Malaysia: WHRD arrested, 3 questioned for joining a rally obstructed by the policeEvent
- Initial Date
- Jul 29, 2021
- Final Date
- Jul 31, 2021
- Event Description
An activist who is part of the #Lawan campaign has been arrested today for investigation under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 while giving her statement at the Dang Wangi police.
According to Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat (SSR) who is organising the protest scheduled for this Saturday, Sarah Irdina Mohamad Ariff, 20, from the youth collective MISI: Solidariti has had her phone confiscated, and a search warrant has been issued to raid her home.
The SSR has previously claimed that the police had also harassed Sarah’s family when calling her into questioning today.
Sarah’s lawyer Goh Cia Yee said that police are planning to detain her overnight at the police station, Malaysiakini reported.
“They have arrested her now with the intention to detain her overnight Her house has not been raided yet and there is no confirmation on when they would like to do so.
“They intend to do so but the timeline of this is uncertain at the moment because they have some paperwork to sort out,” Goh reportedly said.
Section 4(1) handles act with seditious tendency which include uttering seditious words and distributing.
If found guilty, one is liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or prison not more than three years, or both.
In a brief statement on social media, MISI: Solidariti has also demanded the authorities to release Sarah immediately.
“Seeing one of ours be silenced and harassed by the authorities is infuriating. We stand in complete solidarity with Sarah and we demand her immediate release,” it said
It also urged netizens to show solidarity and support to Sarah by using the hashtags #FreeSarah, #ActivistAreNotCriminals and #LawanIntimidasi in their social media posts.
This comes as three other SSR activists — Tharma Pillai, Afiq Adib and Muhammad Alshatri — were also questioned by the police today.
The trio are being investigated under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code which handles “making statements conducive to public mischief” and Section 233(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act over sharing offensive content.
Today marks the fifth day straight that the police have questioned activists and participants related to the #Lawan protest this Saturday, and a convoy in support of it last weekend.
The protest planned in Dataran Merdeka this Saturday is calling for Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to step down, for Parliament to continue sitting, and automatic loan moratorium for Malaysians.
Civil society organisations working on freedom of expression stand in solidarity with and applaud the organisers of the #Lawan rally for a peaceful and organised protest on 31 July 2021. We condemn the investigation and arrest of protest organisers prior to the event, the authorities’ obstruction of the protest by setting roadblocks and barricades, and the police threats to take action against participants.
Freedom of assembly and expression are fundamental rights, and essential in ensuring government efficacy and accountability. These rights must be protected and upheld, and the pandemic cannot be used as a pretext to prevent people from exercising these important rights.
In recent weeks, Malaysia has experienced a soaring COVID-19 case load, overwhelmed hospitals and many deaths, while livelihoods have been threatened and lost. The government declared an emergency, imposed draconian laws and suspended Parliament. In a functioning democracy, and even during a pandemic, the people must be allowed to demand accountability from the government, including through peaceful protests adopting appropriate public health measures.
Representatives from our organisations, which work to promote freedom of expression in Malaysia, were on the ground during the 31 July 2021 #Lawan protest, scheduled to be held at Dataran Merdeka, to monitor the protest and document any rights violations. The protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, a full Parliament sitting, and a moratorium on the repayment of all loans. Protesters highlighted the high death toll from COVID-19 during the protest. The protest ended peacefully around 12.35pm after organisers and the police instructed the crowd to disperse.
Our observers noted that all routes to Dataran Merdeka were cordoned off with barricades and protesters were not allowed to access the square. Protesters therefore improvised, conducting a march on the road near Dataran Merdeka and holding a sit-in protest.
Barring access to a public square constitutes a breach of the right to peaceful assembly. Protest organisers took proactive steps and issued detailed guidelines on COVID-19 SOPs, including requiring protesters to double mask, social distance, not share placards and sanitise their hands. To uphold the fundamental right of peaceful assembly while appreciating the gravity of the current pandemic, the police should have worked with the organisers to facilitate the protest. By barricading access to Dataran Merdeka, the police in fact made it more difficult to comply with COVID-19 SOPs by forcing protesters onto the road.
Our observers also noted excessive police presence in vehicles and on foot, including several armed police officers, the presence of a Black Maria vehicle and a low-flying helicopter. Police officers in uniform and in plain clothes were also taking photographs and videos of protesters. These constitute intimidatory tactics that inhibit protesters’ right to peacefully assemble and, again, serve to obstruct rather than facilitate their peaceful protest. Surveillance of protesters impacts their freedom of expression and may also deter others from exercising this right.
Open dialogue, transparency, and accountability from public authorities are especially important during public health crises. Scrutiny and critique of government approaches to managing the COVID-19 pandemic—whether by journalists, human rights defenders, or others—promote accountability and foster better responses.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Other (e.g. undefined, organisation, community)
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Administrative Harassment
- Judicial Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of assembly
- Right to liberty and security
- Right to Protest
- NGO staff
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 29 July 2021, Sarah Irdina Mohamad Ariff, youth WHRD, was arrested on sedition charge, and three other NGO workers were questioned by the police for joining a rally obstructed by the police demanding the prime minister resignation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.