An impromptu anti-ISA vigil was held last night outside the Jelutong Police Station in Penang for a good half an hour after the one planned at the Speakers’ Square was disrupted.
1250: Shu Shi, who is now attached to women’s group Awam, has been charged under the Police Act in connection with an incident at a police station in Penang in 2008. The former Suaram Penang coordinator will have to appear in court on 16 August. Her NGO colleagues are now in the process of posting bail of RM500 for her.
1140: Activist Lau Shu Shi is still waiting in court with her lawyer. The other four arrested last night in Penang and released on police bail will have to turn up at the police station on 14 August to find out if charges will be pressed.
0200: Earlier last night, a group of pro-ISA rowdies infiltrated the crowd attending the planned vigil at the Esplanade leading to some scuffling and shoving.
But it was only those anti-ISA activists at the vigil who were arrested: Suaram Penang coordinator Jing Cheng, PSM’s Chon Kai, Pekerja Tanjung activist Kris Khaira and lawyer Darshan Singh were taken away in a truck to the Jelutong Police Station.
Despite repeated warnings to disperse, the crowd at the Esplanade stood their ground, until the cops finally felt that there had been one too many press conferences and stepped in to show they meant business. By then many had already dispersed while others had gone to Jelutong to lend support to those arrested.
It was indeed ironic that the four were arrested at Speakers’ Square which is supposed to uphold freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. What happened last night defiled that hallowed spot.
About 30 activists and anti-ISA protesters, with a large contingent of media in tow, then turned up outside the Jelutong Police Station by 10.00pm. They held out a banner bearing the words “Mansuhkan ISA!” and chanted the same words. Many passing motorists honked in support.
Half an hour later, when Jelutong police figured out what was happening, they emerged from the station to give the activists five minutes to disperse. That prompted a couple of them to sing “We shall overcome”! A policeman behind one activist tried to blow out her candle from over her shoulder, while another plainclothes cop stomped on a candle at the edge of the road.
The activists and friends then dispersed to nearby coffee shops.
Meanwhile, lawyers Lim Kah Cheng (an MPPP councillor), Agatha Foo and
Murali Karen worked hard to assist those arrested. Kah Cheng Murali, the Penang Bar Committee chairmanA fourth unidentified lawyer secured a promise from a senior police officer that the four would be released on police bail by midnight. (As an aside, it was interesting to see women lawyers at the forefront last night, negotiating with police in both Penang and PJ.)
Someone joked that the four would definitely be released as there were three lawyers and a priest inside the station to lend a hand!
Just around midnight, as the those arrested were about to be released, uniformed police entered the coffee shop where Lau Shu Shi, the former Suaram Penang coordinator who is now with Awam, was seated with friends and activists. A policewoman escorted her to the Jelutong Police Station.
There, Shu Shi was served with a warrant of arrest in connection with a May 2008 offence under Section 19 of the Police Act. Shortly after, she was released but will have to appear in court at 8.30am today.
The police even took away Jing Cheng’s ISA T-shirt (as evidence?!). He emerged from the police station with a jacket borrowed from a friend.
Meanwhile, activist B K Ong reports on his encounter with the pro-ISA group:
I arrived at the vigil scheduled for 9.00pm some half an hour early. I noticed police blocking the entrances to the Esplanade. I walked towards the Esplanade field where there were already some scattered crowds. Before I could say `hello’ to a few familiar faces the crowd started retreating from the sea side, dogged by a few uniform police. When the crowd was pushed out of the field, the police stopped. So the crowd was milling around the edge of the field, just inside the walkway besides the main road. Then a group of fierce-looking and foul-mouthed people in their thirties or forties marched towards the scattered crowd. They don’t look like the anti-ISA civil society type. I could not resist taking a photo of them. That make them focus in my direction.
I pretended to sit down on a concrete fencing at the edge of the field, adjusting my camera. Some of the folks above spoke in Bahasa Malaysia and instigated each other to do something about me. Then one of them embolden himself and came to sit next to me. He pretended to speak into his hand phone but pushed his elbow till it touched my face. He was muttering ‘Mau cari pasal? Mau cari pasal?‘ He must have been trying to pick a fight with me as instigated by a few other voices from that fierce-looking crowd. I stood up and moved into the walkway slowly, avoiding the eye contact which could be interpreted as a sign of agreement to engage with him in the only way he wanted. Then the guy next to me declared his victory by laughing with his friends. They make even more instigation e.g. to pull off my beard.
Before the guy could come closer to me a police personnel marched in to shout at the folks above to ask them to disperse. The police only asked them not to force the police to make arrests – which was in strong contrast to the police’s preemptive arrests of three organisers of the peaceful anti-ISA candle light vigil earlier.
The group quickly crossed the road and assembled defiantly at a corner outside a building of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.