IPOH, June 22 — Five activists, who were arrested and charged with picketing outside Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun (HRPB) earlier this month, together with the National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services (NUWHSAS), lodged police reports after alleging that they were wrongfully arrested and mistreated by the police during their arrest and detention in lockup.
The five were NUWHSAS executive secretary M. Sarasvathy, 67, who is also a Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) committee member; NUWHSAS officials L. Danaletchumi, 35 and V. Santhiran, 52; PSM member P. Jody, 61; and PSM activist C. Subramane, 60.
Sarasvathy accused the police of violence and misusing their power during their arrest despite the picketers following all the standard operating procedures (SOP) of the movement control order (MCO), including practising social distance, wearing face masks and taking temperature checks during the picket.
“We were wrongfully arrested as we followed all the SOPs. The police forced me and four other activists into a ‘Black Maria’ van and we were forcefully chained.
“Despite shouting out in pain, the police officers did not loosen our handcuffs. The police officer also forcefully tried to take one of the activists’ mobile phones,” she told a press conference in front of the Ipoh Police District Headquarters (IPD) here.
Upon arriving at the IPD, Sarasvathy alleged that a policeman used abusive words when they struggled to find a seat with their hands cuffed in chains.
“The policeman said ‘Oi...Jangan bising la. Gampang. Bising macam binatang. Duduk diam-diam,” she said.
Despite being taken to IPD at 1.30pm on the day of their arrest, Sarasvathy said that the female activists were only transferred to the Pekan Baru police station lockup here at around midnight.
“All three of us were mistreated badly in the lockup. We were forced to change to the lockup attire while the changing room door was open, not given water to take our medicine, forced to bathe using a small, dirty towel and one of the policemen used abusive words to threaten us.
“One of the activists was also forced to take off her wedding thali (wedding necklace). In Indian culture, women can only take off their thali when their husband is dead,” she said.
She said that three reports were lodged by three activists yesterday, while another two reports were lodged by another two activists today, adding another report was also lodged by the union today.
Similarly, Subramane also alleged that he and another male activist were also forced to strip and wear the lockup attire in front of six policemen at the male lockup in IPD.
Meanwhile, NUWHSAS president Roziah Mohamad Hashin said that the union strongly opposes the arrest of five of its members and urged the authorities to investigate this matter.
“They have followed all the SOPs, but the police have abused their power and wrongfully arrested them,” she said.
Ipoh police district deputy police chief Superintendent Mohamad Nordin Abdullah said that the police will investigate the allegations raised by the five activists and the union.
“We will conduct an internal investigation. If the incident is true and there is an offence, we will take action,” he said.
On June 2, the five activists together with the several other members of NUWHSAS, who are mostly hospital cleaners, held a protest in front of HRPB here.
The protest aimed to raise attention to the hospital cleaners’ grouses, including the lack of protective gear against the Covid-19 virus.
They claimed that they have been subjected to constant harassment, victimisation and union-busting activities since early this year after making multiple police reports and complaints to the Human Resources Ministry against UEM Edgenta’s subsidiary Edgenta UEMS Sdn Bhd.
They five activists were later arrested by the police for obstructing civil servants from carrying out their duties.
They were released the next day after the Magistrate refused the remand order and instructed police to release all five of them as soon as fingerprints and other records were obtained.
However, the five individuals were charged at the Magistrates’ Court on June 4 for defying the conditional movement control order (CMCO) by gathering in front of HRPB for social purposes, which all of them pleaded not guilty for the offense.
UEM Edgenta Bhd has denied the allegations by NUWHSAS of anti-union tactics and mistreatment of its members.