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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bersih 2.0 Statement: Tun Hanif Omar’s panel fails to recognise the brutal conduct of the police during Bersih 3.0

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (BERSIH 2.0) views the recent statements by former chief of police Tun Hanif Omar in which he termed the allegations of police brutality as “unprofessional” as a weak response in the face of numerous eyewitness accounts of violence from the authorities during the 28 April peaceful assembly.

Hanif said that Kuala Lumpur Chief Police Officer Datuk Mohmad Salleh, who was observing through monitors in the Bukit Aman control centre, saw police handling the protesters in an unprofessional manner but does not acknowledge the brutal and excessive force used by the police as depicted in the medical reports of some protestors.

He also said that the police officers on duty had not been given specific instructions or SOPs on how to deal with the media and that the panel was trying to get the police to declare whether they received the three United Nations guidelines on treatment of the media and handling of crowds, among others. Hanif should realise that the police surely receive their instructions from those higher up; thus, the IGP and Home Minister are also responsible.

The response from IGP Tan Sri Ismail Omar that SOPs for police handling of the media would be issued “soon” fails to concretely address the concerns of the public and international community who witnessed many instances of violence directed at the media during the gathering.

On Hanif’s renewed call for the BERSIH 2.0 steering committee to meet with his panel, BERSIH 2.0 reiterates its objections to the panel itself as well as to Hanif’s appointment as its chairman and will not engage with it due to the biasness and composition of the investigative panel.

We also wish to remind the authorities that the unanswered question still remains – who is responsible for the untold violence upon participants of the peaceful assembly that occurred after the first tear gas was fired?

As depicted in the on-going public inquiry by Suhakam, evidence based on medical reports of some who were detained by the police appears to show that some members of the police force were out to punish those who wore BERSIH 3.0 t-shirts, anti-Lynas t-shirts or any yellow t-shirts, by inflicting excessive and completely unjustified violence on them.

Some detainees were attacked at the time of arrest, when they were in shops dining, or about to board LRTs while others were attacked after arrest and despite the absence of struggle. Some were alleged to have been assaulted by over 30 police personnel. Many speak of having to “run the gauntlet” of police personnel and beaten repeatedly before being loaded onto police trucks.

The brutality suggests that a segment of the police force on duty that day had acted with vengeance against BERSIH 3.0 participants whether due to orders given to them or because they had lost control. There are too many reports of police officers who were wearing blue police uniforms but without their names and police identity numbers so as to prevent the victims of violence from identifying the perpetrators of police violence. This cannot be taken lightly by those in power.

In addition to BERSIH 3.0 participants, it must not be forgotten that more than 12 photographers and journalists were assaulted, intimidated or detained by police while reporting the rally, and cameras, memory cards and video equipment were taken away.

As such, it is disappointing to see the Home Minister merely repeating the government’s stance that the panel’s findings of police violence only supported the Government’s position on the need to have mass gatherings in a controlled environment such as a stadium. BERSIH 2.0 remains firm that those in power must remember their first duty is to protect the constitutional freedom of citizens to assemble peacefully.

Thus, BERSIH 2.0 wishes to repeat its call for the establishment of an independent police commission such as theIndependent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to investigate any allegations of police misconduct and violence in a manner that is credible and fair in the eyes of the Malaysian public. Anything less than this will not be acceptable for a public that has grown weary of lip service and the people will not hesitate to make this clear during the next elections.

Keluar Mengundi, Lawan Penipuan!

Salam Bersih!

BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee

Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)

The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 comprises:

Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Co-Chairperson), Datuk A. Samad Said (Co-Chairperson), Ahmad Shukri Abdul Razab, Andrew Khoo, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Awang Abdillah (Kuching), Dominic Hii (Sibu), Dr Farouk Musa, Hishamuddin Rias, Liau Kok Fah, Mark Bujang (Miri), Maria Chin Abdullah, Niloh Ason (Kuching), Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh and Zaid Kamaruddin

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