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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kashmir's 'half-widows in precarious state'

The Indian government's refusal to officially recognise enforced disappearances has left families in perpetual limbo, promulgating stress and psychological trauma for parents, spouses and children, the report says [EPA]
More than 1,500 women whose husbands have disappeared but have not yet been declared deceased are in a precarious and dangerous position in Indian-administered Kashmir, according to a new report.

The 48-page report titled "Half Widow, Half Wife" released on Thursday by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), argues that although "direct violence is disproportionately inflicted on males" in Kashmir, women and children whose husbands or fathers "disappear" are caught in a legal conundrum that does little to compensate or protect them.

The report says that the fact that the men have disappeared and have not been declared dead, has left thousands of women, known as "half-widows", and their children in a precarious state, with little legal protection, rendering many desperate and homeless and paving the way for abuse and exploitation.
The story of the half-widows of Kashmir "captures the unseen and pernicious face of insecurity in Kashmir", the report says.

'Missing' versus 'disappeared'

An estimated 8,000 people have disappeared in Kashmir since the insurgency against Indian rule began in 1989, although the Indian government says the number of those "missing" is most likely closer to 3,000 to 4,000.
Indian authorities claim that the disappeared men crossed over into Pakistan-administered Kashmir to complete arms training, became militants and never returned.

Local civil society and international human rights organisations dispute this claim and say that these men were abducted by Indian security forces and were either detained indefinitely or disposed of.

The Indian government's refusal to officially recognise enforced disappearances in Kashmir has left families in perpetual limbo, promulgating stress and psychological trauma for parents, spouses and children, the report says.

But for the "half-widows" it is particularly difficult.

The report says that based on their insecure position of being "single", yet still legally married, the "half-widows" are unable to access the family estate or ration cards. Even the ex-gratia relief and compassionate appointment created by the Indian government can only be accessed with a death certificate and that too only if it is proven that the deceased had no link with militancy.
Ex-gratia relief can only be accessed by "half-widows" after a period of seven years has passed and only when the case is passed through a local screening committee.

The report says that the committee is usually made up of police officers and those from government bureaucracy, thereby undermining the process.

"Most legal remedies remain elusive due to the severe financial and emotional costs over multiple year timelines," the report notes, adding that "administrative remedies fall short of providing due relief to half-widows".

But it is not just the state that places "roadblocks" in the way of the "half-widows".

"Half-widows" are undefined legally and within the patriarchal socio-cultural context of South Asia, the women find themselves at the mercy of Kashmiri society, where a deafening silence surrounds gender violence and abuse.
In rural Kashmir, with fewer economic opportunities, "half-widows" are at a greater risk of suffering manipulation by government officials and even community leaders.
Adding to the confusion is the continued dispute over what is the minimum time needed to dissolve a marriage and allow a "half-widow" to move on with her life and possibly remarry according to Islamic law.

One school suggests four to seven years, but others suggest that a "half-widow" is expected to wait up to 90 years before remarrying.

'Sheer volume of hardship'

Responding to the report, Govind Acharya from Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera that the most important aspect of the report is noting the "sheer volume of hardship that the 'half-widows' face above and beyond having to deal with the disappearance of their spouse".
A special series on the dispute in Kashmir will feature on Al Jazeera's website from August 2, 2011
"The report is incredibly useful in linking the past with the present and future. In other words, it's not just about the mourning of a lost loved one, but it's about the deprivation that resulted from that loss till today because of government inaction.

"And, it's about the future of Kashmir. If Kashmir cannot reconcile with the past then what kind of future will it face?"

Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, could not be reached for immediate comment.
Khurram Parvez, the programme co-ordinator from the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), says that the most surprising finding of the report was the inaction of the state to the crisis.

"They [state authorities] have not moved, even years after the tragedies, which have ruined the past, present and future of so many families.

"The daily struggles of existence and seeking justice unabated, by these women have created examples of unflinching courage," Parvez said.

The report comes a day after India and Pakistan held peace talks in New Delhi for the first time since resuming bilateral talks this year.

Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, India's foreign minister, and his Pakistani counterpart, Hina Rabbani Khar, held talks on Wednesday and spoke of entering a new era in relations, agreeing to work together to end the insurgency, to ease commerce and open travel across the Line of Control, dividing Indian-administered and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Kashmir: Back on the agenda?

On Thursday, Pakistani newspapers appeared to welcome the revived talks: "Pakistan, India revive search for enduring dialogue process," read Dawn newspaper.

The Express Tribune daily led with: "Pakistan-India relationship: New era dawns in ties." The Daily Times headline declared: "Pakistan, India promise 'new era' of cooperation, Relations back on track", and The Nation led with "India willing to talk Kashmir".
Indian newspapers were a little more reserved, with The Hindu editorial suggesting that the "talks broke no ground" and the "Kashmir-related confidence building measures announced by the two sides is meagre".
A Tehelka magazine article asking "Was it a successful diplomatic visit at all?" comments that "Pakistan foreign minister avoided tricky issues and refrained from mentioning Kashmir at the brief media interaction… it was left to Krishna to mention Pakistan's core concern".

Acharya said that the timing of the report could not have been any better.

"It sheds light on the past human rights violations and links them to the present. I have said that already, but I just wanted to reiterate that without the APDP and other groups campaigning [for] justice for the victims of the disappearances, then they will be forgotten by everyone (except the family members of course)."

But Acharya fears that the outcome of India-Pakistan talks will have little impact on human rights in Kashmir. He says that while Pakistani citizens have expressed concern for Kashmiri human rights, it is difficult to believe that the Pakistani government shares that sentiment.

"The Pakistani government obviously does not care, otherwise its actions would not have involved sending militants across the border to commit widespread human rights violations against Kashmiris.

"In fact, I would say that Pakistani involvement in Kashmiri matters has been nothing but a detriment to human rights and human rights advocacy on Kashmir."

Parvez agrees that the prevailing talks are unlikely to end human right violations in the valley. He says that the rights of the people in Jammu and Kashmir have been held hostage by the Indian government and the talks are still about relations between India and Pakistan and not about Kashmir.
"While India and Pakistan appear keen to take confidence building measures, initiating steps to build mechanisms to protect human rights of people should have been the priority, but unfortunately everything else has been prioritised over human rights."
Parvez says that one of the key recommendations of the report is that the Indian government repeal the draconian laws that give the armed forces impunity in Indian-administered Kashmir, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA).

Furthermore, he says that a set of immediate recommendations calls on the government to create "a streamlined system of compensation without delays, harassment and coercion" and calls on religious scholars to reach a consensus on the minimum amount of time needed to pass before being declared a widow.
Crucially, the report calls for a special bench at the Jammu and Kashmir high court to hear cases related to the "half-widows" and for India to ratify a UN resolution on the protection of all persons from enforced disappearances.

Meeting separatists

On Tuesday evening, the Pakistani foreign minister raised eyebrows when she met with Kashmiri separatists, who oppose India's rule in Kashmir, although Indian authorities reportedly knew the meeting was scheduled to take place and Krishna, reiterated that the two countries were determined to discuss Kashmir "with a view to finding a peaceful solution".

The disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, a major source of tension that has fuelled two of three wars fought by the two neighbours since 1947, will continue to be discussed "with a view to finding a peaceful solution", Krishna said.

Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir. - Al Jazeera

Bald statement against draconian laws

17 people, including three women, scarifice their manes in protest against detention without trial laws

PETALING JAYA(FMT): Seventeen people, three of them women, went bald today in Penang to protest against detention without trial laws.

The event was initially to take place in three cities – Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang – to protest the detention of six PSM members who held under the Emergency Ordinance(EO).

The PSM members were released unconditionally yesterday evening.

Following this, the Ipoh and the Kuala Lumpur event did not take place. However organisers in Penang followed through with the plan despite their release.

“Although the six were released, there are many others who are still being detained under draconian laws,” said  organiser,  Lee Hui Fei.

She said the event took place at 8am this morning at the Dayang Baru market in Penang.

