Former Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah has condemned the arrests of three women who allegedly took down Barisan Nasional (BN) flags in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.
“There was no reason for the women to be arrested and placed in custody. I strongly condemn the action by the police. This is an attempt to frighten honest citizens just before GE14,” she said.
In a statement on Wednesday (April 18), Maria also questioned why the police did not act against those who put up the flags since it violated election laws and condemned the arrests.
The trio – two aged 31 and another aged 37 – were arrested in Taman Tun Dr Ismail on Tuesday night (April 17) for using scissors to cut down Barisan flags at the residential area.
City police chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim said police were informed of the flag removal by a member of the public who claimed he saw three women cutting down the flags along Jalan Leong Yew Koh.
“Following the alert, a team conducted a search on two vehicles driven by the trio after they arrived at the TTDI police station to hand over the flags kept inside a bag,” he was quoted saying.
He said police recovered 133 BN flags, cutting tools, flashlight and plastic bags during the search.
It is believed that the suspects were brought to the Jinjang Central Lockup following their arrests.
Initial investigations revealed the trio are TTDI residents of different ethnic groups not politically aligned to any parties.
“They claimed they were motivated to do so following continued inaction by the local authorities to enforce rules regarding the installation of party flags before Nomination Day on April 28 after they had lodged complaints on the matter.
“Their actions were conducted voluntarily and were not pressured by any political parties,” Mazlan was quoted saying.
The case is being investigated under Section 427 of the Penal Code for causing mischief.
Police advised the public to report such incidents to the local municipal authorities and not take matters into their own hands.
Maria cited Section 24B(4) of the Election Offences Act 1954, which states that campaign materials can only be displayed during the campaigning period which starts from nomination day on April 28.
“Unless they have a permit, putting up posters, flags and banners is an election offence as it is not yet the campaign period,” she said.
Maria added that those who had put up the flags should also be charged under the Advertisement By-laws (Federal Territory) 1982 and the Vandalism By-laws (Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur) 1991.
DAP’s Lim Lip Eng has also urged authorities to punish those who put up flags before nomination day.
“Though I don’t condone the three ladies’ act of destroying the BN flags, I don’t think they should have been detained by the police,” Lim told FMT.
He said the women could just be frustrated citizens and were not hardcore criminals on the loose.
“The authorities should also punish those responsible for putting up BN flags because campaigning hasn’t officially started,” he added.