On the night of April 27, I left for Dataran Merdeka after work to stay at Citin Hotel Masjid Jamek, where I made a reservation weeks before the Bersih 3.0 rally. There I met up with friends and scouted around Dataran Merdeka to plan for escape routes in case anything happened. The moment we arrived, Bersih protesters had already flooded its entrance. They were chanting. The square was all barb wired and guarded by hundreds of policemen.
I started out at KLCC on the day of rally (April 28) with the Himpunan Hijau 3.0 group. We marched from KLCC before joining the rest at Dataran Merdeka for the sit-in. The Himpunan Hijau protesters gathered at Puduraya, and then went to Dataran Merdeka around 1pm. The Bersih protesters gathered along Masjid Jamek LRT station chanting, “Stop Lynas”, “Hidup Bersih”.
Some started to sit down in front of Masjid Jamek LRT station, while some rushed into the Dataran entrance chanting, “Buka, Buka!” (open, open). I was taking shelter at OCBC and wasn’t sure what triggered the firing of the tear gas and water cannons. People slowly retreated after the first and second rounds of canisters were fired. After a couple of shots, the people began to panic as they had no means of retreat.
I walked slowly to my hotel to seek shelter from the tear gas. Many people came unprepared – without towel, salt or water. I had soaked a towel with salt the night before and offered it to the rest, trying to help as many people as I could. After a couple of hiccups, I successfully returned to Citin Hotel, where the security guards allowed only residents to enter.
Half an hour later – around 3.45pm to 4.15pm – while I was sitting inside the hotel cafe for some rest and refreshment, some three or four policemen barged in. The moment one of them saw me, he pointed at me and wanted to take me away. Grabbing me by the shoulder, he shouted, “You ikut saya!” (you follow me). I asked whether I was under arrest and on what grounds. I told him I left my wallet and identification card in my bag in the room, and I needed to get them.
But the policeman repeatedly shouted, “You diam, ikut saya!” (shut up and follow me). Leaving me no chance to grab my IC, I knew I’d be in trouble. So I raised both my hands in the air and shouted, “I won’t struggle, I won’t struggle, I won’t struggle!” inside the hotel foyer. I was then hit behind my head by another policemen. Turning around, I saw that he kept both of his hands behind his back, and I wasn’t sure whether it was him who hit me. In the distance, I heard the hotel security guard telling him not to hit me as I was a resident of the hotel; the policeman just screamed and told him to shut up.
The policemen brought me all the way from Citin Hotel to Dataran Merdeka, shouting for me to run, “I nak you lari, LARI! LARI! LARI!”
Refused right to call lawyer
I tried to calm him down and kept telling him that I wasn’t going to struggle, and that I would follow what he said. As soon as I arrived at Dataran Merdeka, a group of other policemen saw me and charged forward – kicking me on my legs and back.
I kept telling the policeman who grabbed me that I was not going to struggle free. When the other policemen tried to charge forward, he warned them not to hit me – “Jangan pukul dia.” I tried to look for his name and batch number, but there was none.
I was refused the right to call any lawyers or friends. I could only secretly send out text messages (thank God for the Blackberry). We were all led into a cage without being told where we’d be sent to, even though we persistently asked.
I only found out upon arrival that we were in Pulapol (the Police Training Centre). Quickly, I texted my friends. We were all, however, treated surprisingly well when we got there. I asked, “Why treat us so politely after beating us up? What’s the point? Don’t you think it’s pointless?”
They just kept quiet. An hour later, MP Tian Chua arrived, descending from the bus and comforting everyone, “Jangan takut.” (don’t be afraid). I had to say that worked like a charm. We were left unattended at the detention area, then officers started calling out names one by one – 512 of them altogether – taking down our particulars. Luckily, they heard me out on my explanation for not having an identification card.
Subsequently, we were left unattended for many hours. It was only at nightfall that they began calling out names again – this time to take our photos. Most of the people present were badly injured – most were hit and beaten – including a 71-year-old lady, “Mei Jie” – click for her press release. Two tourists were also detained – Jose from Spain and Andy from Austalia. They were arrested when they were standing outside their hostel and just looking at the rally.
It was only at about 1am or so that the police began releasing people batch by batch. Tian Chua was supposed to leave in one of the early batches, but instead decided to stay put and wait for everyone to be released first. I was freed around 3am, and waited in the bus for about half an hour. The bus exited Pulapol from the back door – avoiding all our friends and family, lawyers, and journalists who were waiting at the front entrance – and dropped us all at Jalan Duta at about 4am.
We were detained for 11 hours: denied our right to legal representation and were not told the reasons for our detention.