Among those who went bald were assemblymen The Yee Cheu (Tanjung Bungah), Koay Teng Guan (Sungai Pinang), Ong Jing Cheng (Suaram Penang coordinator), Loo Que Lin (Suaram Penang secretariat).

Symbolic gesture

PKR’s Mohd Rashid Hasnon, sacrificed his beard in protest. The three women who went bald were Soh Sook Wah (a PSM member), Loo Que Lin and Yap Soo Hueng.

Lee said that volunteers from a hair saloon had lent their assistance to the cause by helping to shave of the hairs of the 18 people,
Lee said that the group was formed recently after the arrest of the six  PSM members. She added that the group consisted of around 20 “concerned citizens”.

“This is the last activity for the EO6. After this, we will continue with other activities in protest of detentions without trial,” she said.

“Shaving our hair was a symbolic gesture to voice our discontent against the government. We love ourselves, as well as our hair, but we love freedom, truth and justice even more”.

The group vowed to continue their fight against the  “inhumane oppression and detention without trial in the country”.

Wahhabism and Shia main threats, says Jakim official

KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Wahhabism and Shia Islam are key threats to Malaysia’s security and should be kept under close watch to ensure they do not lead to extremism, a Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) official has said.

The National Security Council (NSC) put a group of clerics on its terror watch-list last week for preaching Wahhabism, a puritanical strain of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia. Several Shia Muslims have also been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for their beliefs.

“The biggest threat to the country at the moment is Wahhabism and Shia (Islam) ... extreme teachings,” Islamic Training Institute of Malaysia’s assistant director Zamihan Mat Zin told The Malaysian Insider before last week’s NSC meeting.

He said if the group was not watched, their teachings could potentially to threaten the ethics of Islamic affairs management in Malaysia.

“(The government) needs to curtail them to harmonise Sunni teachings in Malaysia.”
Zamihan stressed that, if left alone, Wahhabism and Shia Islam could “sow the seeds of extremism as seen in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia and Chechnya”.

He said certain parties were now actively promoting both teachings with financial assistance from foreign missions here.

“There are preachers who receive huge allowances every month... They will deny it if anyone asks them but we have proof,” said the cleric who is in the Quran and core knowledge division in the institute.

Zamihan added that, according to his research, Wahhabism and Shia Islam have about one million followers each in Malaysia.

He previously claimed that Wahhabism receives protection from politicians and has made inroads into religious agencies at national and state levels.

Zamihan also told The Malaysian Insider that the question of stopping the spread of Wahhabism should not be seen as a diplomatic issue but one of national security and mutual interest.

“For instance, if an Iraqi come to Malaysia and is caught trying to bring in drugs... will this jeopardise bilateral and diplomatic relations? I think not, and it’s the same for religious teachings,” he said.
“Don’t bring in teachings that can threaten national security.”

Putrajaya said yesterday that Wahhabism is not a national security threat, only a week after the National Security Council (NSC) put several influential Islamic scholars on a terror watch list for alleged links to the ideology.

Former Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim revealed that Minister in the Prime Minister’s department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom had announced Putrajaya’s findings during a top-level government meeting recently, stating that there was “no such thing” as
Wahhabism’s links to terrorism in the country.

A source told The Malaysian Insider that the NSC has decided that while the practice of Wahhabism does exist in the country, it does not pose any immediate security threat.

The source also admitted that Malaysia’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been affected following the threat of Wahhabism being linked to the Arab country.

It is understood that the matter was also raised during Friday’s Umno supreme council meeting.

Melayu bodoh!

No…no cheong hei article this time. Very short one, for once. Street demos DO NOT undermine the country’s economy. Corruption does. Get it? Corruption! Corruption undermines the country’s economy. Not street demos. Street demos kick out the munafiq and fasiq leaders who are destroying the country.

Raja Petra Kamarudin
UITM Lecturer: Street Demos Can Undermine Country's Economy

(Bernama) - In the aftermath of the July 9 street demonstrations in the federal capital by an illegal organisation called Bersih 2.0 and groups aligned to it among them opposition parties, many individuals are perturbed by the potentially damaging impact of the protest on the country's economy.  

University Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Dungun campus political science lecturer Che Hamdan Mohd Razali acknowledged that the protesters' demands centred around freedom of speech and electoral reforms but noted that they they had not been able to substantiate their allegations but instead hurled condemnations at the government.

At a time when the government was trying its utmost to raise the living standard of the people and make Malaysia a high income nation by 2020 via the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), National Key Result Areas (NKRA) and Tenth Malaysia Plan (10MP), such aggression was a setback, he opined.

"The government is still banking on foreign investment to spur our economic growth. There is only nine more years until 2020 left. That's not a long period.

"It is therefore crucial that a peaceful and conducive situation prevails in the country so that investors will not hesitate to come," he said.

He said political and economic stability was important in ensuring peace. If there was a crisis in politics, it would jeopardise the economy, and vice-versa.

"Both are interlinked and critical as a basic element in the growth and development of the country," he stressed. 

Meanwhile, Mohamad Ariffin, a medical officer in the private sector, concurred that foreign investors would shy away from the country especially if the foreign media played up incidents which were just "a storm in a teacup".

He feared medical tourism which the country was trying to promote would be affected as well.

"Potential patients from other countries would think twice about coming here for treatment if they believe we are a troubled country," he said.

Another academician, Abd Ghapa Harun, Senior Lecturer at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's History, Political and Strategy Research Centre surmised that peace and harmony in the country could be sustained if the government readily responded to the issues that were being relentlessly harped on.

"For example, issues about corruption or the election - the government must respond to them immediately.

"Peace is not merely a demonstration-free situation. In a wider context, it is taking further measures to avoid confrontations including through dialogues and discussions before issues are blown out of proportion," he said.

An open letter to PM Najib

Dear PM Najib,

As a result of the developments on July 9, the world is now paying increased attention to Malaysia.

In particular, we now wonder how free and fair your nation's elections are. We have learned that some of your country's citizens believe that Malaysia needs electoral reform. On July 9, they marched with a coalition called Bersih 2.0, and they called for free and fair elections.

You responded by declaring Bersih illegal and suppressing the 'Walk for Democracy' with overwhelming police force. The world noticed your heavy-handed reaction, and it wondered why a peaceful demonstration calling for fair elections bothered you so much - so much so that you were willing to risk Malaysia's international reputation - and give your country and yourself a major black eye.

When you returned from your visit to Europe, you declared that Malaysia's elections truly are free and fair, and that Umno has never cheated in any election.

I am glad to hear that.

Because it means that in Malaysia's next general elections, you have nothing to hide.

Governments that manipulate elections have lots to cover up. But you say that your elections are free and fair, so that means you have nothing to be afraid of showing to all of us in the outside world, not to mention your own people.

Therefore, I am sure that you are willing to readily agree to the following proposals:

1) Allow international groups to observe your elections. Based on your assertions, they will find nothing amiss, and their reports will give credibility to Malaysia's election results.

2) Allow observers from all political parties to witness the postal balloting that takes place on military bases. For years, the opposition has said that something is amiss. But since you say that Umno never cheats, I am sure that they will find nothing wrong, and you will be vindicated.

3) Let's put an end to all the accusations about phantom voters by using a simple, effective and cheap solution - indelible ink.

Your Elections Commission wants a super-sophisticated biometric system, but there is no way it can be in place by then - and many people worry that it can be manipulated. Indelible ink works - just ask the world's largest democracy, India. I don't think anyone has ever disputed the results of India's elections in over 60 years.

4) Finally, let RTM be truly independent, like the BBC and NHK and the public broadcasting systems in Australia, France, Germany, and elsewhere in the world. RTM does not belong to Umno. It belongs to the people.
As long as RTM - funded by all the people of Malaysia - acts as the propaganda arm of the 25 percent of Malaysians who voted for Umno, no one can believe that Malaysia's elections are fair and free.

So, my dear Prime Minister, it's all very simple. You say that Malaysia's elections are free and fair. Now you have a chance to prove it to the outside world and remove all doubts. And if your party wins, then the Malaysian people - and the world - might finally be convinced.

