KUALA LUMPUR: Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) has condemned the arrest of eight youth and student activists in Kota Kinabalu and the unnecessary physical violence used to disperse a peaceful protest.
The local human rights group said the arrest of the eight on Sunday (Sept 16) marks the 10th youth activist arrested within one week.
Suaram emphasised that the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and is a key foundation of a democratic society.
"The right to peaceful assembly should not be curtailed and the government holds the duty and responsibility to ensure that the rights of people to organise and participate in peaceful assemblies are protected," said Sevan Doraisamy, the Suaram executive director in a statement.
Sevan said the decision to disperse the peaceful assembly through the use of force by the state government of Sabah and the Royal Malaysian Police is a violation of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
"As an administration which has promised to uphold reform and protect human rights, the Pakatan Harapan administration must investigate the conduct of the Kota Kinabalu City Council (DBKK) and the Royal Malaysian Police on this matter and dismiss or suspend officers who have ordered the dispersal and arrest of peaceful protestors," he said.
"Any attempts by Pakatan Harapan administration to defend and justify the action of those involved in violating the right to peaceful assembly is untenable and hypocritical as they were also the victims of such oppression in the past and cried foul against it.
"Now that the shoe is on the other foot, the Pakatan Harapan administration cannot wash their hands of the responsibility that falls on them when state apparatus violates the right to peaceful assembly."
Sevan added that the fact that the Pakatan administration is "open to public dialogue" does not mean that they can belittle those who chose to express their thoughts and beliefs through public protests.
"The victory savoured by Pakatan Harapan now was attained through the blood, sweat and tears of all Malaysians who had protested against the injustice on the streets of Malaysia," noted Sevan.
He cautioned that the denial of human rights contributed to the downfall of the Barisan Nasional administration, and the same fate could befall the Pakatan administration.
The eight activists were arrested after they staged a protest at Gaya Street here on the morning of Malaysia Day (Sept 16).
The 9am rally was organised by several student groups including Gagasan Mahasiswa Merdeka and was joined by almost 100 participants.
The eight arrested activists, including Sabah Amanah Youth chief Mohd Khairudin Daud, were taken for questioning at the Karamunsing police station and were released at 5pm Sunday after police completed recording their statements.
They had alleged that they were roughed up by police even as they were trying to disperse.