Malaysia: Victory as `cyclists for change' reach parliament after massive police repression

Jerit activists arrive at Malaysia's national parliament

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

December 18, 2008 -- Jerit, Suaram -- People's power has spoken once again! With the roars from a strong crowd of 500 people, the young militant cyclists, who from December 3 conducted their ``Cycle for Change'' campaign throughout Malaysia, pedalled bravely into the grounds of the parliment, which definitely belongs to them, ``THE PEOPLE". After almost 16 days' journey through the states of Malaysia, they brought the people's demands to the ears of their representitives!

The six demands were: 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 was 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 cyclists, who had split into two teams travelling to different parts of Malaysia, faced constant harrassment and intimidation from police, including roadblocks, arrests, mistreatment and assault. Defying the attacks, the mostly young people insisted on the right to freedom of expression. Click here for an earlier Links report and video.

The attacks continued until the very end of the journey. On December 15, the chief police officer (CPO) of Selangor state, Khalid Abdul Bakar, announced he was launching a police mission to ``rescue'' the ``children'' particpating in the bike ride from the ``bad'' Jerit (the Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas, Oppressed Peoples Movement, which organised the protest ride).

In his noble mission, he used a massive police force in Rawang and Kajang to arrest all the participants of the cycle for change campaign. He declared that this was necessary to reunite the ``terrified children'' with their parents.

In Rawang, 56 people were arrested including 27 below the age of 18. The arrests did not result in 27 pairs of parents knocking on the police doors -- instead, more than 500 people demonstrated in the rain calling for everyone to be released. The CPO was shouted at for his actions, which created more anger than relief from the young people's parents.

In Bangi estate [plantation] near Kajang, there was a five-hour stand-off with the police. Around two dozen plainclothes police, two police trucks and many uniformed police offciers waited at the entrance of the estate, intending to arrest all those who were cycled there, and to determine their ages. A huge group of police also followed the team. The commanding officer admitted that police wanted to arrest all those below the age of 18 under the Malaysia's childrens act. They wanted to put them in trucks and take them to the police station. Later the deputy police commander made the more stupid confession that police would arrest them first and then only investigate. This cowboy-style of policing means the police were acting unlawfully.

The cyclists' leaders objected and offered to surrender the young people to the police. The police were very reluctant to go into the privately owned planation to make the arrests, as a huge group of people were waiting to defend the participants. The police were worried and agreed to our proposal that we surrender them ourselves. We asked for lunch to be served first, and then we would get them to the station by bus. More negotiations took place, the police were now very secretive but would have had a tough time making arrests. There was a stand-off and the supporters were growing in numbers.

Finally, the police backed off and the people were allowed to move out of the estate. We used the bus though the police wanted us to cycle. They had their plan but we had ours. By now, we had learned of the arrests in Rawang and were sure that this was a directive from the top. We moved next to West Country Dewan. Once again there was a huge police presence and once again it made a lot of people come out and observe what was happening. The police truly gave us the publicity we needed!

That night, we followed closely the developments in Rawang. The arrests in Rawang made us rethink our route because we still had another three days to go.

The police `mission' fails

On December 16, the police `rescue mission' fell flat. The parents who came nearly broke down the Rawang police station gate. The were really upset with the police for arresting their children. The police and the welfare officers all got a blasting from angry family members. When the kids and their parents came out, they were very much intact. They received huge applause. The children and their parents agreed that they would cycle on. They want to sue the CPO.

In Kajang, the team ended the day being greeted by huge numbers of supporters, while the parents of those below 18 lodged a complaint against the police and also furnished them with consent letterd to allow their kids to continue.

It was a slap on both cheeks for the CPO. Both the northern and southern teams survived these ordeals and were determined to complete their mission.

Several cyclists of the Jerit (Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas or Oppressed People Network) ride for change campaign riding into parliament with Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers this morning. More than 100 cyclists were allowed into Parliament under police escort as they ended their 16-day journey from Johor Baru and Alor Star. — Picture by Choo Choy May, Malaysian Insider.

