Maria J. Dass
KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 15, 2008): A peaceful gathering of fewer than 20 people representing election watchdog Bersih to hand over an appeal to the King to uphold democracy via clean and fair elections ended with the arrest of two of its members today.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president Tian Chua was the first to be hauled into a police car after arguing with the policemen when the group was told to move along and not hold a press conference just outside the palace gate.
Five plainclothes policemen hauled Chua uphill towards the palace gates, bundled him into a waiting police car which drove into the palace grounds and exited through another gate.
Barely a few minutes later, PAS member Jalaluddin Abdul Manap was arrested after he refused to listen to police instructions to stop distributing posters accusing Election Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman of being a liar.
PAS central committee member Dr Syed Azman was heard telling the police to let Jalaluddin (who is about 70 years old) go as he was old and had heart problems. “Take me instead, he’s too old for this and has heart problems,” he said.
The debacle was witnessed by journalists, passers-by and groups of tourists in excursion coaches and outside the palace gates who turned to record the incident with their cameras.
Asked on what grounds the duo were arrested, Brickfields Deputy OCPD Supt Azri Abdul Rahman said: “For obstructing police duties, but we will have to investigate this further and how long they are detained depends on our investigations.”
He said a total 243 personnel and 26 officers were deployed to the area to control the gathering.
“We allowed four of them to approach the gates and we even escorted them form here (the entrance facing Jalan Syed Putra) to make sure they are safe,” he said.
When one journalist asked if the person arrested was Tian Chua, Azri said: “It looks like him … I don’t know, I had no time to ask his name.”
The Bersih protest memorandum appealed to the King, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, to look into three issues in the interest of clean and fair elections for the country. The issues are:
> the manipulation of postal votes particularly the transfer of postal votes from two army camps in Sungai Petani and Grik to the Belantek state seat under the Sik Parliamentary seat;
> the alleged dubious voter finger marking process; and
> the denial of fair access to the media which had been used to spread lies about opposition parties.
The protest note, submitted by PAS treasurer Dr Hatta Ramli, research centre director Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad, youth chief Salahuddin Ayub and Syed Azman, was received by Istana Negara customer service officer Hasmuni Mohd Shukor.
The group then arranged for the press to meet in the PAS headquarters at 6pm after being disallowed to speak to the press outside the palace.
Bersih duo nabbed outside palace gates