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Police show the good, bad and ugly

 | April 30, 2012

Reminiscent of the videos police provided after Bersih 2.0 last year, missing were scenes of police assaulting protesters.

UPDATED

KUALA LUMPUR: The police today aired a compilation of videos representing the official version of “what really happened” during the Bersih 3.0 rally on Saturday.

Reminiscent of the video presentation that the police gave after the Bersih 2.0 rally last year, noticeably missing were footages of police assaulting protesters. Also missing were video clips of protesters allegedly assaulting policemen.

The videos, which played for about seven minutes, showed various scenes of protesters appearing aggressive and the police displaying restraint.

In one scene, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and PKR’s Badrul Hisham Shaharin and Azmin Ali were shown gesturing to each other with a protester nodding and then charging at the police barricade at Dataran Merdeka.

It also showed that police backing down after protesters had rushed through the barriers and waiting for several moments before spraying water on the crowd.

Another scene showed PAS’s Unit Amal leading protesters in a charge into a police human barricade near KLCC.

In another clip, Bersih 3.0 steering committee member Wong Chin Huat is shown delivering a short speech, in which he said: “It is now 4pm. The rally is over. We have succeeeded.” This was moments before a police car drove by and protesters started attacking it and the driver and subsequently overturning it.

Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar, who showed the video compilation, said the lesson learnt by police from Bersih 2.0 and 3.0 was this: “When we do not follow the law, such problems happen.”

At a press conference earlier, Ismail said what happened on Saturday was far from peaceful.

“It was not a peaceful assembly,” he said. “It was a street demonstration that turned into a riot. Property was damaged and they also injured police who were on duty.

“This was not in line with the spirit of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.”

Alternative venues

Ismail said he regretted that the organisers did not take up the offer to rally at stadiums, but added that he would not dismiss the possibility that the same thing could happen even at the alternative venues.

“A street demonstration is not part of the culture of our society,” he said. “It is something that endangers public order and national security.”

Ismail said that police had adopted a “non-engagement” approach on Saturday and had displayed “full restraint” until the protesters started acting aggressively.

“We had complete restraint from the beginning. For so many hours we were not moving. We were only monitoring how they were. We were patient, courteous but firm until they broke the last barrier.”

He said “things could have been worse for both sides” if police had not retaliated with water cannons and tear gas.

Ismail vowed that the police would be fair in investigating all complaints, including alleged police brutality and protester brutality.

Instigators

He said the target of investigations would “include not only those who were directly involved in damaging property and assaulting people, but also those who instigated the confrontation”.

Ismail added that an internal probe would be conducted on his men and he would inform the public of the outcome. He said there had been more than 10 reports against the police and many
against the protesters.

Ismail said the investigations would be under sections 148 and 440 of the Penal Code for “rioting” and “mischief occurring during disturbances” respectively.

“We’ll also look into other elements such as instigation, abetment and so on. It will be inclusive and involve all asepects,” he said.

On allegations that the Home Ministry had ordered policemen to be part of the Bersih crowd, Ismail said: “Prove it to me.”

Questioned about Bar Council’s complaint about the police denying legal representation, Ismail at first denied it. But when pressed, he said that complaints could be forwarded to him.

Saturday’s rally saw 80,000 Malaysians across the racial divide converging in the heart of the city centre to support a call for clean and fair elections.

A total of 512 people were arrested, including 30 women and five below the age of 15. Since Saturday, the government on one side and the opposition parties and Bersih on the other have been trading blames for the chaos and violence that occurred.

Allegations of police brutality and protesters being violent and unruly continues to be debated online and offline.


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