Stop ongoing attacks by police on JERIT bicycle campaign now!

By Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)

December 17, 2008 -- Suaram condemns the ongoing attacks by police on the Oppressed People’s Movement (Jerit) ``Ride for Change'' bicycle campaign. To date, 120 individuals have been arrested on the Jerit bicycle campaign.

The Jerit bicycle campaign kicked off on December 3, 2008, at Wisma Darul Aman, Kedah, and is scheduled to end on December 18, 2008, at parliament where a memorandum demanding policy and institutional reforms will be submitted to the prime minister and the parliamentary opposition leader.

The campaign consisted of two teams, the first one cycling from the north and the second on from the south. The teams have been harassed by the police at almost every step of their campaign.

On December 4, a volunteer, Ruben s/o Loganathan, was arrested at Merbau Pulas, Kedah, for leafleting leaflets containing the demands of Jerit’s bicycle campaign. He was released under police bail on the same day.

On December 5, Jerit cyclists were stopped by the police when they were leafleting at Teluk Kumbar, Penang.

On December 6, 16 Jerit activists were arrested at Skudai, Johor. They were released on the same day without charge.

On December 9, two activists were arrested at Taiping and another six was arrested at Kuala Kangsar. One of the female Jerit activists, Helen Mary Johnson, was molested and punched on the face by a police officer while she was taking photographs. Another Jerit activist, Lee Huat Seng, had his camera confiscated by the police and he was also hit on the arm by the police.

At the latest incident on December 15, 39 individuals from the southern team were arrested at Bangi Lama Estate. They were consequently released following negotiations between the police and Jerit activists. The northern team had 30 activists arrested and 26 cyclists who were minors were held at the Balai Polis Rawang for a night. At the police station, the activists and cyclists, including the 26 minors, were tortured by the police as they were made to stand in heavy rain in the middle of the night.

The 30 activists were charged with “illegal assembly” and released on police bail at around 4 am in the morning while the 26 minors were released on December 16 at around 3.15 pm after their parents went to the police station.

Suaram also condemns the false statement made by the Chief Police Officer (CPO) of Selangor, Khalid Abu Bakar, claiming that the police detained the 26 minors to “save them from being misused and exploited by irresponsible people”. He also claimed that the minors did not know what they were participating in. The organisers of the Jerit bicycle campaign had shown the police written consent from the parents of the minors. The minors also participated in the cycling campaign on their free will and could withdraw their participation at any point if they wanted to. This proves that CPO Khalid Abu Bakar is making false public statements to mislead the public to form false perceptions of the Jerit campaign. On top of that, the minors were made to stand under the heavy rain late at night while detained at the Balai Polis Rawang. Is that the protection that the police are providing to the minors?

Malaysia has ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and is obligated to provide protection to children. Freedom of expression of the child is provided for in Article 13 of the CRC and freedom of association and peaceful assembly is accorded to the child in Article 15. Article 37 states that the arrest and detention of a child should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; no child should be subjected to torture; and during arrest and detention, the child should have prompt access to legal services. The latest incident on December 15 has yet again proved Malaysia’s non-compliance with the CRC.

The actions of the police in detaining the minors and making them stay in poor conditions at the police station, including forcing them to stand under the rain, is in clear violation of the rights of the children as accorded in Article 37 of the CRC. The police have also violated the minors’ freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly by detaining them during their participation in the Jerit bicycle campaign.

Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are guaranteed to Malaysian citizens under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. Malaysia is also a member of the Human Rights Council and should uphold the citizens' rights to expression and assembly as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Suaram demands the police to stop harassing the Jerit activists and cyclists and to allow them to conduct the last leg of their bicycle campaign in peace.

Suaram further demands Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar and Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan ensure that the police do not harass the Jerit activists and cyclists any further and to protect the rights of the activists in exercising their rights as they make their way to parliament to hand over their memorandum tomorrow.

For further details, contact Suaram at 03-77843525 or suaram@suaram.net.

Released by Temme Lee, coordinator

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