They came by the thousands ...
They arrived in the morning ...
They were students ...
They held a demonstration ...
And they were not assaulted.
If you are wondering what the above "poem" is about, probably you are justified for not remembering the incident since in this country, demonstrations almost always end up with Federal Reserve Units (FRU), water canons, tear gas and a fiasco!
August this year, thousands of students from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) held a demonstration in front of 'the state secretariat building' (Read the full article here in The Star Online and The New Straits Times Online) in response to Selangor Menteri Besar's proposal to open up the universiti to non-Malays.
Yes, the police were there (I think) and true the demonstration or the protest or whatever you want to call it, was peaceful. But the question that begs to be answered is why were they not dispersed? Why was the FRU not present? Where were the legendary water canons and tear gas?
This is an excerpt of what Terence Fernandez, a prominent columnist in The Sun newspaper, had to say about this:
ALMOST every month for one reason or another, a group of politicians and supporters of the previous Selangor administration congregate in front of the state government building, holding up banners to protest against one policy or another. These include centralised pig farming, a suggestion to open up Universiti Teknologi Mara to non-Malays and the appointment of a non-bumiputra to head the Selangor State Development Corporation.
In all those instances, the riot police were absent and Selangor police chief Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar’s men treated the protesters with kid gloves – reminiscent of their counterparts in KL and Penang during other illegal gatherings against the Bar Council and the Pakatan Rakyat Penang government this year.
On Sunday night, however, the full force of the law was brought to bear by the men in blue, with the backing of the Federal Reserve Unit and their water cannons, batons and shields.
(Read the full article here)
Last year, during the Bersih Rally, a full bastion of the FRU were present and they did use their water canons (which were contaminated with chemical by the way) and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Their actions could be lauded if the rally was in any way violent. But the rally was anything but that! It was the hallmark of a peaceful rally. Commendable. And yet the full force of the FRU was utilised.
This injustice was repeated again on the 9th of November 2008, just a few days ago, when a peaceful night-vigil was held opposite the Civic Centre, near Amcorp Mall. Actually this vigil was held to mark the one-year anniversary of last year's Bersih Rally.
But this time, the purpose of the vigil was to protest against the Internal Security Act (ISA). Besides Bersih members, supporters of blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin were also present.
The police forcefully dispersed the crowd who were singing the national anthem, Negaraku. Firstly, this was an utter disrespect to the national anthem. Next, why did the police had to disperse a peaceful vigil?
Then why were the UiTM students not dispersed? Probably because the Selangor government decided to handle them softly because that is the right way to handle a peaceful demonstration, let alone a vigil.
I am much appaled by the actions of the police. They had no right to use force to disperse the crowd. Children were present at the vigil. A woman was hurt. And nearly two dozen people were arrested. Why they were arrested? What crime did they commit? Then why were the students not arrested?
All that I can say is the police should deal fairly with everyone. True this vigil was illegal but that should not give them the right to use force to disperse the people.