By Clara Chooi | The Malaysian Insider
The Malaysian Bar has approved a resolution condemning the police for
using “excessive” and “indiscriminate” force to disperse Bersih 3.0
protesters on April 28, despite objections raised by a minority group of
lawyers at today’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM).
The resolution, passed by way of voting this evening, also demands
apologies from the home minister and Inspector-General of Police to the
public and members of the media over the conduct of the police during
According to Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee, only 16 of the 1,270
Malaysian Bar members in attendance today had opposed the resolution,
which contained findings of alleged police brutality against protesters
and members of the media.
A total of 939 votes were recorded in support of the resolution. There are some 14,000 members in the Malaysian Bar.
Commending today’s high turnout at the EGM, which exceeded the
turnout of some 800 members during the Bar’s annual general meeting
(AGM) in March, Lim said it was clear that members viewed the events
surrounding Bersih 3.0 seriously.
“The fact is, there was widespread reports of police brutality and
excessive, disproportionate use of tear gas and water cannons in KL,
which only started after the alleged reported breach of the barricades
at Dataran Merdeka after 3pm… prior to which, there was a carnival-like
atmosphere,” he told a press conference after the three-hour EGM.
Lim, referring to a report by the Bar Council’s team of 78 monitors
for the rally, said unlike the chaos during Bersih 3.0 in Kuala Lumpur,
other concurrent rallies held in Kuantan, Johor Bahru, Malacca and Ipoh
had seen the police acting with restraint.
In KL, he said, the police had failed to offer sufficient warning to
protesters before moving to disperse them. The police are also said to
have boxed in protesters by sealing off escape routes, instead of
offering them sufficient time to disperse.
He said the estimated 100,000-strong crowd that thronged numerous
streets in the heart of Kuala Lumpur on April 28 had not been allowed
enough room to disperse as volleys of tear gas canisters and
chemical-laced water rained down on them even as they attempted to run.
“Which begs the simple question: Why has the police not read or
implemented the findings and recommendations of Suhakam (Malaysian Human
Rights Commission)?” he asked, referring to four past investigations
conducted by the panel on different rallies.
Lim also insisted that the jeering or insults allegedly hurled by
protesters at policemen on duty during Bersih 3.0 did not justify the
force with which the latter group retaliated.
He pointed out that protesters were unarmed and that the burden of
ensuring crowd control lies in the hands of those who are armed, namely
the police. Restraint, he said, must be maintained at all costs.
“Does calling the police ‘sampah’ (rubbish) or ‘anjing’ (dog) justify
the firing of tear gas or water cannons? Let us not forget this — the
police have the responsibility, the powers and the weapons. Malaysians
do not,” he said.
Lim noted that debates during today’s EGM had been robust as a number
of lawyers in attendance had stood to express opposing views.
But, he stressed, the resolution was later supported by “an
overwhelming majority”, indicating that the Bar was unified in its stand
on Bersih 3.0.
Among others, the resolution condemns the “excessive, indiscriminate
and wrongful” use of tear gas and water cannons against protesters,
failure of the police to allow rally participants time to disperse and
widespread reports of police brutality against protesters and media
“Bar members also asked the president (Lim) to highlight to the media
that the arrest, assault and confiscation of the equipment of the media
are condemned by the Bar. This must never happen
“Secondly, it is most unfortunate the mainstream media, had not given balanced reporting,” Lim said.
Today’s EGM was called to discuss the slew of issues surrounding the
rally for free and fair elections, which saw chaos on the streets of the
capital when police fired tear gas and chemical-laced water to disperse
According to a notice issued on the Malaysian Bar’s official website
on May 4, the EGM was called to discuss a motion “in relation to the
events of and surrounding the public rally on 28 April 2012 organised by
Bersih 3.0, and matters in connection therewith”.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently labelled the
demonstration as an attempt by certain quarters to overthrow the elected
Barisan Nasional (BN) government, as he hardened his administration’s
position towards the electoral reform movement.
Lim previously said that the Bar’s monitoring team had found more
instances of police brutality compared to last year’s July 9 Bersih
He also said the authorities failed to take heed of criticism and
recommendations outlined by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission
(Suhakam) with regards to police conduct during Bersih’s first two
rallies, and lamented on how “little has changed.”