KUALA LUMPUR: The police have been urged to investigate the alleged use of excessive force in dispersing students who gathered at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) in Tanjung Malim, Perak, in the early morning of New Year’s Day.

A representative of the students and spokesperson for the Movement for Academic Freedom (Bebas) Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz said the policemen involved must be brought to court.

“Those who attacked the students should be charged and punished so this does not happen to other Malaysian citizens,” he told reporters outside the Dang Wangi police headquarters here.

Among other violations, Haziq alleged that the police arrested the students violently and without proper reason.

“All these arrests are against the law and done in mala fide (malice)” he said.

He urged the Bukit Aman federal police headquarters to be “neutral, fair and just” in conducting an independent probe into the incident.

On Jan 1, 17 people were arrested after some 100 students were allegedly violently dispersed by the police and riot police in front of UPSI.

They were protesting for academic freedom and against the Universities and University Colleges Act. They had also wanted UPSI to drop charges against student leader Adam Adli, who had undergone disciplinary action for replacing a flag depicting the prime minister’s face with a banner proclaiming academic freedom two weeks ago.

‘There was no warning’

Haziq, who was also one of those arrested, claimed that police failed to give any warning before proceeding to disperse them.

“Many of us were intimidated by the police. The usage of some 200 personel was unnecessary and the police should have negotiated with the organisers. Why should they do all this in the name of ‘public order’ and ‘mengikut arahan’ (following orders)?” he asked.

Haziq said the students were peacefully assembling in solidariti with Adam who is to be tried under the UUCA on Jan 9 and had not brought any dangerous weapons that morning.

“We brought hailers, flowers and banners but it was confiscated before we even begun. We were threatened by the FRU (riot police) who had batons and tear gas, without any warning they provoked us and were assaulted and pushed to the ground,” he said.

“We also witnessed one student, Muhammad Safwan Anang, who complained of pains from being assaulted by the police,” said Haziq.

Safwan, who was previously admitted to the Slim River Hospital, was present today in a wheelchair.

The Gerakan Menuntut Kebebasan Akademik (Bebas) chairperson complained of difficulty in breathing and appeared weak. It was learnt that his car windscreen was smashed while he was receiving treatment in hospital.

‘Culture of impunity must stop’

Meanwhile, Lawyers For Liberty’s Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, who represented the students, said according to international human rights standards, minimal force should only be used if necessary to disperse a crowd.

“But here, more than 200 policemen were deployed. Clearly there are criminal elements here,” she said.

Also present were supporters from Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) and rights group Suaram.

Suaram coordinator E Nalini said: ” The culture of impunity and covering such acts should be stopped now. Can police use any kind of force against people who assemble? Is this what the new Peaceful Assembly Act would do to us?”

Meanwhile, other student groups urged Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar and the Perak police to apologise over the incident.

GAMIS (Coalition of Malaysian Islamic Students) president Akram Ikrami said:”We give you 24 hours to apologise or you will see a bigger student uprising. This is serious. Blood has been spilled.”

Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM) head Ahmad Syukri Abdullah condemned the police’s action to force Safwan to sign a document that stated he fell.

“What sort of ‘investigation’ is this? We also condemn UPSI for kicking two students out of their dorms without any notices or letters. Take that back and apologise too or you will face a stronger student force,” he said.

Another student leader Syahid Mohd Zaini said the government should not treat students like animals and the same human rights should be given to all.

By Teoh El Sen, 3.1.2012