KUALA LUMPUR • A prominent blogger and an Umno official have been arrested in connection with a shopping mall riot last weekend as political leaders, including former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, condemned the fracas.
Wan Mohd Azri Wan Deris, who goes by the handle "Papagomo", was arrested at his home on Tuesday night under Malaysia's Sedition Act. Police had earlier given him a day to turn himself in for allegedly posting false information on social media that led to the riot outside Low Yat Plaza, a popular electronics mall in the Bukit Bintang tourist belt, on Sunday night.
The blogger had posted a picture of a bloodied Malay man, and claimed he was a victim of a brawl at the mall last Saturday. A relative of that victim told the blogger off on Twitter, saying the man had been robbed in an unrelated incident in Shah Alam.
Wan Mohd is in remand for two days to help police investigations.
Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar yesterday said other netizens who spread rumours online will also be detained.
FRAGILE RACE RELATIONS
There were a lot of statements that were inflammatory and racist because of a single incident that involved a vendor and a buyer. It just goes to show how fragile race relations are in Malaysia.
MR KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN, Youth and Sports Minister
IGP Khalid has said the fights and rioting were not racially motivated but stemmed from a simple theft.
Also, Bagan Umno division head Shaik Hussein Mydin was arrested outside a police station yesterday, as he was about to hold a press conference about the mall brawl.
He had allegedly posted messages criticising IGP Khalid. But the police chief told The Malaysian Insider that the politician was arrested for attempting to incite racial hatred, not for criticising him.
Datuk Shaik Hussein is the third person to be investigated for sedition following the Low Yat Plaza fracas. Police had earlier picked up activist Mohd Ali Baharom, better known as "Ali Tinju", for allegedly causing racial tension. The former armed forces personnel was seen in a video making offensive racial remarks in front of Low Yat Plaza. The video has gone viral and he also posted it on his Facebook page.
Several leaders have condemned the violence. Tun Dr Mahathir said the fighting should not have happened in the first place in a multiracial society like Malaysia. "It all began because someone had allegedly stolen a handphone and was arrested for it. He then called on his followers to attack the people who nabbed him. Although there might be anger among us, we should not riot. That will shoo everyone away, be it locals or foreigners," he said.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin urged the public to allow the police to investigate. He said it was unfortunate that half-truths had spread via social media and turned the incident into a political and racial issue.
"There were a lot of statements that were inflammatory and racist because of a single incident that involved a vendor and a buyer. It just goes to show how fragile race relations are in Malaysia," he told the Malaysian Insider.
And opposition stalwart Lim Kit Siang said he is prepared for a political ceasefire with rivals Barisan Nasional, and meet Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss the need for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the riot. The Gelang Patah MP said the meeting is necessary to defuse the rising racial tension, the Malay Mail reported.
According to IGP Khalid, two men were arrested at Low Yat Plaza last Saturday after stealing a cellphone from a shop. Staff caught the two but one of them was released. He reportedly returned to the mall with a group of seven and attacked the staff who had helped nabbed him and the alleged thief.
The duo's claim of being cheated went viral. On Sunday, more than a hundred people gathered at the mall and a riot broke out, injuring several people.