Upon the release of their friends, they chanted outside of the police station, “Hidup Hidup! Mahasiswa!” “Student Power!”. There was so much hope and strength in those voices. The air was filled with conviction. Conviction in the face of lawlessness that robbed 15 students of their liberties, the price they had to pay for believing in what is written in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

On 14 December 2011, 15 students were arrested, detained for six hours for carrying placards in a silent protest to demand academic freedom at KL Sentral. They were denied their constitutional rights to peacefully assemble, constitutional rights to legal representation and they were intimidated by special branch officers who insisted on taking down “intelligence statements”.

It was very obvious on that day that their conviction was loathed by those who have been serving their political masters with unconditional submission and loyalty. In the midst of the jubilant celebration, one of the police officers who was earlier in charge of the arrest and detention suddenly stormed tumultuously into the crowd outside the police station, grabbed a student’s arm and started shouting frantically, questioning the student’s act of taking photos of their friends.

Everyone was puzzled as to what was happening. The student was being dragged into the police station. Everyone started asking the basis of the police officer’s action. The lawyers protested the arbitrariness of the police officer’s action. He eventually let go of the tight grip wrapped around the student’s arm.

He was shouting furiously, shivering in anger as he walked into the police station. In the face of imminent threat, intimidation and harassment, the students cheered, they pledged to keep on fighting for what they believe in. They were fearless.

It’s intriguing to witness such anger coming from those who have been in the position of power for 54 years, a power that has been inflicted with impunity on ordinary people who believe in freedom, people who are only armed with unspoken conviction that someday, things will change, people will be free from shackles of oppression that have long chained their minds.

The existing power structure is terribly shaken by the voices of people who refuse to be coerced into submission despite the imminent threat posed by an arsenal of oppressive laws which has been used against people who refuse to submit to the dictates of the ruling power.

The continued ruthless assault on freedom of speech and assembly has been amplified through the passing of the repressive Peaceful Assembly Bill which acts as a new weapon to stifle dissent. People resisted before the Bill was passed. People still resist after the Bill was passed. And people will continue to resist until such oppressive legislation is crushed.

People are well aware of the consequences of their actions, but they still choose to resist. This is again evident from the Saturday’s march organized by students to reclaim public space to get their voices heard. They marched on in defiance of the Bill and all other existing oppressive laws to call for academic freedom. Again, they were fearless.

Resistance indeed creates fear. It’s not the fear of the people against whom the oppression is being directed to. It’s the fear of those in power, it’s the fear of those who have all the weapons at their disposal, it’s the fear of losing the power to dictate and oppress.

Possessed by such fear, they forget that history has shown that the harder the people are pushed to the wall, the harder they would fight back. It’s an inevitable reciprocal arrangement. Blinded by such fear, they forget that the people become more indignant, to reclaim what those in power fear the most, freedom from fear.

By Fadiah Nadwa Fikri

Lawyers For Liberty.