Memo to Parliament: 26 arrested, all released tonight

Yoges Palaniappan | Dec 11, 07 10:59am

Updated: All 26 members of polls reform group Bersih who were arrested this morning for defying a police ban to gather at the Parliament have been released on police bail today.

Some, including PKR secretary-general Khalid Ibrahim, PAS election director Mustapha Ali and a teenager, were among nine people released by police as at 4pm. The remainder 17 were only allowed to go at about 10pm with the condition that they appear at the Kuala Lumpur Magistrates’ Court on Dec 18.
The others freed earlier comprise six members of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), who had gone to Parliament House to hand over a memorandum to Opposition parliamentarians, to submit to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
In all, 26 members of Bersih had been arrested this morning in the vicinity of Parliament House, while attempting to deliver the memorandum on the extension of the Election Commission chief’s retirement age via constitutional amendment.
Among tha last ones to be released included  PKR information chief Tian Chua,  PAS treasurer Dr Hatta Ramli and party Women’s chief Nuridah Mohd Salleh and central committee member Dr Lo’Lo’ Ghazali, and Parti Socialist Malaysia pro-tem chairperson Dr Nasir Hashim, secretary-general S Arutchelvan and party central committee member S Sivarajan.
Earlier in the day, eyewitnesses said the police had surrounded Tian Chua’s vehicle and forcibly removed him before arresting him at about 10.40am. Another person in the car was also detained.
Chua had failed to stop at the roadblock and had insisted on moving forward before nine police officers swooped in on him and hauled him away (photo).
About 10 minutes later, Arutchelvan and another identified person were arrested for trying to break the police cordon. The PAS leaders were arrested shortly after.
At about noon, Khalid arrived in Jalan Parliament where he talked briefly to the press gathered just outside the Parliament gates.
“I don’t think we will be able to submit a memorandum today. Our main piority now is to help those detained,’ he told journalists.
A plainclothes police officer showed him the restraining court order which the Sentul police had obtained yesterday and ordered Khalid to leave.
Subsequently Khalid went to his car. While he on his way there, Sentul district police chief ACP Ahmad Sofian Md Yassin instructed one of his men to arrest the PKR leader.
All those arrested were taken to the Kuala Lumpur contingent police headquarters.
Nazri defends action
More than 400 police surrounded the Parliament to block the electoral reform campaigners who were forced to march there on foot after all roads leading to the building were closed off.
Trees lining the streets were posted with copies of a court order obtained by police that banned the campaigners from parliament.
“The authorities should not have done this. They should have been given the right to hand over a memorandum. After all, that’s all they just wanted to do,” Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PKR president and opposition MP, told AFP.
Cabinet minister Mohamad Nazri Aziz however defended the police action.
“They want to come and demonstrate today’s amendment to the constitution. So they want to come in big numbers. We will not allow that,” he told reporters at parliament.
“We have taken action against them and we are using the court system to prosecute these people,” Nazri said.
Rare restraining order
Police had also surrounded opposition party PAS headquarters in Jalan Raja Laut to stop people from leaving the building for Parliament.
According to a statement this morning by the party, five patrol cars and a Federal Reserve Unit had been positioned around the building.
The police also pasted a copy of the restraining order at the building to warn people not to participate in today’s event.
Police  blocked all roads leading to Parliament this morning to prevent members of polls reform group Bersih from submitting a protest memorandum against a proposed constitutional amendment.
Yesterday, they obtained a rare restraining court order – the second of its kind following one to ban the Nov 25 Hindraf rally – prohibiting four named individuals and other Bersih supporters from attending or taking part in the gathering.
The named persons are PAS leaders Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi, Mohamad Sabu and Adenaan Saad and Malaysian Trade Union Congress chief Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud.
The order also stipulated that “other interested parties” are similarly prohibited from taking part in the gathering. It allowed the police to ‘arrest on sight’  those found in the vicinity of Parliament House.