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Monday, April 30, 2012

A fine job, a fine mess


Fooling the rakyat is a trick the BN can no longer use, no thanks to its foolishness in abusing the powers of the police.
COMMENT
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has lauded the police for doing a fine job in handling last Saturday’s Bersih 3.0 rally. What really is the premier pleased about: the manner in which the police abused the protesters or the federal government’s pathetic attempt at discrediting the rally?
Either way, the premier, who also helms Barisan Nasional, the country’s federal ruling political force, is not going to win the rakyat’s mandate; sabotaging the April 28 protest speaks of BN’s desperation in painting the opposition coalition of Pakatan Rakyat in a bad light.
The Bersih 3.0 protest will go down in history as the day when BN played villian in bringing in “trouble-makers” to turn the protest into a chaotic affair. Let it be said that BN’s role in the April 28 incident is not going down well with the true defenders of this nation.
This time, there is no escape for both the Najib administration and the police as protesters of the rally bear witness to the police brutality that was unleashed when they were at the Masjid Jamek area.
Some of them related their ordeal to Bersih at a press conference organised a day after the protest.
Many of the protesters claimed the police carried no name tags or identification numbers on their uniforms when they launched their attacks at about 6pm. The assault lasted for three hours.
These are not wild allegations; pictures of the injuries suffered by the protesters as a result of being beaten by the police are proof that the federal government had no intention of allowing the rakyat to exercise their fundamental right to assemble and voice out their unhappiness.
A protester, Adrian Low, 38, said he was repeatedly stomped on his back even after he was detained. His back still carries the footprints of the police boots.
Another protester, Nurul Amani Faizal, 28, said that 10 male police officers charged at her and beat her.
“They had just fired a tear gas at Masjid Jamek so my friends and I ran in the opposite direction. I wasn’t wearing the Bersih T-shirt but I was a rally participant. They caught hold of me and beat me.
“Then one officer slapped me and asked a female officer to arrest me,” she said, adding that she sustained injuries in her lower back.
Yet another protester, Mohamad Fazwan Yusoff, 23, sustained bruises to his face and left eye. He was about to leave Masjid Jamek when the police dragged him and assaulted him.
“My friends and I saw the police step on a lady so we went to help her. Suddenly, a group of policemen appeared and attacked us too.
“I don’t remember how many charged at me but I was beaten for several minutes and they didn’t stop even in the police truck.
“They just continued their assault,” he said.
Never-ending police brutality
Bersih steering committee member, Wong Chin Huat, who was also arrested, has said it is not unusual for the police to continue their insults and assaults even after the protesters were detained.
“They only stopped beating me when I fell to the ground; even then, they continued to shout racial insults in the trucks,” he had said.
Wong revealed that Bersih were told of policemen who were dressed in yellow Bersih T-shirts while videographing the detainees in the police trucks and detention centres.
So much of violence and this is what the police were congratulated for by Najib?
During last year’s Bersih 2.0 rally, the police behaved in just as uncivilised a manner, beating up the protesters. Did the cops then and now received orders from the “powers that be” to teach the rally protesters a painful lesson, literally?
Tear gas and water cannons were fired to disperse the 80,000-strong crowd. The police and protesters clashed for about four hours before police regained control of the city.
With so much evidence at hand, it is only natural that Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga has called for a full inquiry into the protest to identify “those who created the problem”.
“There is too many photographic evidence. When the dust settles, the truth will emerge,” she had said.
The peaceful assembly turned violent at about 3pm when some protesters breached the barricades which cordoned off Dataran Merdeka which was identified as the venue for the Bersih 3.0 sit-in protest.
The Kuala Lumpur City Hall had refused permission for Dataran Merdeka to be used as the rally location, coming up with lame reasoning that only national-level events can be held there.
Ironically, the haphazardly passed Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 bars any gathering within 50 metres of “prohibited places” such as hospitals, petrol stations, airports, railway stations, places of worship and schools. Is Dataran Merdeka officially in the list of such “prohibited places”?
Even journalists beaten up
It appears that April 28 was the day the police confirmed the rakyat’s worst fear that come what may, the cops will always do what they do best – bash up and insult the people of this country.
It was not just the rally protesters; even journalists on duty were assaulted by the police.
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general-secretary V Anbalagan condemned the police for attacking reporters covering the Bersih 3.0 protests.
“They [the police] have no business to use violence on media workers who were assigned to carry out a public duty, that is, to provide news coverage, obtain pictures and footages for their audience,” he had said in a press statement.
During last Saturday’s pandemonium, police charged upon several journalists. Some photographers even saw their cameras and memory cards destroyed after they were seen taking photos of alleged police brutality.
Malaysiakini photographer Koh Jun Lin was arrested and his camera equipment confiscated. Malay Mail confirmed that its photographer Arif Kartono was punched by police and his camera destroyed.
Also roughed up was Al-Jazeera’s crew who were left with a damaged camera after they tried to film an officer beating up a protester.
Nanyang Siang Pau, Guang Ming, Channel News Asia and Merdeka Review journalists all suffered similar treament at the hands of the police.
To Anbalagan, such incidents were baffling as up until April 28, the Press-police relations were cordial. Anbalagan could only conclude that the siege on journalists covering the Bersih 3.0 protest was an attempt to prevent the truth from being reported, that of the police taking the law into their hands.
“…is it to confiscate their cameras or other digital equipment which had captured incidents that could have put the police in the bad light of the single most widely followed event on Saturday?”
Anbalagan wants no less than the Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar to come clean on the police brutality and advised all journalists who suffered at the hands of the police to lodge reports.
And Najib says the police did a “fine” job? Fooling the rakyat is a trick the BN can no longer use, no thanks to its foolishness in abusing the powers of the police.

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