More than 100 police officers tonight [October 1st] sealed off the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur and stopped a planned anti-Internal Security Act meeting from proceeding there. The meeting was to discuss the abuse of power by the police in detaining the reformasi activists under ISA.
Police seal off venue of anti-ISA meeting, crowd beaten and dispersed
Oct 1st, 2002
The meeting, organised by the Abolish ISA Movement (AIM), seeks to renew opposition against the ISA in wake of last month's Federal Court decision which ruled that the initial detention of five reformasi detainees was unlawful.
At about 6.30pm, the police ejected 20 people who were already inside the building and they joined 300 others who came later in a three-hour stand-off outside the building.
According to witnesses, the police also took photos of the meeting venue.
When the scheduled meeting was about take place at 8.30pm, 30 riot police armed with batons arrived to bolster the police presence.
When the crowd insisted on entering the building, about 10 people were beaten by the riot police and forced to back away from building.
A number of those clubbed suffered minor injuries.
AIM secretary, S Arutchelvam, was outraged by the police action.
"The reason why the police are taking such an action is because the meeting was to discuss the abuse of power by the police in detaining the reformasi activists under ISA," he said.
PRM vice-president R Sivarasa called Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a "political coward".
"He ordered the police to come here, and yet he allowed the US police to take off his shoes," he quipped, referring to Abdullah being forced by US Immigration to remove his shoes while going through a security check at the Los Angeles airport during a visit last month.
"The police should be the ones upholding the law. Instead, they are the ones breaking the law," Sivarasa rued.
At about 9.15pm, the crowd resolved to meet instead at the house of Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, leader of the opposition Keadilan, who was also present at the stand-off.
By 10pm, most of the participants have left the SCAH building. Hadi Ho, police chief of Dang Wangi district, refused to comment when approached by reporters.
Earlier this afternoon, the police warned the organisers to cancel the planned meeting.
AIM vice-chairperson Zahir Hassan told malaysiakini that he received a call from the officer in charge at the Dang Wangi police station demanding that the meeting be cancelled.
"He told me that we are not allowed to organise the programme since we have not applied for a permit or submitted any letter informing police of the event," he said.
Zahir said he explained to the police officer that the meeting was being held at the building belonging to two AIM members — Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall's Youth Section and the assembly's Civil Rights Committee.
Since the building is on private premises, and the meeting is to be held indoors, the movement does not require any police permit for the meeting, he insisted.
Zahir said that after the police warning, AIM submitted a letter to the Kuala Lumpur police chief informing him about the meeting.
However, police tonight said that the letter has been rejected as they need a 14-day notice.
The police have also cited section 27 of the Police Act which empowers them to stop activities that take place in a private location if they deem that the activities may be prejudicial to national security interests.
Families of detainees
Former ISA detainees, families of detainees, civil groups representatives and social activists were among the crowd who had come for tonight's function.
Apart from Keadilan president Wan Azizah, also present were leaders from other opposition parties.
On Sept 6, the Federal Court which heard the habeas corpus application of five reformasi detainees ruled that their initial 60-day detention made under section 73 of the ISA was unlawful and that the police had acted in bad faith in detaining them.
However, the decision did not result in their immediate release as,according to the court, it does not affect the subsequent two-year detention order signed by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his capacity as home minister.