IPOH, June 2 — It may have been a peaceful protest but the three women and two men who picketed outside Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun (HRPB) here this morning were arrested for obstructing civil servants from carrying out their duties, police said.

Ipoh police chief Assistant Commissioner A. Asmadi Abdul Aziz said the five picketeers, aged between 67 and 35, refused to disperse even after several warnings were given.

“Police ordered the group who were holding banners and chanting hidup persatuan (long live union) to disperse. 

“Most of them left the place after a few repeated orders, however, these five individuals refused to disperse.

“The five were arrested for obstructing public servants from carrying out their duty and were taken action under Regulation 7 (1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020,” he said,” he told Malay Mail when contacted this evening.

He confirmed the five who were arrested were M. Saraswathy, L. Danaletchumy and V. Santhiran, P. Jothi and C. Subramaniam. The first and last two named are also members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).

They were among just under 20 picket participants against Edgenta UEMS, a hospital cleaning service company. 

Asmadi said police plan to request a remand order tomorrow and will recommend charges against them on Thursday.

The arrest was criticised by PSM secretary-general A. Sivarajan who said the five were only trying to raise attention on the protection of hospital cleaners who were allegedly harassed by their employer Edgenta UEMS, a hospital cleaning services company in a union-busting move, which also exposed them to higher health risks, including infection from the Covid-19 virus.

Asmadi said police preliminary investigations showed that the five arrestees had gathered with banners in front of HRPB to display dissatisfaction toward Edgenta UEMS’ supervisor. 

“The individuals claim that the cleaners were pressured at work and threatened if they did not listen to the employer. They also said that they will be transferred, changed to different shifts, lockers will be broken and so on.

“The cleaners complained to Saraswathy and she brought the cleaners together in front of the hospital so seek justice on the matter,” he said.