On 7th March, over 10,000 Malaysians from all walks of life and socio-economic background gathered together and marched from Sogo to KLCC. I, too, was there. It was the most diverse group of people that I had seen taking to the streets since the last massive gatherings of Bersih 3 and Himpunan Rakyat at Stadium Merdeka.
Besides several isolated incidents, including that of a firecracker being let off in front of KLCC – no doubt the work of agents provocateur – the #KitaLawan march went of successfully, peacefully, and left a positive glow on all who were there.
Yet what happened and has been happening since then leaves a bitter taste in many mouthes. The police began rounding up the alleged organizers of #KitaLawan, and even released a threat-tinged statement to that effect.
Among the first to be picked up was Saifullah Zulkifli, the PKR Kelana Jaya Youth Chief and a staffer in DS Anwar’s office. He was picked up near Masjid Jamek, where he had parked his car, by 8 (yes, eight) policemen who had been following him throughout the gathering. Thankfully his friend, a lawyer, was with him, and so we managed to hear from him immediately.
The following morning, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, PKR Youth Chief and Selangor State Exco, was giving his statement at the Dang Wangi IPD when he was told he was under arrest. He was subsequently held under remand for two days, because the police felt they needed to hold him to help with investigations into matters including – and I got this from his lawyer – alleged vandalism of a fast food outlet, alleged vandalism of a police car, alleged firing of a flare, and alleged breaking of a potted plant.
Nik Nazmi was held at the Jinjang Lockup Facility. When Nik Nazmi’s wife, Imaan, wanted to see him, the police only allowed her to meet him at around 5.30pm – after an entire day of waiting. Even then, he was dressed in the standard purple “uniform” of lockup denizens; he was also shoeless and handcuffed.
The next day, social media was abuzz with a picture of Nik Nazmi at Dang Wangi IPD, where he was to be questioned. Again, he was handcuffed and shoeless.
Not long after this picture went viral, people shared an image showing the difference in how he was treated by the police compared to former Selangor Menteri Besar, Khir Toyo.
Then, the message from Nik Nazmi’s mom to him went viral in Whatsapp:
“Stay strong my son we will continue to pray for you it breaks my heart to see you shoeless in prison attire and being handcuffed i will never forget what the government is doing to my son he looks like a criminal even before being charged may Allah keep you strong. – Puan Nik Rahimah Nik Mahmood”
When my mom saw the picture of Nik Nazmi shoeless and handcuffed, she was furious. So much so that, despite being in hospital for an eye procedure, she practically forced me to write the following in my Facebook page:
“In my opinion, can’t the former (Selangor DUN) Speaker and current State Exco (i.e. Nik Nazmi) be given some leeway to be questioned at the IPD; there is no necessity to put him the in lockup (in Jinjang). Because, if I’m not wrong, the IPD has facilities for people to stay overnight while being questioned.
Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General and other senior civil servants have never been put in the lockup while being investigated. In fact I recall even a Perak royalty who was being investigated in a murder case was not put in the lockup. I know this because the police told me so, when I was Director General of the Legal Affairs Division (BHEUU) at the Prime Minister’s Department.
When I was the DG then, I always visited lockups and prisons. I always objected to suspects being treated as though they have already been convicted. Shoeless, handcuffed, like they have no pride (harga diri). Is this what is meant by a developed nation? I have always objected even from back then!”
(Yes, that’s my mother!)
While Nik Nazmi was released after 2 days, there remains the question of his treatment. I hope this episode gives us the opportunity to ask if this is how we should treat not only our elected representatives, but also people who are under remand in general.
See you at the next #KitaLawan “get-together”!