Letter: Uncivility at the Civic Centre

Malaysiakini Letter
Uncivility at the Civic Centre
Ambrose Poh | Nov 12, 08 4:22pm

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Police disperse crowd, 24 arrested.
That night at the Petaling Jaya Civic Centre was weird. The FRUs charged without warning but they ran straight through us aiming for people who were scattering into the darkness of the Civic Centre.
It was frenzied, lots of commotion but in a couple of minutes it seemed like it cooled down. I started walking towards the side.
That was when a policeman came up to me and shouted that I was under arrest. I asked him for what. He said, ‘Pigi balai nanti u kan tahu’. He tried to grab me. Told him, ‘Relak lah bro. Gua bole jalan.’ He eased off. I could even continue smoking and fondling my camera.
He asked for my camera to be confiscated. ‘Ambik filem dia.’ I told him, ‘Kamera ni tak de filem lah. Pakai SD kad’. It probably confused him a little and he didn’t push further.
It was very dark inside the police truck. Maybe that’s why it’s called a Black Maria. Lots of bodies but couldn’t make out the faces. Then the eyes got acclimatised …well, well, lookie here.
Interesting company – Tony Pua, Lau Weng San, Way Keng, feisty Angela, Ashok the lawyer dude who was part of Malik Imtiaz’s RPK’s ISA team. At the gates of the truck, I saw fisherman Gan.
And just beside a man in a white jubah was talking calmly on his cellphone. Turns out he was Father Paulino. Interesting company indeed for a random sampling of Anak Bangsa Malaysia protestors (methodology compliments of the FRU).
I thought they had easily filled up three truck-loads at the rate they were hauling people from the park. Turns out we were the only vehicle. They drove us to the PJ police station nearby and made us sit in the truck for quite bit longer before letting us out.
It was a different atmosphere altogether at the station. The station folks were really nice overall, which goes to show you there’s a serious rift going on within their ranks and where their sentiments really lie. They gave us mineral water, chairs to sit on, freedom to smoke and mingle, even make calls on our phones. (In the truck, we were told by ‘veterans’ to expect anything ie, confiscation of all personal belongings etc.) So this was nice. Sopan.
Ronnie Liu came by as the Selangor chief police officer was doing a general briefing. He introduced himself and tried to negotiate on the group’s behalf. Instead the CPO promptly announced that he was arrested as well. Touch of black humour.
They took our particulars and it seemed like we’d be released soon after. So it seemed. Somebody ‘higher up’ hauled up the CPO and instructed him to complete taking full statements. That ‘higher up’ wanted us to stay at least the night (deterrent? punishment? whatever) And so the whole process started again.
At this point, lawyers from the Bar Council were allowed to come in and offer advice. I must say that as an architect, I’m ashamed to say you’d never see Persatuan Akitek Malaysia go into such commitments with the rakyat. Salute!.
The police then took our statements, a long laborious process as one after another would go into the inspectors’ rooms (there were at least three being done concurrently). Yes, we had our mugs hots taken. At 5 am, we must’ve looked like mugs.
Finally, police bail. Penang blogger Lucia Lai who came down with activist Ong (also arrested) acted as my guarantor. By then the sun was up. I stepped out of the station at 8.30 am and took a leisurely stroll back to my car across the Jalan Timur field.
There’s so much that happened inside, it’ll take yarns to tell. Little anecdotes and stories amongst fellow detainees and with the common police folk. But it was all warm – the camaraderie, humour, moral support and yes, networking.
I made over 20 friends in one night from across the country (that’s hardcore for a recluse like me); decided to collect all our e-mails so we could keep in touch in a e-group.