The contact was more than physical: it was a brutal crushing of bodies.
The probe into the April 28 rally is turning out to be a sham. The panel chairman tasked with finding the truth about the events that led to the outbreak of violence on that dark day made a preposterous statement when he said the police were ordered not to come into physical contact with the protesters to avoid spilling blood. The chairman must have been wearing blinkers on the day when thousands converged on the barricades of freedom square. It was not a pretty sight when the clashes eventually broke out.
When the trouble erupted, the chief investigator was probably in his Genting redoubt and did not see what happened on the ground. Or maybe he saw on the idiot box the government version where the poor victims were his men in blue. The reality was different. Did the police hold back for fear of coming into contact with human flesh? No, sir! Switch off the propaganda stuff and watch the citizens’ videos to get the truth.
When the storm broke loose, all those men in uniform were transformed into ferocious animals who lost all restraint and attacked the defenceless people in a paroxysm of rage. The contact was more than physical: it was a brutal crushing of bodies. The arms and legs of the police were their batons: they used them to beat, stomp, trample, slap, punch, kick while at the same time unleashing salvos after salvos of tear gas directly into the trapped crowd.
In scenes after scenes, the guardians of law and order became the perpetrators of violence. There are photos of Federal Reserve Unit clutching batons, contrary to what the chief investigator claimed. He said the FRU contingent was not equipped with batons, which is a bared-faced lie. All the uniformed personnel were out in full force eager to do battle with citizens armed only with mineral water bottles and salt.
The police were not peaceful bystanders on the day they received their orders to confront the protesters. The rally was treated as an act of war and all the citizens on the streets as enemies of the state. The mission of the men in riot gear was clear: crush the rally with all the power at their disposal. Hostility had commenced the moment “war grade” barbed wires were rolled out, turning freedom square into a war zone. Suhakam in a parallel investigation of the rally found that the type of barbed wires used were meant for times of war to repel invaders. That explained the nasty cuts suffered by many who fell on the spiky wires.
Yet the former top gun in the police force was satisfied with the explanation of his boys. Dressed like a tourist, he visited the site of the war zone but only to listen to the police give their version of the battle at that iconic site. He should have lent his ears to the many victims of police brutality to get a truer picture. Or just check the countless videos and pictures which captured the extent of the violence committed by the law enforcers.
The toothless panel will soon draw its own “fair” conclusion after listening to the testimonies of a few witnesses. It will be an exercise in futility because the findings will carry little or no weight with the public who know better than to trust a government-appointed panel. The great cover-up began the very moment the former top police chief was picked to lead the probe. The five “wise” men can only come up with a sanitised story that will make the police smell like roses. They must exonerate the government and heap all blame on the organisers.
It is left to Suhakam to come up with a credible report and rebuild the bridge of trust with the people. Though Suhakam too has lost many teeth, it must at least roar its displeasure if it detected any elements of criminal behaviour on the part of the police. It must interview as many witnesses as possible to get a comprehensive and detailed account of the events that led to the harsh crackdown on the rally-goers. It is not necessary for Suhakam to inspect the site of the upheaval because the empty space will not yield the truth. It is the victims who have borne the brunt of the violence who can better recount the day of infamy when the police went berserk and clobber the marchers for clean and fair elections.