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Men in black rain blows on camped students

 | April 19, 2012

The students camping at Dataran Merdeka were set upon by some 50 to 60 men clad in black. The assailants tore down their tents and threw punches.

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PETALING JAYA: A group of men clad in black rained blows on the students camping in protest at Dataran Merdeka in the wee hours of the morning.

At about 3am, Mohd Syahid Mohd Zaini, from the student group Malaysia Bangkit, told FMT that some 50 to 60 men went on a rampage for about 10 minutes.

“There were about 50 of us in 14 tents. The men suddenly came and started smashing things. They destroyed our tents and punched a few students. They even took away the cameras of those who were trying to record the incident,” he said.

He added that one protester sustained injuries to his eye and was taken to hospital. It could not be verified if the injured person belonged to the student groups or the Occupy movement.

The students had been camping at Dataran Merdeka since Saturday following a rally where 300 undergraduates marched into the city centre demanding free tertiary education and for the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan scheme to be abolished.

Tempers flared on Monday between Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) officers and students when the latter defied orders to leave. Punches were thrown and one undergraduate suffered a minor gash behind his neck.

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The students complained that DBKL had been harassing them on a daily basis to force them to vacate the area.

It is learnt that Kuala Lumpur mayor, Ahmad Fuad Ismail, had yet to reply to the student’s request to carry on with the protest.

Although the students occupied a small spot at the far right end of the field, there was a rush to clear them from the area because the “Konsert Di Raja” (Royal Concert) would be held at Dataran Merdeka on Saturday.

The students were seen as interrupting preparations, which began early this week, for the concert.

‘It was an organised attack’

Met later, the protesters said their assailants had carried out the attack in an organised manner.

“They came in from two sides and ambushed us, they even attacked the girls,” said Occupy’s Temme Lee.

“I was walking back from the toilet when five guys cornered me, it felt really scary, they even pushed me to the ground, as I was holding a camera. They targeted anyone with a camera or any other recording devices,” she added.

Nik Mohamad Haqim, 17, who was among those injured, said that he participated in the protest since Sunday.

“I was asleep when the men dragged me out and kicked me,” he said, adding that the incident would not change his mind about protesting for a valid cause.

“We are not fighting for our rights alone. Others will benefit from this fight. We have no problem in being attacked again,” he said.

‘Police did not help’

Occupy movement’s Lew Pik Svonn said she was disappointed that the police had merely stood by and watched the incident.

“There were police cars along the street but they didn’t take any action. Only three policemen came and asked the guys to stop but that didn’t stop the attackers,” she recounted.

Speaking at a press conference later, Malaysia Bangkit’s Mohd Syahid also expressed disappointment with the police.

“The police are supposed to ensure public peace. We were not even retaliating,” he said.

He`added that the students would stay put but would not put up tents on Saturday as a mark of respect for the King’s concert.

FMT learnt that six police reports had been lodged over the attack.

In an immediate reaction, human rights group Suaram condemned the attack on the students.

“Such acts of gangsterism must be stopped. It is the duty of the police to protect citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble and speak,” said its executive director E Nalini in a statement.

She said the police should conduct an investigation on the attack and immediately arrest the culprits.

Deputy minister expresses concern

When met at Parliament, Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said his officers were gathering information on the incident.

Calling it a matter of concern,Saifuddin said he was glad that no one suffered serious injuries although he was informed that one student was hospitalised after the attack.

“To my mind, only DBKL and the police had the right to evict them. Not anyone else,” he said.

Asked if he would visit the students now in light of the new development, Saifuddin was non-committal, saying he would have to wait for information from his officers.

“It’s a matter of concern. The students have the right to be there,” he added.

Watch video of the attack here


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