|Syed Jaymal Zahiid & Rahmah Ghazali | Dec 9, 08 2:36pm|
Perak and Johor police arrested four activists and detained six other participants in Jerit’s ‘Ride for Change’ campaign, including Sungai Siput PSM parliamentarian Dr D Jeyakumar.
In Perak, those arrested were Yong Chat Wah and Ooi Choon Nam, both 22, who were picked up at the Bukit Gantang Rest area in Taiping, Perak, and taken to the district police headquarters.
According to human rights organisation Suaram, they were arrested for leafleting in the area while those in Kuala Kangsar were detained “as part of the systematic attempt by police to frustrate their campaign”.
Jerit coordinator Y Kohila, when contacted, said it was ridiculous for police to claim that Ooi and Yong were arrested for distributing leaflets which do not fulfill criteria of the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
“The Act requires us to provide details like the name of our organisation and full address on the leaflets. We have done so but yet they still arrested our cyclists. As we know it, this is just another attempt to harass and frustrate our campaigners,” she said.
Ooi and Yong had their statements recorded and were released on police bail about 5.40pm, she added.
Jeyakumar, 53, and five others were stopped while cycling near the Kuala Kangsar highway toll exit and sent to the Kuala Kangsar police headquarters for questioning.
They were identified as R Rani, 53, who is Jeyakumar’s wife; M Sukumaran, 47; P Jody, 49; M Karthiges, 27, and S Vasuabbrow, 49.
When contacted this afternoon, Jeyakumar(right) said the six have been told they will be charged with obstructing police in the line of duty.
The six were later released on police bail at about 7.45pm and told to report back to the police station on Dec 23.
“This is really unecessary,” said Jeyakumar when contacted later.
“I had contacted the Kuala Kangsar police station, talked to the police chief and informed them that we will be passing by and gave him my number.
“This is just a group of harmless people, but we have been treated like a threat to national security,” he added.
In Johor, another two participants – who were driving a van and a four-wheel drive carrying campaign leaflets – were arrested in Segamat about 2pm. No action was taken against the driver of an accompanying lorry that was transporting the bicycles.
Suaram Johor coordinator Nyam Kee Ham, 25, and Cheng Lee Whee, 26, were released about 3.30pm – the latter on police bail – after their statements were taken, but waited at the Segamat district police headquarters until the vehicles were given back to them.
However, Cheng (left) claimed that she was not told that she was under arrest until after she had given her statement. She will have to report back to the station on Dec 23.
Nyam said: “We are determined to proceed with our journey to our next destination in Gemas, Negri Sembilan, where we will stay overnight.”
Allegation of sexual assault
A female cyclist Helen Mary Johnson told Malaysiakini that she had been “sexually assaulted and punched in the face” by a police officer just outside the Kuala Kangsar police staion.
“I was there to take photos of the police station and to document what happened. The officer came up to me and tried to confiscate my camera,” she alleged.
“I refused to give him the camera and a scuffle followed. The officer grabbed my breast and punched me in the face, causing my lips to bleed.”
The officer, she added, managed to get the camera, but she has lodged a police report against him.
It was also alleged that Lee Huat Seng, who owns the camera, sustained injuries on the arm when he tried to prevent the officer from taking it away.
An eventful 16-day tour
Today marks the seventh day of what has become an eventful 16-day ride to Kuala Lumpur, organised by grassroots coalition Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit).
Suaram and Jerit coordinator E Nalini described the latest moves by the police as “another attempt to frustrate Jerit’s just campaign but the activists will not be deterred by this and will continue to cycle for change”.
Last Thursday – on the second day – one cyclist was detained in Merbau Pulas, Kedah and detained for several hours , for questioning at the Kulim district police headquarters.
The lorry transporting the bicycles were stopped at the Penang Bridge on the third day and escorted to the Bayan Lepas police station.
The bicycles were however returned to the cyclists after a few hours.
Some 50 cyclists, most of them teenage schoolchildren, kicked of the Jerit campaign from Alor Star last Tuesday while a southern team of 15 cyclists began their journey on Saturday from Johor.
However, even before they started their two-week long trip, some of the particapants from the Johor team were detained for questioning.
Despite constant police harassment, the cyclists are determined to reach Parliament House as scheduled next Thursday, where both teams will converge to deliver a six-point memorandum to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The ‘People – The force of change’ campaign is Jerit’s attempt to raise awareness on issues such as food shortages, environmental problems, draconian laws and the financial crisis.