KUALA LUMPUR — Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman has pledged his support to the eight activists arrested by police in a protest yesterday, despite criticism from Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azis Jamman.
Quoting Malay Mail’s report of the arrest, after wrapping up a town hall session with youths in Kota Kinabalu, he said on Twitter: “In the new Malaysia, the right to peaceful protest should be safeguarded even if it’s against the ruling government’s interest.”
Azis has chastised the eight activists for taking their issues to the streets on Malaysia Day.
Calling it unnecessary, he said one of the activists detained, Sabah Parti Amanah Negera Youth chief Mohd Khairudin Daud, should have known better than to stage a protest without a permit.
Meanwhile, Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu has defended Mohd Khairudin’s arrest.
The defence minister said street protests are part of a democratic nation, and he had been in the same position many times before, when he was part of the Opposition.
“It’s a normal thing in a democratic country. I have been arrested tens of times before, in the name of pursuing democracy. It’s normal, not a big deal,” he said after meeting Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal in Kota Kinabalu.
Asked why the group did not air their grievances via formal channels, Mohamad said that was not an issue.
“As long as he didn’t bear arms, it’s not a problem,” he said.
The eight, who were among about 100 people taking part in the “Pandang Ke Sabah” rally, co-organised by student groups, were detained by police and allegedly manhandled while police tried to disperse the crowd.
They claimed to have been punched, with many sustaining injuries.
The rally was to make 10 demands, including equal education rights, better public transport service, and job opportunities for Sabahans.
The activists accused Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) officers of igniting the violence.
Following their release later, one of them, Mukmin Nantang, told Malay Mail they could not be sure if the police were involved in the scuffle since their arrest happened so fast. However, he said the group presumed as such later on, since the police officers were also investigated.
“We can confirm that DBKK started it,” he said.
Kota Kinabalu police chief Habibi Majinji said the activists are being investigated under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing officers.
They have been released on bail, and are also being investigated under Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) for allegedly failing to obtain a permit for their protest.