If you refuse these suggestions, then the doubts will linger, and your assertions about the honesty of Malaysia's election will continue to be questioned.

John Malott

The writer is former US ambassador to Malaysia.

DAP: Repealing EO might save Najib’s credibility

(Malaysiakini) In order to regain credibility after the “gross mishandling” of the PSM 6, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak must publicly repeal the EO and annul the obsolete emergency proclamations as well as other “oppressive legislature”, says Lim Kit Siang.

In a statement today, Lim said the release of the PSM 6 does not restore Najib's credibility, as it was his government's “high-handed” handling of the Bersih 2.0 rally that had landed the six in detention in the first place.

“It was (Najib's) greatest failure of leadership as prime minister leaving his credibility in tatters – which is why his claim yesterday, that the release of the PSM6 under the Emergency Ordinance was in accordance with the rule of law, was met with nation-wide derision.

Lim slammed the PM for the “arbitrary and totally unjustifiable arrests” of the six Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) members over a month ago, “first on the ridiculous grounds of 'waging war against the Agong' and 'reviving communism' and then under EO for being 'prime movers' of Bersih”.

The six were finally released yesterday evening after mounting pressure from PSM, politicians and a cross section of civil society both at home and abroad.

They were part of a group of 30 party members arrested on June 25 during the massive pre-Bersih crackdown.

'Repeal EO now'

Lim said the PM's handling of the rally was amongst the failures that marked Najib's “worst period” in office, “making him the object of ridicule and scorn not only in the country but also internationally”.

The only way Najib could restore any credibility, said the veteran DAP leader, was for him to publicly annul the obsolete emergency proclamations, and repeal the EO and other “oppressive legislature”.

The home minister and IGP also needed to issue an immediate apology to the PSM 6 for “unlawful detention”.

He also called for the “ridiculous ban on Bersih 2.0" and on things yellow like the Bersih T-shirt be lifted, and for a Royal Commission of Inquiry on free and fair elections to make recommendations prior to the next general election.

Bernama Journalists Accounts Of July 9 Illegal Assembly

KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 (Bernama) -- The illegal assembly held in the federal capital on July 9 was an attempt to challenge the country's institutions especially the police for the political interests of certain quarters.

Organised by an illegal organisation known as Bersih 2.0 purportedly to call for electoral reform, the rally was held in total disregard to calls by the authorities not to hold street demonstrations and objections from the public.

A team of Bernama journalists was on duty at several locations around Kuala Lumpur to record the event that took place on that day.

The following accounts were recorded by journalists who witnessed first hand what happened on July 9:

MOHD NOOR FIRDAUS MOHD AZIL (Location: Stadium Merdeka and Menara Maybank)

I was assigned to cover the illegal assembly at Stadium Merdeka with three other journalists.

Travelling in a Bernama official car, we could go through several roads blocked by traffic police with the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) and members of the Malaysian Civil Defence Department also present.

As we arrived at Jalan Stadium, we saw the road had been fortified with rolls of barbed wire. The police told us to register before being allowed to enter the area.

After waiting for two hours, an Utusan journalist and I took the decision to check out the surrounding areas. As we descended to Bulatan Merdeka, we saw a group of Bersih supporters walking briskly into a backlane parallel to Petaling Street.

We followed them and came upon a bigger group at Petaling Street. Then we heard a person shouting "We are changing the plan. Directive from higher ups wants us to gather at Menara Maybank and disperse."

When the crowd entered Jalan Tan Cheng Lock in front of the Kota Raya Shopping Complex, the situation became chaotic and the air smelt acrid, piercing the nose.

(It was believed tear gas had been released in the area earlier) As we approached Menara Maybank, we could see commotions all over the place when a group of demonstrators was being pursued by a team of policemen on the fringe of Menara Maybank.

At that moment, the FRU got ready at the junction with Jalan Tun Perak while the crowd which kept swelling in numbers was led by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leader Badrul Hisham Shaharin, better known as Chegu Bard, in front of the Pudu Raya Bus Terminal.

