Friday, July 24, 2009

Athi Shankar
Jul 23, 09

Ten people were arrested when a peaceful 'Save Kampung Buah Pala' march was about to begin in George Town was this morning.

They were all wearing range t-shirts with the words 'Save Kampung Buah Pala' emblazoned on the front and back.

A group of residents and their sympathisers, including MIC youth members, were about to begin a peaceful march at 10.15am from a Hindu temple in Jalan Datuk Keraman to the Chief Minister's Office.

Police swiftly moved in and arrested several of them before they could start their march to the Chief Minister's office in Komtar.

MIC Youth wing national coordinator T Mohan was among those arrested when he questioned the police for detaining a resident, who was distributing 'Save Kg Buah Pala' t-shirts at nearby temple.

"The police were rude and very aggressive towards us... they were rough when handcuffing us, my hands were injured," said Mohan.

He said he would be lodging a report against the officer who had arrested him.

Mohan was to lead the march to meet with Lim Guan Eng at 11am today to handover a memorandum asking the state government to sell the last remaining Indian traditional village to MIC so that it can be returned to the residents.

Detained for marching without a police permit

Besides Mohan (below), five other MIC youth members and two residents from Kampung Buah Pala were also arrested.

MIC's national youth secretary C Sivaraj, national social and welfare bureau chairperson L Subramaniam and K Jayashanker, the villager who was distributing the t-shirts were among those detained.

They have been taken to the Northeast district police headquarters in Jalan Patani, George Town.

Penang MIC assistant secretary N Ahilan, a practicing lawyer, later met Penang CPO Ayob Yaacob and George Town OCPD Azam Abdul Hamid to secure the release of his party collegues and other marchers.

Ahilan told newsmen that Ayob had assured him that they would be released once their statements had been recorded.

It's learnt that the police have detained them for allegedly organising an illegal procession without a police permit.

When contacted, Sivaraj said that they were not given little time by the police to disperse.

Following the arrest, attention quickly shifted to the Jalan Patani city police headquarters.

Bullock cart protest in front of police station

About 200 people, including 'Save Kampung Buah Pala' activists and curious onlookers, had gathered as news of police arrest spread across the city via text messages and online news.

Despite several warnings by police officers using loud hailers and the presence of a baton-wielding light strike force squad, the crowd refused to disperse and remained unperturbed.

The planned march was organised by the villagers and several civil societies to pressure Lim to preserve the Indian traditional village.

The organisers had planned to deploy about 10 bullock carts tethered to bulls from the village to join the 100 metre march to Komtar.

However, the bullock march did not take place following the arrest.
Later parked two bullock carts infront of the police station in a show of protest.

Penang MIC youth chief M Suresh said that the movement had decided to back the villagers because it involved a heritage issue.

He said he was shocked that the police were so aggressive and swift in detaining MIC leaders and villagers merely for standing outside the Hindu temple and distributing t-shirts.

"They had not even started to march when the police handcuffed and whisked them into the police van. It was just a peaceful march to save a Indian heritage village.

"Police should not have resorted to rough house tactics to intimidate the 'Save Kampung Buah Pala' campaigners," he said.

'No permit sought, none issued'

Later, at a press conference, CPO Ayob confirmed that 10 people were arrested for illegal gathering near a temple.

"They did not apply for police permit neither did we issue one. Their gathering has caused public disorder and we had to arrest them to maintain law and order.

"We will release them soon after recording their statement by today," he said.

The detainees were investigated under Section 117 of the Penal Code. Ayub said police were not against the villagers handing over the memorandum to the Chief Minister.

The village is also popularly known as 'Tamil High Chaparral' due to its population of cowherds, cattles, goats, other livestocks and lively Indian cultural features and lifestyle.

Those arrested were finally released at about 5pm and have been told to report back to the police on Aug 5.

Following their release, the residents and the MIC Youth members proceeded with the original plan to submit the memorandum to CM Lim.

Last night Lim held a meeting with the villagers, who turned out in full force, at his office in Level 28 Komtar to end the long running High Chaparral crisis.

He later told newsmen that he was happy to have finally met with the villagers and described the meeting as "friendly, cordial and fruitful."