Dataran attack claims aimed at provoking public, says Hishammuddin
April 19, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — The public should not believe wholesale claims the government is behind a mob attack on student activists camped at Dataran Merdeka, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein warned today.
The home minister said such allegations spread through text messages and online media could be aimed at rousing public anger against the government.
“There have been cases where allegations of such nature have been used... to raise emotions, be it in areas of race, religion and now involving students,” Hishammuddin(picture) told reporters today.
“I advise the public, don’t react to this. These allegations will be investigated by the appropriate agency, in this case it’s DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Hall),” he added.
Earlier today, several student activists lobbying for free tertiary education reported being attacked by unknown thugs at their camp site in Dataran Merdeka.
A group calling itself Occupy Dataran, which has been based at the iconic square since last week, claimed that the university students were beaten up by a group of unknown people numbering between 60 and 70 and at least one person was injured in the clash and taken away by an ambulance for treatment.
A nearly five-minute-long video of the 3am incident on YouTube showed a group of young men dressed in printed black T-shirts rushing towards another group of men, including those dressed in the striking yellow Bersih T-shirts, attempting to kick at them. The video did not record anyone actually being beaten up as alleged, but does contain sounds of people shouting in the background. Most of the words are undecipherable, but some are clearly enunciated, such as some men’s voices yelling “Bodoh!” (Stupid) and “Assalamualaikum” repeatedly.
Several figures, including those dressed in police uniform, were seen trying to break up the melee and telling onlookers to disperse.
The video, titled “Mob of 40 attacking students at Dataran Merdaka” uploaded on YouTube, carried a description lifted from a Facebook message stating “the Government might take action against them tonight. My assistance managed to capture some video although he himself was attacked by 4 to 5 of them [sic].”
The attack drew an immediate condemnation by human rights group Suaram, who noted that the incident was not the first time violence had been used to disrupt peaceful demonstrations.
The group cited as an example the attack on an anti-Lynas Corp rally in George Town, Penang in February by a mob that it said was later identified as Umno Youth and Perkasa members.
“This is a stark reminder of the dirty and violent tactics used at an Asia Pacific Coalition for East Timor II (Apcet II) conference … in November 1996 when a group of thugs stormed the meeting venue and broke down the doors of the conference halls, threw chairs and verbally and physically abused the participants,” Suaram said in a statement today.
It also questioned the police inaction in this morning’s attacks, as well as in the examples cited.
The student activists have been camping out in tents, in shifts, since last Saturday when hundreds of them marched across the capital city to lobby for free tertiary education, after being disenchanted by pay-back terms and conditions over a government higher education loan scheme.