As it began to rain, the protesters started crying " Allahu Akbar", "Reformasi", "Tumbang BN" and "BN Zalim". There were however no cries relating to fight for transparency of the Election Commission as they had promoted earlier.

With the standoff converging in front of Pudu Raya, the FRU gave the crowd three warnings to disperse but the demonstrators refused to budge. On the final count, the FRU had no choice but to activate crowd dispersal, firing tear gas canisters flying and spraying water canons.

The Utusan Malaysia journalist and I were caught in the middle between the demonstrators and FRU and we tried to seek shelter in a car park but the thick gas enveloping the area, caused us to feel breathless.

Before we knew it, the impact of the tear gas hit us right in our face and in that instance, we felt nausea and our eyes stinging.

We were almost on the verge of fainting. I immediately grabbed a bottle of mineral water from my bag to wet my shirt and wash my face. More mineral water bottles were given by a policeman in civilian clothes who saw us get caught in the commotion.

As I could not see where my colleague was, I decided to get out of the area to a lane where several people were handing out salt and water to rub on the face to relieve the effects of tear gas.

When the situation subsided, the rain stopped and I came out to check on the latest situation. At that time, I saw members of the police starting to arrest demonstrators who tried provoke them. Later, the member of Parliament for Bruas, Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham from DAP and MP for Subang from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) R. Sivarasa with a PAS member (later I found out he was the person who feigned dead - Suhardi Mohd) were discussing with the police to allow the procession towards Stadium Merdeka. With the greenlight from the police, the group led by Chegu Bard member ascended the hill to Stadium Merdeka while the crowd swelled into a huge column.

At Stadium Merdeka, the procession met and merged with another swarm led by former PAS vice-presiden Datuk Husam Musa.

Negotiations were held with the police but this time, they were not allowed to enter the stadium compound.

MOHD FAIZAL HASSAN (Location: Puduraya Bus Station)

A media colleague and I were located somewhere between shops near the Puduraya bus station when I felt my eyes and nose burning, making it difficult to breathe.

That was my first encounter with tear gas which was fired by police to disperse the July 9 illegal rally.

After washing up with salt water, 10 minutes later I rushed to find a higher location where I could get a clearer picture of what was going on.

I could see that despite having been directed by the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) to leave, the rally's participants, mostly men, refused to do so. They stood about 50 metres from policemen, but I saw no police brutality in the incident.

Tear gas was released into a clear area and it was the wind that carried the fumes. No water cannons hit rally participants.

The 1pm incident caused the group to move towards Bukit Bintang, but they stopped near the Tung Shin Hospital for shelter from the pouring rain.

I took that time to clean myself up in the hospital parking lot and perform my prayers.

While at the parking lot, I saw a woman and her two young sons who seemed lost and unaware of what was happening.

I quickly told them to leave the area and go towards the FRU who were waiting near Jalan Bukit Bintang in case of untoward incidents.

As expected, protestors walked to Jalan Bukit Bintang from the hospital minutes later but were blocked by the FRU.

The FRU acted wisely by practising their standard operating procedure (SOP) such as giving out warnings before using tear gas and water cannons on the crowd in the streets.

Because of the rain, tear gas was carried through the wind towards the hospital parking lot and groups of rioters were seen leaving the area using other routes to Jalan Bukit Bintang.

They arrived near the Istana Hotel then moved on to KLCC and Pudu Raya.

Police arrived at the scene 20 minutes after rioters assembled and shouted anti-government slogans.

The FRU arrived later and used their SOPs again, this time successfully arresting rioters while others fled into KLCC, Jalan Yap Kwan Seng and surrounding areas.

That was when I saw an ambulance, probably tending to an injured participant, which left Jalan Ampang for the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

I then returned to the office and several hours later received news that a participant had died in the KLCC area due to breathing difficulties.

ZULHILMI SUPAAT (Location: Kuala Lumpur Police Headquarters)

Several organisers of the illegal rally who were taken to the Kuala Lumpur Police Headquarters for questioning admitted they were treated well by the police.

