Malaysia's Democratic Action Party has requested a meeting with the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the fate of 21 Malaysians arrested on Saturday for staging an illegal protest at Merlion Park.
DAP Member of Parliament for the Kulai constituency in Johor, Teo Nie Ching, told Yahoo! Singapore late on Tuesday that so far eight of those arrested in Singapore for protesting the recent election results have contacted her seeking help.
The DAP is one of the opposition parties under the Pakatan Rakyat coalition led by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Teo, who is also the DAP’s assistant publicity secretary, said the party was “very concerned” for the 21 Malaysians but added it was too early to tell if efforts to have a dialogue with Singapore authorities will prove successful.
The DAP, she said, will also help to look for lawyers in Singapore to represent those arrested if “they are indeed charged in court.” Singapore police have said investigations are on-going.
Teo also did not rule out the possibility for making a trip down to Singapore to meet the protesters, and said she would do so if there was a need. The MP is also coordinating efforts to help the 21, who are out on bail at the moment, to share and exchange information.
“They are all feeling very nervous as they don’t know what is going to happen to them. We will try our best to mitigate the damage. Hopefully we can reduce the negative impact to the minimum," said the 32-year-old, who held on to her Kulai seat after garnering a convincing 57 per cent of votes against her BN opponent Tay Chin Hein at the recent elections.
"As a lawyer by profession in Malaysia, I will try my best to give them some legal advice too,” she said.
The illegal protest where the arrests were made was held at the Merlion Park last Saturday – a few days after a first protest at the same location resulted in local police issuing a stern warning to nine Malaysians.
Teo said she was not surprised by the action taken by some of her fellow countrymen in Singapore, where protests are rare and illegal unless undertaken with relevant permits.
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) said in a statement that "while foreigners are allowed to work or live here, they have to abide by our laws".
"They should not import their domestic issues from their countries into Singapore and conduct activities which can disturb public order, as there can be groups with opposing views. Those who break the law will be seriously dealt with."
A police spokesman told AFP that the Malaysians were held under the Public Order Act, under which organisers of illegal protests can be jailed up to six months or fined S$10,000. They can also be both jailed and fined.
“It’s not just in Singapore. It happened in other countries too and I feel proud of my fellow Malaysians. Some say overseas Malaysians don’t care about what is going on in their homeland, but these Malaysians who protested overseas proved them wrong,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian High Commission to Singapore Datuk Md Hussin Nayan warned Malaysians living here to respect the laws or "face the consequences".
"I hope Malaysians working or studying in Singapore will reflect more on their situation before acting illegally," he was quoted on saying in The Star newspaper.
The protests were a result of anger over alleged fraud in the recent general election which saw the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, continue its 56-year reign of the country after winning a simple majority of parliament seats. However, Najib’s government lost the overall popular vote, garnering only 47 per cent.
The opposition coalition’s leader Anwar Ibrahim has challenged the outcome of the 13th general election, refusing to accept the results and calling it the “mother of all frauds.”
He has also held large scale protest rallies in Kuala Lumpur and Penang which were attended by tens of thousands of supporters.
Despite the opposition coalition’s overall defeat, the DAP’s stellar performance ensured that it is the largest opposition party in Parliament. It won 38 federal seats and 95 state seats.
The party’s stalwart veteran Lim Kit Siang won the hotly contested Gelang Patah seat in Johor by a convincing majority of 14,762 votes, defeating outgoing Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman.
(The writer is a freelance journalist. He can be reached @SatishCheney)
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