cycle.

But we also gained something from the police. The JERIT campaign was published in the media every day; it helped us spread our demands to the public. And, somehow, it also "motivated" our cyclists.

Why is it important for people to participate in activism?

Even if I'm not a member of any political party, I see what I'm doing as political work. For me, the rakyat can't leave politics to the politicians. When we talk about a democratic society, we are not only talking about elections held once in five years; it's not just limited to voting rights.

Democracy is nothing if we have no participation in the decision-making process. We should look forward to playing a more proactive role.

So why make this film? What are you hoping to achieve?

I was inspired by the whole campaign. Ordinary people took up a pro-active role in mobilising at a grassroots level. That's a really good experience. I want to capture the spirit of the cyclists, with the hope that it will inspire other people to be involved in the struggle for a better Malaysia.

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