Datuk S. Ambiga who was detained at 2.30 pm at KL Sentral and released at 6.30pm the same evening, conceded that the police took good care of her throughout the time.

She looked cheerful while leaving the station and told reporters she was also satisfied with the facilities provided to those detained at the Police Training Centre, Pulapol, which included food, water and prayer rooms.

In fact, she was shocked to find out Pulapol had served them 'nasi beriani' and said,"We had no 'nasi beriani' here but I was treated well during the 45 minutes questioning, I have no complaints against the police."

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang who was also detained at the headquarters was given a ride home by the police at 7.30pm that night.

Almost 100 PAS supporters who had waited outside to meet their leader were dissatisfied and a handful of them turned abusive towards the police guarding the entrance.

They only calmed down after PAS assistant secretary-general Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi who happened to be there made a few phone calls and confirmed Abdul Hadi had been sent home.

SITI ZUBAIDAH ABDULLAH (Location: Bukit Bintang)

While at certain locations in the city street demonstrations were brewing and police were apprehending protesters, Bukit Bintang Walk was calm. A media group from Bernama TV, TV Al-Hijrah, Astro Awani, Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian had gathered there since 9am.

At around 1pm, UMNO Youth's Patriot members group appeared and started distributing red T-shirts before the arrival 30 minutes later of their leaders, BN Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, and Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.

Khairy in a brief address said the group's action was not to participate in the street demonstration but to protest against those who were trying to to cause antagonism in the country.

"We are in the front line as a peaceful group to defend our leaders and the country's harmony...the illegal assembly today is an opposition agenda hiding behind Bersih, not for a 'clean (election)' but to bring down the government," said Khairy.

Patriot members numbering more than 500 appeared determined as they marched towards Stadium Merdeka while singing the patriotic song, "Inilah Barisan Kita" while police looked set to halt them.

Earlier before the Patriot group appeared, another group with about 500 members believed to be from Bersih were on the march from Jalan Imbi towards Stadium Merdeka. It was confusing to the media assigned in the area, who nevertheless trailed after them up to Jalan Pudu.

At Jalan Pudu in front of a hotel, a Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) team had already been mobilised, complete with shields and an anti-riot water-cannon vehicle.

Meanwhile, police gave a warning to the rallying Patriot members to disperse peacefully. But the call went unheeded, while they roared "Hapus Bersih" (Destroy Bersih), "Hidup Hakyat" (Long live the people) and "Hidup Malaysia" (Long live Malaysia).

As the warnings were ignored, the security forces were left with little choice but to shoot tear gas in the direction of the group.

Police then detained Khairy, Abdul Azeez together with UMNO Youth assistant secretary Datuk Megat Firdaus Megat Junid and UMNO Youth executive committee member Lokman Adam.

The situation returned to normal around 3.30pm when the group began dispersing.

Police also ordered other parties around to leave the area while the media stayed on until 4pm.

ZURIATI ZULMI (location: Sogo Complex, KLCC, KTMB Station, Menara Maybank)

I was assigned to cover the illegal assembly at Kampung Baru, Maju Junction and also along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (TAR).

This was the first time I ever covered an illegal assembly. I was so nervous and kept thinking that things could go out of control, just like most demonstrations I saw on television.

From Jalan Tun Razak to Jalan Ampang, policemen were taking control of traffic flow in several locations to help reduce traffic congestion.

While going along Jalan Bonus at about 10am, I saw a small group of demonstrators gathered there as if they were waiting for their next instruction.

Upon arriving at the Sogo shopping complex, the environment was quite calm and at 10.30am, I was ordered to go to KLCC as it was speculated that tear gas had been fired there. When I arrived at the KLCC, it turned out to be just a rumour.

At around noon, through a walkie-talkie, I heard a colleague say that the situation at the KTMB station had become heated when police tried to disperse a group of people planning to hold a gathering there.

When I arrived at the station, I saw police had already made some arrests and despite being highly provoked and bad-mouthed by aggressive demonstrators, the police appeared calm in handling the situation.

I did not see the police using brutality against the detainees.

The way the police asked their names and checked their identity cards, although firm, was still in a courteous manner.

