POLICE arrested 23 people on the night of 9 Nov 2008 while they were singing the national anthem during a candlelight vigil in Petaling Jaya to commemorate the first anniversary of the Bersih street demonstration.
DAP Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara Tony Pua, DAP state assemblyperson for Kampung Tunku Lau Weng San, Petaling Jaya councillor Tiew Way Keng, Catholic priest Father Polinos Miranda, and Malaysiakini journalist Syukri Mohamad were among those detained in front of the Petaling Jaya Civic Centre.
Pua and Lau alleged police handled them roughly while dispersing the vigil.
All the arrested, except one, were released on police bail on the morning of 10 Nov 2008. Those released have to report to the police on 24 Nov 2008 to find out if any charges will be levelled against them.
Wong Chin Huat, who is a steering committee member for Bersih or the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, called for the Selangor chief police officer to resign for detaining people when they were singing Negaraku. However, the police chief, Deputy Comm Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar, has denied the arrests happened in that way despite video evidence (see also video below).
In a statement on 10 Nov, Bar Council vice-president Ragunath Kesavan expressed alarm at the disproportionate and heavy-handed approach adopted by the police.
“Several demonstrations against the Pakatan Rakyat government’s policies in Penang and Selangor have proceeded without much harassment or arrests by the police,” he said.
He said this incident gives rise to the perception that police actions are biased, and even arbitrary.
Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said at a 10 Nov press conference that brutal force against public assemblies would not stop the people from expressing themselves.
“The police should [instead] resort to new, sophisticated techniques when dealing with the public,” he said.
Police charge midway through singing of national anthem