This is not the title of a new christmas carol.
It’s my description of the Malaysian version in commemorating the UN World Human Rights Day on 9th December ’07, a day prior to the actual event.
Perhaps, to put it in the right perspective, I’d like to quote the police officer in charge of the ‘festivities’, Che Hamzah Che Ismail, who purportedly said “I have my human rights too” in response to a Mkini reporter when questioned on the necessity to ‘disrupt the proceedings of the day and arrest’ some of the rest of us.
Wanna know how our man of the day looks like? No problemo. Thought you’d never ask.
Got a lift from Michelle G, headed towards Sogo through Setapak with light traffic all the way and bumped into a roadblock at the entrance of the KLGH with ‘M’ exclaiming “Oh f**ks! Why can’t you be a girl, Shar?” So I went “Huh? Is this a gender sensitive moment or what?“. I mean, seriously, would it make any difference coz we were a good looking, properly attired, couple in a decent car which happened to have a press sticker stuck on the windscreen. And nothing happened, ok?
Arrived at Sogo at 7.30am and met up with the usual suspects who came trickling in. The lawyers, Zorro, Suzanne (photographer babe), Haris, Stephen, Rocky, Nuraina, Chin Huat and a whole bunch of new faces.
At precisely 8.00am, after a moment of anxiety as to whether the walk will actually proceed, we got word from lawyer Latifah Koya stating that police have ‘granted’ us a ’10 minute’ (?) timeframe to complete the walk towards the Bar Council building which is situated about 2 km away. We were about 100 strong and just imagine bystanders watching us sprinting away along Jalan TAR to comply with this police verbal approval (permit?) and you can visualise the ensuing pandemonium. So, we strolled at a leisurely pace until the front section of the crowd reached the old Coliseum Cafe, barely 250 meters down the road.
At this point, the ‘provocation’ began with the police loud-hailing the strollers to disperse. Nada. Nyet. No way for this first of many reminders will be heeded and the journey continues. I met Desi and as we both continued talking and walking past the old Globe Silk Store, the leading group were already at Jalan Tun Perak, held up by the RMP. I overheard an officer giving instructions to his subordinates to move forward quickly and “tangkap mereka”.
Here’s where things began to unravel, spiraling down into a messy bout of verbal attrition between both sides. The front group of lawyers (and others) were physically obstructed by the police from going any further and we’re, perhaps, less than 15 minutes away from our destination. Police cars and vans were parked on the adjacent road, meaning the police have effectively blocked traffic much earlier, giving me the impression that this is point of no return. Sure enough, the tone of the negotiations took on a increasing crescendo of unintelligible exchanges of shouts and harsh words. Four lawyers and a lady activist (who refused Haris’s request for her to drop the placard she was carrying) got nabbed.
The rest of us continued and completed the ‘Malaysian Human Rights Day’ stroll without further fanfare which boggles my mind as to the very purpose of why the RMP were there in the first place. Ah yes..no permit, right folks. The standard response by the government as to why an assembly of more than five persons for the same purpose cannot be tolerated for the sake of peace and stability.
And they do so after applying an underhanded tactic of allowing the walk to begin, escort the participants along the way and spring the trap later. The government will then announce that another illegal assembly has been quashed by the authorities, ostensibly, to maintain peace and harmony in this great nation of ours, and arrests has been made on the organisers/leaders as proof of the government’s firm grip on the rule of law. To add insult to injury, the DBKL boys had their grubby fingers groping onto some action as well.
Shall we, therefore, ask our government which have an arsenal of restrictive laws like the ISA to curtail civil liberties what their plans are to celebrate the UN World Human Rights Day? Does AAB’s Islamic Hadhari administration have any noble functions arranged to remind Malaysians that our freedom gained since Independence is worth fighting for and it is meant for all of us? Or will today’s incident become another blot on the government’s report card of missed opportunities because it is not a government of the people, by the people and for the people?
Therefore, words like “Lawyers for freedom of assembly bersama rakyat” and “Pertahankan demokrasi dan protes rakyat” which were carried on the banner/placard by the walkers should instead be replaced by “I have my human rights too..and the authority to enforce it“.
Please go to Shanghaifish‘s blog to view the photos he has uploaded for a chronological visual of what I have narrated above.
And something else but you need to go here to find out how our government is spending your tax ringgit.
*MIBs – Men in Blue lah
Update: 10th December ’07. Alrighty, let’s see what the MSM reported.
The Star mentioned that no permission was given by the police bloke above for the participants to begin walking from Sogo. If it’s so, why was there no video or photographic evidence depicting a police cordon at Sogo? The first call by the police for the assembly to disperse was made near the Coliseum Cafe, approximately 250 meters from Sogo and with the crowd already walking towards the Bar Council building. Police entrapment at work?
The NST have the same police bloke saying “Although it was a peaceful march, it was an illegal assembly and we had to arrest the nine”. (bold emphasis is mine). This is as priceless as his “I have my human rights, too“. Tell me, folks. Which one takes precedent? Our Constitution which entitles us to march peaceably without arms or a police permit made as a law in parliament which unilaterally takes away that very same right from you?
Acting in good faith has dire consequences when you’re dealing with a party which does not behave like gentlemen nor ‘Give peace a chance’. Nuff said.