Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dr Syed Husin - from Aptet Conference to Abu Ghraib-ish cell!

OK, I am going to keep this Malaysiakini report trimmed to the essentials. It has to do with UMNO people behaving as an unruly mob during the Aptet II conference 10 years ago. Just in case you aren’t aware of what Aptet has been about, it’s a regional group of NGOs who wanted to speak out against the Indonesian military or Indonesian supported militants massacring East Timorese in Dili during the latter’s campaign for independence from Indonesia. Aptet’s aim was to find a peaceful resolution to the terrible and brutal persecution of the East Timorese.

Highly respected Dr Syed Husin Ali, then boss of the socialist party, PRM, but now regretably in PKR, attended Aptet as a moderator. He told the Kuala Lumpur High Court how a 300-strong Umno Youth-led mob physically assaulted a number of people after they stormed Aptet II’s conference held at a KL hotel.

The thugs broke down the doors and invaded the conference hall carrying sticks and chairs. He was assaulted by one of those thugs who flung water over him and yelled at him to leave. Then three of those hooligans manhandled him. He saw another participant, a woman named Sheryll Stothard being physically pushed to the floor by those wannabe pahlawans (warriors) - a woman manhandled, for god’s sake.

The conferees just responded in Gandhi-like passive resistance by sitting down quietly but obviously those wannabe Hang Tuah’s (a legendary Malay warrior) either didn’t respect Mahatma Gandhi or didn’t give two hoots about civilised conduct – probably both.

In fact when the participants heard the mob outside the hall, they had barricaded the door including stacking chairs and tables against it as reinforcement, but it was a futile effort as the mob broke it down. Dr Syed Husin gave us an interesting insight as to the composition of the mob: (1) he said “The mob consisted mostly of Malays with some Chinese and Indian (Malaysians)”. Well done, Malaysian multiracial togetherness even as a mob [an item for the Guinness Book of Records?], (2) he recognised one of the mob members as a Special Branch officer. Hmmm!

Dr Syed Husin said a conference participant Sivarasa Rasiah decided to get the participants of Aptet II to leave, and asked the Police for two minutes to pack up before departing the conference hall. There and then, the police arrested all the participants. They were then detained for 3 days in Kuala Lumpur’s Dang Wangi police station, which had appalling Abu Ghraib-ish conditions - severe overcrowding, 11 in a cell, open latrine, easing oneself in full view of the other cell mates, no water from the tap for washing, sleeping by turns due to confined area.

I will comment more on this either this evening or tomorrow.

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