KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — Authorities had no reason to detain over a dozen activists and political leaders before and after the Bersih 5 yesterday, the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) said today.
In a statement commending Malaysians for exercising their right to assemble, the commission also pointed out that the Bersih 5 rally in Kuala Lumpur as well as associated events nationwide proceeded peacefully despite police action.
“Suhakam cannot find justification in the arrests of several key assembly organisers,” it said in a statement.
“The authorities have a constitutional duty to explain the basis of the arrests of these individuals, and to clarify the offences that they have been accused of.”
The commission also lauded the police for maintaining peace despite both Bersih 5 and the rival “Red Shirts” rally taking place in Kuala Lumpur at the same time.
Police detained 15 activists and politicians before and after yesterday’s rallies, including Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah, who is being held for 28 days under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today declined to comment on the decision to use the security law meant to combat terrorism against the Bersih 2.0 leader, when met outside the Ummah Agenda Empowering Convention 2.0 at the Putra World Trade Centre.
“Let’s ask the Attorney-General and Inspector-General of Police to answer,” he said. “I don’t want to touch on operational issues.”
Police today released some of those arrested, but also secured two-day remand orders for graphics artist Fahmi Reza, activist Hishamuddin Rais, PKR MPs Chua Tian Chang and Zuraida Kamaruddin, DAP’s Pasir Pinji assemblyman Howard Lee, and student activist Mohd Luqman Nul Hakim Zul Razal.
They also have an order allowing them to keep “Red Shirts” leader Datuk Seri Jamal Yunos in custody until Tuesday for an investigation over a previous clash with Bersih 2.0 supporters earlier this week.