Parents of 18 to be charged

By Alang Bendahara (NST)
14 November, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR: The parents of 18 children detained in Saturday’s illegal rally will be charged with endangering their children. The children were allegedly used as shields to prevent police from firing tear gas and water at the demonstrators who refused to disperse.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said he had ordered his men to act against the parents.
“The parents were exploiting the children,” Musa said, adding that the investigations were being carried out under the Child Protection Act.
“It was an irresponsible act and wrong of the adults to bring children to the rally.
“They knew the rally was illegal and police would act, yet they placed the children in danger.”
Musa said fortunately none of the children, who were taken to the city police headquarters, was hurt.
The IGP also defended his men’s actions.
“It was an illegal assembly which went ahead despite our repeated advice against holding it. We urged the demonstrators to disperse but the crowd turned unruly.”
He said the protesters disrupted traffic and made a nuisance of themselves.
“That was when we moved in.”
On the numerous roadblocks, Musa said they had to screen those entering the city.
“We needed to filter any undesirable elements and check for weapons and arms.
“We had no choice as public safety was paramount.”
Traffic came to a standstill across the capital as police cordoned off Dataran Merdeka, closed train stations and restricted or diverted vehicles from the city centre.
He said the parties involved in the rally should have resorted to other means to address their grouses.
“Why not do it through dialogue instead of a rally?”
He advised opposition parties against organising another rally scheduled for later this month.
It was reported yesterday that at least 18 children were detained by police along with their parents for failing to disperse on Saturday.
A 6-year-old was picked up along with her parents. The number of detainees was 245. Their ages were between 6 and 55. They were released after their statements were taken.
They are being investigated for taking part in an illegal assembly and face a jail sentence of not more than one year, and fine of between RM2,000 and RM10,000, upon conviction.
Musa said more arrests are expected in the next few days.
A coalition of opposition parties and non-governmental organisations, calling itself Bersih, had organised the rally estimated by police at 10,000, to deliver an election reform petition to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The king, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, was away in Terengganu but a palace official accepted the memorandum.