The tranquil suburb of Bandar Mahkota Cheras (BMC) descended into chaos last night when police doused some 500 residents with water cannons and fired dozens of tear gas canisters into the crowd. During the melee, Segambut member of parliament Lim Lip Eng and BMC Open Road Committee chairperson Tan Boon Hwa were allegedly assaulted by plainclothes police officers.
The incident occurred shortly after Lim arrived at the scene at about 10pm to lend support to the residents who had gathered at the Bandar Tun Hussien Onn intersection of the Kajang-Cheras Highway. The highway concessionaire Grand Saga Sdn Bhd was in the midst of erecting a concrete barrier - for the third time - aimed at thwarting the BMC residents from entering the intersection and thus bypassing a toll booth on the highway.
This resulted in commuters having to travel an additional six kilometres and pay Grand Saga 90 sen toll for every trip!!
At the time when Lim came to the area, the police were keeping a close watch on the residents who were gathering around Grand Saga employees working on the concrete barricade. Lim had approached Grand Saga workers and the police to find out who was in charge of the construction work. After failing to get answers, he decided to remove the wires from the machines used by construction workers to weld the steel rods to reinforce the concrete barrier (left).
'I was maced, beaten' he said.
Without the welding machines, Grand Saga workers withdrew, prompting residents to surge past riot police cordons and destroying the partly-completed barrier with their bare hands in a matter of minutes. The jubilant crowd later tossed Lim into the air several times but the mood soured seconds later when the riot police issued warnings for the crowd to disperse. Suddenly some 50 riot police took up attacking positions and there was a brief stand-off with the residents with only what remains of the barrier separating the authorities and the residents. What followed was utter chaos when Lim tried to stop a water cannon truck from advancing by standing in front of the truck.
According to Lim, several plainclothes officers forcibly removed him and a melee ensued.
"They dragged me aside and sprayed mace on my face. I couldn't see. Then they punched me and kicked me," he told reporters about two hours after the incident. His shirt was torn during the scuffle.
Selangor state executive councilor Ean Yong Hian Wah who was also at the scene told reporters that the Lim's beating only stopped when the police were told he was a parliamentarian. Beaten in front of reporters, Lim, a trained lawyer, is a well-known figure among the residents as he has been serving as the legal advisor for the BMC Open Road Committee.
Meanwhile, committee chairperson Tan was among the crowd at the time of the fracas. Upon seeing Lim being assaulted, he rushed forward to aid him. For his efforts, Tan too was allegedly assaulted and later arrested. Eyewitnesses claimed that he was punched at least once by a plainclothes officer in full view of a group of reporters and photographers. Tan was bundled away in a police patrol car while a resident drove Lim and Ean Yong to a nearby clinic for medical treatment.
By this time, the police had already fired the water cannon once, but when it failed to break up the crowd, three rounds of tear gas were fired. The crowd eventually dispersed.
When approached by reporters last night, Kajang district deputy police chief Supt Toha Abdullah claimed that he was unaware of the police beatings. He also said that the police had to disperse the crowd because they were "menggangu tugas keselamatan pihak polis” (interfering with police security duties). In all, three residents and Tan were arrested.
When Kajang district police chief Shakaruddin Che Mood was contacted shortly after midnight, he said that the police had yet to decide what charges would be slapped on the detainees. All four were released on bail early this morning. According to Tan, as of 7pm today, Grand Saga had yet to re-erect the barrier and commuters are using the disputed access road without hindrance.