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
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
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
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.
[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
Please cc the letter to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Stop intimidation by the police against the Jerit cyclists and the activists
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]
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
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
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
So bye bye to Johor and thank you for the memories. Tomorrow we move to
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 â��
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.
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
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
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 toÂ 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 andÂ 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
WE are now heading south and would reach Selangor tomorrow.
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”.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
Correspondent dares arrest by riding with potential threats to the
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.