COVID-19 vigil attendees hauled up by police slapped with RM2,000 fines

COVID-19 vigil attendees being hauled up by police at Merdeka Square on Aug. 19, 2021. Photos: @elisa_shafiqah/Twitter, Vibes/Twitter
COVID-19 vigil attendees being hauled up by police at Merdeka Square on Aug. 19, 2021. Photos: @elisa_shafiqah/Twitter, Vibes/Twitter

Thirty-one attendees of last night’s candlelight vigil honoring the thousands who died of COVID-19 in Malaysia have been slapped with RM2,000 fines after they were filmed being hauled up into police vehicles.

The vigil at Merdeka Square was held without notifying the police, Dang Wangi Police Chief Noor Dellhan Yahaya said today, a day after photos and videos surfaced online showing a clash between the police and attendees, who include political activists Mohammad Asraf Sharaf, Qyira Yusri, and Sarah Irdina Mohamad Ariff.

“We would like to advise the public to adhere to SOPs set by the National Security Council meant to contain the COVID-19 pandemic,” Noor Delihan said. Gatherings are not allowed in Malaysia as per COVID-19 measures. 

The attendees were fined after providing statements to the police. An investigation under Section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 is underway. 

Last night’s vigil was organized by the political group Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat. Asraf was the organizer of the Lawan anti-government protest, Qyira is known for advocating youth voting rights, while Sarah is the founder of the youth group Solidarity Mission.

Attendees who gathered for the vigil at the Merdeka Square yesterday had lit up candles and held up a banner with the word “LAWAN,” which means fight. About a dozen police officers who arrived were later filmed dragging attendees into the Black Maria police vehicle. 

“So that’s me folks, being forced into a Black Maria because I chose to exercise my democratic right to expression by showing up at a candle light vigil to honour and remember 13k plus people who have passed away due to COVID,” vigil attendee Thulsi Manogaran wrote on Twitter.

One of the officers was also seen tugging at a woman’s arm as if forcing her to stand up. She was known only as Sarah.

“STRAIGHT UP OFFENCE. SARAH WAS COMPLYING TO THE AUTHORITY. SHE DID NOT DESERVE TO BE BEATEN FOR,” Twitter user and Lawan supporter Elisa Shafiqah said. The video of the woman being roughed up has been viewed more than 200,000 times since yesterday.

The arrest sparked an outcry among civil society groups denouncing the police’s intimidation of the vigil attendees. 

A total of 13,480 people have died of COVID-19 in Malaysia, which has reported close to 1.5 million cases so far.  

Other stories: 

#Lawan video captures Malaysians’ frustration over Muhyiddin, COVID-19

Kedah floods: Horrific videos show muddy water gushing down a hill, washing through homes

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