An army veteran tells Suhakam it is not the kind that should be used to keep the general public at bay.
KUALA LUMPUR: Some of the barbed wire used to cordon off Dataran Merdeka during the April 28 Bersih 3.0 rally is normally only used in instances of high conflict and not against the general public, according to an army veteran.
Khairul Anuar Pawanchik, who is retired from the armed forces, said the barbed wire, known as razor blade barbed concertina wire, should not have been used at Dataran Merdeka.
He was testifying at the Suhakam public inquiry into human rights abuses during the rally.
“The army usually uses them for defence against the enemy,” he said. “It is used to delay or slow down the enemy. It is not supposed to be used against the public or on the road.
“It is usually used in war zones and at prison walls. I think it should not have been used at all.”
Khairul, 60, said he saw a Chinese man with a bleeding ear during the rally at about 6pm during the rally, where he was a Red Crescent volunteer.
He said he passed by Dataran Merdeka after the rally had ended and verified that war zone barbed wire was used.
According to him, the wire looks deceptively soft but is actually hard and is made of substance similar to the kind used to make equipment for minor surgeries.
Khairul said he believed that the Chinese man’s injury was caused by the barbed wire because of the manner in which the ear was wounded.
He added that he observed that normal barbed wires were used as well on April 28, particularly at the junction of Jalan Raja Laut.
“Usually if you do use barbed wire, you widen the base and increase the height of the barrier so that it does not injure the people and at the same time it protects the people on the other side. That is better. That is safe.
“The razor concertina wire and the normal barbed wire are two different things.”
Concerned over public safety
Khairul, who serves as a communication and reserve officer in the Red Crescent Society, said he was not against the police but was concerned over public safety.
Khairul, who retired from the army in 1999, said his point of view was speaking from the point of view of a soldier, not a policeman’s, adding that he had no knowledge of the police’s standard operation procedures.
Khairul also told the hearing that the procedure of using tear gas should be re-examined.
“I have read accounts of people being hit in the face and chest by the tear gas,” he said. “One should pay attention to the velocity. It should be fired at a 45-degree angle from the hip.
“I am not saying that the police fired straight into the crowd on purpose. It may be by accident. That even happens in the army. When you are in a rush, you don’t quite pay attention to the angle.”
He added that a proper procedure on how the police should disperse a riot should be included in the Majis Keselamatan Malaysia’s handbook.
Khairul also described his experience with a rowdy crowd at about 4pm at Medan Mara. It was rumoured during the rally that an injured policeman was being treated in the building.
He said the crowd of around 200 people gathered there chanting “Bunuh polis! Polis jahat (Kill the police! They are evil)” and he said a few words to calm them down. The crowd finally dispersed, and one participant hugged him as a gesture of thanks, he added.
He said he did not see the injured police officer himself.
Khairul suggested that police include the Red Cresent Society in planning for crowd-control in future as they could provide valuable insights.
Today was the first day of the hearing. It is conducted by commissioners Mahmood Zuhdi Majid, Khaw Lake Tee and Detta Samen (photo, above). The same panel recently concluded an inquiry into the Bersih 2 rally, which happened on July 7 last year.
Bersih, the Bar Council and the Royal Malaysian Police Force are observers at the hearing. The panel heard from three witnesses during the five-hour session. Its next hearing is on July 11.
Curious observer harassed
“I was hiding at Masjid Jamek and saw the police chasing some protesters after 6pm,” he said. “The protesters managed to run away and then the police caught me and some others instead.
“I was walking from Sogo to Masjid Jamek around 2 to 3pm and the situation was almost carnival like.”
He also said police should have given the protesters more time to obey their instruction to disperse.
“They told us to disperse but they did not give us enough time to disperse. At Masjid Jamek, many people were trapped because the station was shut. People could not move so easily.”
He added: “To me, both the organisers and the police learnt nothing from the previous rally.”