By Ashman Adam | Malay Mail
Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat (SSR) has filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian government and police over the arrest of 16 youths at a candlelight vigil last August mourning those who died from COVID-19.
Group spokesman Asraf Shafari said the coalition filed a statement of claim this morning accusing the police and government of false imprisonment, assault, and battery, breach of constitutional rights, breach of statutory duties, and malfeasance of public office.
He said that they were seeking a court declaration that the authorities’ actions on the day were unlawful, and claiming general damages that would be assessed and determined by the court.
“I saw how participants were dragged, screamed at and abused by the police that night. These are not emblematic of a democratic nation and a ‘government that cares’. That vigil was a reflection of the rakyat’s pain and suffering.
“Yet the government’s response was not to understand and to solve the rakyat’s problems but instead to silence their cries. Shouldn’t a government be fair and understanding? Is it not the utmost cruelty when our anguish is silenced just like that?” said Ashraf in a press conference with the media today.
He added that the events of that night were meant to honour 13,385 Malaysians who had died from COVID-19 then, but ended up becoming a night of shame, culminating in participants being dragged away by police.
New Sin Yew, a lawyer representing SSR, said the government and police must be made liable for the actions on that night, which he said was a clear abuse of power.
“It is emblematic of Malaysia’s separation of powers, as enshrined in our Federal Constitution that this claim is brought for adjudication before our courts. The transgressions and malfeasance of those in power must be checked and held to account.
“The behaviour shown by the police during the August 19 vigil showed clear abuse of power and wanton disregard of fundamental rights as per our Constitution,” he said.
SSR then emphasised that democratic spaces must not be shut down, and the police must be more receptive to parties who wish to use those spaces to hold the government accountable or to stand in solidarity with the wider community who are facing terrible adversity.
On August 19, the police had arrested 31 participants of a candlelight vigil in remembrance of over 13,000 who have died from COVID-19.
Dang Wangi Police ACP Chief Noor Dellhan Yahaya then said that attendees of the candlelight vigil were being investigated for assembly without notice and breaching COVID-19 restrictions.
He said compound notices were issued to the 31 participants after their statements were recorded, with a fine of RM2,000 each.