PETALING JAYA: A human rights NGO has demanded that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government investigate the arrest of eight youth and student activists for holding a demonstration to highlight issues in Sabah.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) said as an administration which had promised to uphold reform and protest human rights, PH must investigate the conduct of the police and the Kota Kinabalu City Council (DBKK).
It also urged the government to dismiss or suspend the officers who ordered the protesters’ dispersal and arrest.
“Any attempt by the PH administration to defend and justify the actions of those involved in violating the right to peaceful assembly is untenable and hypocritical as they were also the victims of such oppression in the past and cried foul against it,” Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy said in a statement.
Now that “the shoe was on the other foot”, he added, Putrajaya could not wash its hands of responsibility.
Sevan said the right to peaceful assembly was enshrined in the Federal Constitution and that the government was responsible for ensuring the rights of those who organised and participated in peaceful assemblies.
He said the decision to disperse the peaceful assembly through the use of force by the state government and police was against the constitution.
“The denial of civil liberties and human rights contributed to the downfall of the Barisan Nasional administration.
“The failure to address the human rights violations and oppression perpetrated by state agencies will bring about the same fate for the PH administration.”
Yesterday, police detained eight activists, including Sabah Amanah Youth chief Mohd Khairuddin Daud, for highlighting issues in Sabah after they held a demonstration at the busy Sunday market in Kota Kinabalu.
Witnesses said the activists were well-behaved and had strolled through the Gaya Street market playing musical instruments.
The demonstration, called the “Hari Malaysia Gathering: Pandang ke Sabah (Malaysia Day Gathering: Look Towards Sabah)”, was meant to draw the government’s attention to their 10 demands for the state.
According to media reports, Amanah president and Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu defended Khairuddin after the arrest, saying he himself had been in the same position many times when he was part of the opposition.
But Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman criticised the eight activists, calling the protest unnecessary.
The Warisan MP also said Khairudin should have known better than to stage a protest without a permit.
He said the police action against the group showed that the authorities did not take political sides when it came to the law.