KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 3 — Student activist groups Bebas and Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM) say they have photographic and video evidence to back claims of excessive force by police when breaking up an academic freedom rally in Tanjung Malim on New Year’s Day.

They also say they have witnesses to police beating protesters.

The activists urged Bukit Aman to conduct an independent investigation into their complaint after lodging a police report today.

“We urge the police from Bukit Aman to look into this matter because we believe we need an independent investigation to find out what really happened,” lawyer Fadiah Najwa Fikri told reporters today after lodging the report here.

“There were many witnesses who clearly saw the police kick, step on and beat up the undergraduates. We even have photos and videos of police using excessive force when dispersing the students,” she added.

Fadiah pointed out that Malaysia’s in the UN human rights council and that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak “has said again and again and again, that we will uphold democratic values and human rights standard to the highest level”.

“But is this what is meant by Najib to uphold democratic values and human rights?” she asked.

“This is a lie. The students were not even armed with weapons, they were armed with a voice for academic freedom but were beaten up by more than 200 police officers,” she added.

Kami (Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen) president Haziq Abdul Aziz, who was one of the 17 students arrested during the protest, said that the police officers involved should be punished and brought to justice.

“No preferential treatment should be given to these officers as they are the same as criminals out there,” he said.

“We hope the police take appropriate action (against these officers) and not have double standards when conducting the investigation,” he added.

Suaram programme manager E. Nalini, who was also present, said Sunday’s incident showed the result of the controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill.

“The police can use force in any peaceful demonstration because now they have power without limit with the new Act,” she said.

“This is why we are very concerned. From now onwards, people can be victims of police abuse and it will be legal under the law.”

Haziq stressed that if the police and government do not investigate this incident, it would likely lead to more police brutality in future.

“These criminal officers should be brought to justice in order to prevent abuse like this from happening to other Malaysian citizens,” he said.

By Lisa J. Ariffin
January 03, 2012