Malaysia police free all 471 vote reform activists
Malaysian police on Sunday said all 471 people arrested during a demonstration for free and fair elections, including a senior opposition lawmaker, have been freed.
“We have released all of them,” national police spokesman Ramli Yoosuf told AFP, adding that the MP had been identified as Tian Chua from Anwar Ibrahim’s Keadilan party.
Security forces would decide later whether to file charges against the demonstrators, he said.
Police fired tear gas and chemical-laced water Saturday at thousands of protesters calling for clean elections after some breached into the Independence Square which had been declared a banned area for demonstrators.
Police estimated at least 30,000 people participated in the rally, while independent Malaysian media put the number at more than twice that.
The Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia condemned the “arrest of two journalists” who were covering the protests and violence against at least one cameraman who was allegedly punched by police as his equipment was seized.
“We urge Prime Minister Najib Razak to conduct a thorough and swift investigation, and charge those responsible for these violent acts,” it said.
The street protest — a rare event in Malaysia — was held in the capital Kuala Lumpur by a coalition known as Bersih, which means clean in Malay language.
It is pressing the government to review the country’s election system and clean up the electoral roll before the next elections expected in the coming months.
But Najib denied any electoral bias.
“We do not want to be elected through cheating. We are a government chosen by the people,” he said.
Speculation is rife that Najib could call polls as early as June, and Bersih is demanding elections be postponed until full reforms are implemented.