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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

> S'gor police chief is lying, claims Jerit

Jerit, which is organising a nationwide cycling tour to highlight several issues affecting the rakyat, today hit back at the Selangor police chief for accusing the movement of abusing children for the campaign.

The movement, in a statement, said that the state's top cop Khalid Abu Bakar had "lied and misled" the public on the actual situation with his statements.

Yesterday, following the arrest of some 50 cyclists in Rawang, Khalid had told the media that 28 of the cyclists were found to be under the age of 18.

He added that the police had to detain the cyclists and organisers to save the children from irresponsible people who were exploiting and misusing them.

"When giving their statements, these children said they did not know why they were asked to participate in the cycling event," he had told reporters last night.

The adult cyclists and several Jerit coordinators were arrested and investigated for public processions under the Police Act and for abusing children under the Child Act.

Responding today, Jerit said that all the under-aged cyclists had parental consent to take part in the cycling campaign.

"The children actually refused to say anything to the police officers as they did not want to cooperate with the police as they are being detained illegally.

"The children were also questioned by police whether they were 

paid to do this. What was the police trying to show with these kind of questions?" asked the movement.

Jerit also said that it had been very responsible in taking care of the cyclists' welfare since day one.

Causing trauma for the children

It pointed out that the police on the other hand had failed to provide the children with shelter from rain last night while they were kept at the Rawang police station.

"And when they (the children) tried to find shelter, the Light Strike Force threatened and intimidated them.

"They were not given food until 11pm at night and that too only after so much of pressure," added the Jerit statement.

Jerit also said that Khalid had failed to mention that the children were arrested without the presence of any officers from the Welfare Department.

"Children are not supposed be kept overnight in the police station, but the police kept them there the whole night. How is that for breaking laws?" questioned Jerit.

The children were finally released today after their parents were asked to come to vouch for them at the Rawang police station.

Even then, the parents were not allowed to fetch their children without hassle, added Jerit.

"When the parents arrived at the police station, they were not allowed in, and then police insisted on taking statement from each parent before releasing their children.

"Isn't this a violation? Why do the parents need to give statement? The parents protested and refused to give statement to police and demanded for their children. The police were causing more trauma and agony to the parents of the children," added Jerit in the statement.

Agony and mental torture

The movement said that it strongly condemned Khalid's actions, which were deemed to be inhumane and in violation of the rights of the cyclists.

"His statement about saving the children does not fit as he caused a lot of agony and mental torture for the cyclists," it added.

Jerit's cycling campaign started simultaneously from Kedah and Johor on Dec 3 to raise public awareness of issues such as food shortage, environmental problems, draconian laws and the impending economic crisis.

The two teams of riders are scheduled to reach Kuala Lumpur on Thursday to submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim at Parliament House.

The campaign has seen much drama over the days with arrests and roadblocks. Several bicycles were torched by arsonists.

Jerit has accused the police of harassment and submitted a memorandum to the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) on the matter - Malaysiakini.