CANDLELIGHT vigils on the night of 1 Aug 2010 to protest against 50 years of the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite state detention without trial, were marred with arrests and heavy police presence.
In Petaling Jaya, around 200 protesters gathered for the vigil in Dataran Timur opposite Amcorp Mall from 8pm onwards. However, the police, numbering between 80 and 100, were intent on dispersing the peaceful gathering, citing the lack of a police permit. This led to an hour-long confrontation, and pandemonium, between the protesters and the police as the gathering moved from Amcorp Mall to Dataran Timur back to the mall.
By the end of the protest, 36 arrests were made. Twitter reports from the ground said police targeted those who carried candles or wore anti-ISA badges, or who wore red, the colour of the anti-ISA protest. Police also threatened to arrest those who chanted “Hidup, rakyat” outside the police station. Police eventually began releasing the arrested, on police bail, from 3am onwards.
Similar arrests were also made in Penang and Kelantan.
The heavy-handed police action against peaceful demonstrators has drawn flak from several quarters. According to the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0, to date, 10,662 people have been arrested under the ISA over the past 44 years. Suaram said 16 individuals were currently detained under the ISA, among whom 14 were detained after the government announced its review of the colonial era legislation.
Apart from the ISA, the state is also empowered to detain people without trial under the Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA). Suaram said as of February 2010, 819 individuals were detained without trial under the EO, while 412 were incarcerated under the DDA.
Hence, a total of more than 1,200 individuals are detained without trial in Malaysia.
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