The fight to free the PSM EO6, part 5

In June/July 2011, in anticipation of the Bersih 2 rally, the police under the direction of the UMNO-BN government detained 6 PSM leaders under the Emergency Ordinance (EO). For this 10-year-anniversary of this detention, Thinkleft will run a series of articles documenting the struggle to free the six from unlawful detention.

Click here to read part 1 of this series
Click here to read part 2 of this series
Click here to read part 3 of this series
Click here to read part 4 of this series
Click here to read statements of support and solidarity for the EO6 from local and international organizations

July 2nd –BERSIH declared unlawful and EO arrest was made

On 2nd. July , BERSIH was declared illegal by the Home Ministry in the morning and in the afternoon, the 6 PSM leaders were released and rearrested immediately under the Emergency Ordinance. It was a day of total UMNO-Police assault on civil liberties in the country.

The manner in which the detainees were brought in to court on the 2nd suggested that we were in a police state. Massive police presence and perhaps all the police units in Penang were mobilized for this operation. The rest of the remaining 26 detainees were taken to court where the police requested an additional 7 days remand for the same charge of waging war against the King. All this was done even when the police could not find a single weapon or bullet which is an ingredient needed for such offences. The police also did not search any PSM offices or any of the detainee’s houses. The deputy IGP Khalid even announced to the media that the 24 will be remanded for another 7 days even though the court had not yet heard the extension of remand proceeding. If it were not for Counsel Haji Sulaiman’s skills and persistence, the Deputy IGP would have gotten his wish. The court only allowed 3 days detention against the wishes of the police and gave the police till the 4th.

It was a day of mixed emotions. While we were happy that the court did not give the full 7 days and we had just 3 more days to wait but the rearrest of the 6 PSM comrades under EO prompted much concern. The 6 were taken to Bukit Aman.

We decided to focus the campaign to secure the release of the 24 PSM members first and deal with the EO arrest later. We were very sure that this would also be according to the wishes of our EO6 comrades. While the black Maria carrying our PSM comrades left the court room on the 2nd of July, they were greeted by a huge turnout of supporters in their hundreds. They shouted slogans and gathered at the court entrance – full of energy and determination. The police was terrified that the extension of remand had yet to tame the PSM supporters. The struggle went on

In KL , the vigil started immediately when friends from SUARAM and other PSM members started acting immediately. A vigil was held on the same day on 2 July and it went on until the release. Lawyers under Edmond Bon were already at Bukit Aman on the very first day demanding for family and legal visits. Our legal team were very proactive.

EO – the aborted second round of rearrest

The 4th of July was another interesting and tense day. It was a day when the police had to decide if they wanted to charge or release the PSM 24. On the same day, we got very reliable source from some journalist, that BN politicians as well as some lawyers for the police from Bukit Aman were in Butterworth court to make yet another round of EO arrests. The Bukit Aman’s team presence at the court was very visible.

Initially we suspected it will be Sok Hwa, Remy and Jody, being the chosen three. Then names leaked out from the police that the three handcuffs waiting outside the court room were meant for Sok Hwa, Remy and myself. There were also around 30 policemen from Bukit Aman team ready to make the EO arrest. Some policeman also accidentally leaked the information and policemen were seen stationed at all corners to make the arrest.

It was yet another day of circus and court drama, as the waiting game on what the police and their masters wanted to do on the PSM 24. It became evident that the police wanted to exert total punishment and they played the game of hide and seek and prolonged the agony of waiting for the release of the 24 or for them to be charged.

We again had a huge turnout in court but there was also a huge police presence. The signs were not very good. Finally we made a very important move: we gathered the media and everyone around and announced that the Bukit Aman police were around to make three more EO arrests. The police were baffled that their secret had leaked. The press were also waiting for the rearrest. We also challenged the police that we would fight physically if they wanted to make the arrest, this was a conscious decision we made because we wanted to show the police that we could not tolerate such injustice and we wanted the people to know this arrest was unwarranted. We were ready for a fight.

On the other side, the DPP finally came and decided to charge all the 24 under several sections of the penal code and ISA. The police asked for RM 15,000 bail each and the court decided that the bail would be set at RM 8,000 each. The charging only took place at 4pm, yet another malicious attempt by the police to ensure we could not raise the bail money. Which bank will be open after 4pm? RM 8,000 each meant that we had to raise RM 192,000 and we had to do it within half an hour. We had actually prepared for a bail of just RM 2,000 each.

This was a calculated move to frustrate us. Yet, in around half an hour, well wishes from all over the country pumped money and in a almost 45 minutes, we could raise the entire amount. Even we were amazed with thisachievement. It seemed that the police plot to keep us longer failed.

It was also getting very dark outside and the police decided not to make the additional EO arrest on that day. It was a happy ending for the PSM24 who by now had stayed 10 days in detention – an experience which was new to every one of them.

The beauty was we clapped hands when the bus carrying the 24 left the Kepala Batas police station….it was a relief. It was relief for us because we finally got to leave Penang – a place where we were not so strong. Another touching moment was when all those released did not cherish much about their release but they immediately wanted to start the campaign to release the other 6. For us, now we could finally concentrate on the EO arrests.

As we end our chapter in Penang, we must thank and give credit to all the people who played an important part including Karen , Agatha as well as Prema , the lawyers from Penang Legal Aid Centre, political parties and leaders from DAP, PKR and PAS as well as Hindraf, SUARAM and Aliran who were being very supportive during our 10 days release operation in north. They gave us money, supported our food and lodging. The Penang PSM also played an important role for the entire period.

To be continued…

S. Arutchelvan
Deputy Chairperson
Parti Sosialis Malaysia


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