23 ACTIVIST ARRESTED, HOUSES DEMOLISHED!
After almost 8 hours of defending 62 houses in Kampung Berembang, finally the police and local authorities crushed the resistance resulting in 23 arrests including arrest of PSM and JERIT leaders, houses being demolished and burned down and one women in a very critical condition, fighting for her life in the hospital.
At the village, all three entrances to the village have been blocked by human shield and other items. There were also a large number of activists mainly from JERIT and PSM, along with several other villagers from other Urban Settlers community aligned to the Coalition of Housing and Urban Settlers present. The situation was tense and the people waited for the showdown.
After more than 3 hours of initial stand-off, the first ambush by MPAJ at around 10.30am saw a massive clash between the local authorities and the villagers.
The fight broke out with every corner, fist fighting, punching and dragging. The local authorities with 3 huge demolition machines failed to penetrate the human shield but it resulted in the local authorities arresting and assaulting 8 people – 2 villagers and 6 activist.
The assault was brutal but the people were equally strong and the first wave of attack by the authorities failed. There were injuries from both sides. Both parties retreated to original positions.
Then came the second round of stand still. The District Police Chief of Ampang, ACP Amer and his high ranking officers were also prevented from entering the area from another location. That resulted in another arrest by the police. Human Rights Commissioner, Dato Siva Subramaniam arrived shortly.
Then in a series of negotiations between the District police Chief, Dato Siva, MPAJ officer- Ismail, the developer and PSM Secretary general S.Arutchelvan created a stand still but a tense situation.
The police Chief told that he prefers to call off the operation as he said the situation is very tense and serious and he wants to avoid a bloodshed.
Siva Subramaniam said that the demolition should be called off and SUHAKAM (Human Rights Commission) will conduct a meeting with the relevant bodies to resolve the issue.
But the Local authorities- MPAJ who were under the Instruction of the Developers was very adamant to bull doze. They told the police that they have enough people to carry out the operation.
The police then told all parties to hold on, as there were attempt to reach certain Government authorities to call off the exercise.
Both parties stood their ground. The developers and the MPAJ said that the people did not have an Injunction while the people said that the case was to be heard in April next year and therefore the authorities have to wait and the land status must remain unchanged.
Then the police Chief, MPAJ and SUHAKAM representative went to the Developers site office with the instruction that there should be no forced eviction until some agreement can be reached.
Just after 1 pm, the whole situation from gloom changed to happiness when 2 villagers shouted victory and carried with them some papers. They managed to get a letter calling for the demolition and forced eviction to be postponed. The letter was released by the Prime Minister's Department and signed by the Prime Minister's private secretary. The villager Pak Lang told the people gathered, that the Government has opened its eyes.
We have a letter now and thanked everyone. The activists were very cautious and told the people not to be fooled but wait for the final confirmation that the forced eviction exercise will be called off.
Pak Lang has already started singing praises for the Prime Minister.
A team of villagers and the PSM Sec Gen, S.Arutchelvan then took the letters to the Developers site office. They were shocked to find that the Developers has catered a lot of food to feed the government servants.
Meanwhile the Human Rights Commission representative , Dato Siva said that the letter is good enough to stop the demolition of houses.
He said this is from the highest authority- The Prime Minister's Office. He later held a Press Conference at the side and left.
An hour later, things became sour again when Riot police started parking their heavy vehicles in two main entrance to the village.
The news then came that the Selangor Chief Minister (MB) Khir Toyo has overruled the PM's letter and has called for the operation to carry on.
Pak Lang was stunned and in tears. The villagers were stunned. The Villagers then made a human chain with the activists and waited for the ultimate assault, which was imminent.
Then a team of police under the order of the Deputy Police Chief came to arrest PSM Secretary General S.Arutchelvan, who was at that time the key negotiator.
He was told to surrender but he remained defiant. Arul was then arrested, dragged and handcuffed by around ten policemen. He was then taken away to a separate police detention center.
The rest of the people continued to hold on. They managed to hold on for another half an hour, then the next series of arrest took place.
Sivarajan, PSM's Treasurer, Chang Lih Kang- SUARAM were arrested, other JERIT leaders as well other activists and villagers were arrested.
13 more people were arrested, a fight broke out, more people got injured and one young lady collapsed and did not regain consciousness. She was taken to the Hospital nearby!
The authorities moved from every angle, one house was razed and the rest went down one by one.
The resistance collapsed under a heavy presence of riot police with authorities outnumbering the people by 3 to 1.
All those arrested were taken to the Hulu Kelang police station except for Arutchelvan who was kept at the Ampang Police Headquaters.
He was later taken to the Hulu Kelang Police Station and after a massive protest by Human Rights Groups, all those arrested were released just before midnight the same day.
They were released on police bail and told to report at the Ampang magistrate on 4 th December 2006.
Around ten police reports at different parts of the country was also done by the JERIT network condemning the arrests and the forced evictions..
At the village, the houseless people erected tents.
They were still stunned how the Chief Minister- Khir Toyo can overrule a letter from the Prime Minister's department? They are now more convinced that the Prime Minister has no control over this matter.
The Human Rights Commission @ SUHAKAM is equally stunned and are going to call for a Press Conference the following day.
The arrest of 23 people is perhaps the first time after many years when such a huge resistance was put up.
The last major resistance in an Urban Settlers area was in 1998 in Kampung Sg. Nipah where 55 people were arrested.
Today the resistance in Kampung Berembang has radicalized the community there.
The people are putting up tents and are staying put in the same land. Under the ruins, they are going to attempt to build their homes again.
The resistance this time also saw how the various races can unite under a class solidarity to fight the oppressors. The villagers- all of them Muslim Malays have now realized a few important lesson.
They now see that the issue is simply that the Developer(capitalist) has bought over the local authorities and the State Government and police are standing behind them. The Prime Minister's letter did not stand.
The only people who stood with the poor urban settlers were other settlers from various ethnic and comrades from the socialist party and the JERIT coalition as well as the other activists! They now understand who are their allies and who are their enemy.
List of people arrested:
1. Adli Abdul Rahman
2. Ahmad Tamrin
4. Awalluddin Sharif
5. Azman Mohd
6. Chang Lih Kang
7. Ebrahim Haris
8. Faezae Ramzi (15 years old)
9. Fiqtriey bin Al Hakimi
11. Lechumy Devi Doraisamy
12. Lee Huat Seng
14. Mohd. Rajis
15. Parames Elumalai
16. Ramachanthiran Ananthan
17. Ramalingam Thirumalai
18. Sabariah Ayoub
21. Thevarajan Ramasamy
22. V. Wani