For female detainees, there were policewomen assigned to them.

When the situation in KTMB Station returned to normal, areas in Central Market started to be flocked by Bersih supporters. From the Dayabumi building, I could see them marching to Dataran Merdeka.

There, police were heard to have warned them repeatedly to disperse, but not only the warnings were ignored, the demonstrators even shouted the words "Allahuakbar" and "Reformasi".

The demonstrators were also daring enough to provoke the police and caused the law enforcers to resort to firing tear gas.

At about 1.30pm, the weather got hotter and I realised that my water bottle was empty.

Then, I saw a 7-Eleven store and as I tried to rush in, I found the door was blocked from inside by a stack of boxes. I tried to ask for a bottle of mineral water, but the store operator refused to open the door.

So, I moved on to try my luck at a restaurant inside the Dayabumi building, but the front door of the restaurant was also closed and locked from inside.

Through the glass window, I could see there were several customers in the restaurant, so I knocked on the door and begged the restaurant owner to sell me some water.

Thank God they listened and let me in to buy some food and water.

At 2pm, based on the information I received, I walked to the Menara Maybank, accompanied by a photographer.

The FRU had already fired tear gas canisters and water cannons when we arrived there.

However, it shocked me to see so many Bersih supporters there and that they were obviously aggressive in ignoring police orders to back off and disperse.

I saw police run after some demonstrators who tried to challenge their authority. Several detainees were also seen trying to use violence against the police.

At that point, I was trying to call the headquarters to inform them about the situation when police fired another tear gas canister, causing me and other members of the press to run helter-skelter with teary eyes.

Soon after that, there was a heavy downpour and I joined other reporters to take shelter in a restaurant near the Kotaraya complex.

When the rain stopped at about 3pm, the demonstrators who also ran helter-skelter earlier came out from their hiding places and among them, there was an instigator who was shouting and urging those present to march to the Merdeka Stadium.

Along the way, they were chanting "Allahuakbar" and "Reformasi".

We (members of the press) also followed the group, but upon reaching a bend at the Central Market LRT Station, we were welcomed by another tear gas canister fired by the police. My friend and I, however, managed to escaped from the area and the gas.

Police then fired three more tear gas canisters towards the demonstrators as they still refused to disperse.

In my opinion, the canisters were fired randomly because I personally saw the police pointing the tear gas guns up in the air to enable the canisters to be fired further away.

The situation subsided at 4.15pm.

I would like to say that despite their firm action, the law enforcers had also displayed humanity because they did not use the tear gas at their whims and fancies.

Several ambulances were also seen nearby to offer help to those suffering from the tear gas.

The real reason the PSM 6 were freed

You want the official version or the other side?
According to the official line:
The government has accepted the decision by police to free six Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM) activists who were detained under the Emergency Ordinance (EO) last month, in good faith.
“It is up to the Attorney-general to decide on what appropriate action to take. As a nation, we stand by the principle of the rule of law,” Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak told reporters… (Bernama).
But Dr Jeyakumar, in a text message, offers a different reason: “It was the massive public support that pushed Hishammuddin (Home Minister) to over-ride the Dep IGP’s intention to keep us longer. Thanks for all the support.”
Which version do you believe?
Meanwhile blog reader Ahmad reports from Penang:
I shaved bald this morning in support of the PSM 6 and against EO and ISA at Bayan Baru Market. I was encouraged to see young men and ladies who had their long hair shaved for a cause they believe in. Really, these youngsters, some came in Bersih 2.0 tees, give us hope.
Proud of you all, ladies and gentlemen who shaved for a good cause, for Dr. Jeyakumar, the most low profile and most productive lawmaker and the PSM 5! It was all 1Bersih Malaysia at the shaving event; there were Chinese, Malays, Indians, truly Malaysia of the Pakatan Rakyat kind.
Where were you, Mr. Anil Netto? I was looking forward to meeting my favourite blogger.
Salam 1Bersih Malaysia! Youths of Malaysia, wake up, Selamatkan Malaysia!
Sorry, Ahmad. Guess I missed all the fun over there…