PETALING JAYA, Aug 1 — Riot police broke up several candle-light vigils across the country tonight, detaining 30 people here, four in Penang and one in Ipoh.
The crowds had gathered to protest the Internal Security Act (ISA) which turned 50 today. The security law allows for detention without trial and has been wielded against more than 10,000 people since it went to effect on August 1, 1960.
Selangor state executive councillor Ronnie Liu, who informed The Malaysian Insider of the arrests here, has proceeded to the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters to post bail for those detained.
Witnesses said among those held were PKR supreme council member Badrul Hisham Shaharin and Anti-ISA Movement (GMI) chairman Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh.
Also detained were seven women who had taken part in the gathering at the Padang Timur, opposite the Amcorp Mall here.
Some 30 Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) members erected a security barricade around the field although PKR strategist Chua Tian Chang claimed it had been booked for the candle-light vigil scheduled for 8pm.
In Georgetown, police held four men, including Suaram's Penang branch co-ordinator Ong Jing Cheng, who gathered for the vigil at the Speakers’ Corner.
One man was also reported to have been detained briefly in Ipoh, at a rally near the Ipoh City Council office.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) officials said that others held at the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters are Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S. Arutchelvan and several Suaram members.
Among those outside the police station seeking to free those arrested include Petaling Jaya Selatan MP Hee Loy San, PKR information chief Latheefa Koya, PSM president Dr Nasir Hashim and around 18 lawyers.
The lawyers managed to enter the police station at 9.45pm to speak to those detained, but Latheefa informed The Malaysian Insider that they were unsure if any or all of 30 will be released tonight.
Latheefa, also a Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor, accused the police of failing to respect the local authority’s jurisdiction.
“The council has given written permission for this programme and issued an authorisation letter. But the police completely ignored it.
“This was simply a candle-light vigil. These are candles being held, not weapons,” she noted.
Speaking to reporters outside the police headquarters, Liu blasted the police’s move to deploy riot police against the candle-light vigil.
“I consider this to be a peaceful gathering. The police should not have done this,” he said.
Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya district police chief ACP Arjunaidi Mohamed told reporters that their hand was forced, after those involved failed to disperse when instructed to do so near the start of the gathering around 7pm.
Arjunaidi also labelled the organisers claims that the event was sanctioned by the MBPJ as nonsensical, pointing out that the city council had no authority to issue the relevant permits for the vigil.