Monday, 28 May 2012

Hanif-led inquiry to focus on police violence

PUTRAJAYA, May 28 — Putrajaya’s Bersih investigative panel has finally released its long-awaited terms of reference, which specifically focuses on the professional conduct of the police during last month’s rally for free and fair elections.

Tun Hanif Omar was named recently as the head of a six-man independent panel to investigate allegations of police violence against journalists and other participants of last month’s Bersih 3.0 rally.

Besides the former inspector-general of police, the other members of the panel are former Chief Judge of Borneo Tan Sri Steve Shim; Sinar Harian managing director Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub; legal adviser to Media Chinese International Liew Peng Chuan; Petronas corporate affairs senior general manager Datuk Medan Abdullah; and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia psychology Prof Dr Rozmi Ismail.

The 10-point terms of reference (TOR) will seek to establish the cause behind the “disorder” that occurred around Dataran Merdeka on April 28 when Bersih supporters breached a police barrier, which then led to authorities shooting tear gas canisters and water cannons at people.

The Bersih panel said it will seek to establish whether there was “random, widespread and wanton physical assault and brutality by the police on members of the public and media professionals.”

It will also determine whether there was unlawful confiscation and destruction of photographs and video recordings belonging to the public and media professionals, as well as whether the police had “unlawfully” arrest and/or assaulted people who were under custody.

The panel will also “review police standard operating procedures in respect of crowd and assembly control... against best practices recommended by the United Nations and/or mature democratic societies” and will make appropriate recommendations “if necessary.”

It added that it will probe the steps taken by Bersih organisers to disperse its supporters and to determine whether these had been appropriate.

The first panel session was chaired last Friday and was attended by three of the panellists — Hussamuddin, Liew, and Rozmi.

The April 28 rally that saw tens of thousands gather at six different locations before heading to Dataran Merdeka was peaceful until about 2.30pm when Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan asked the crowd to disperse.

But her announcement was not heard by most of the crowd who persisted to linger around the historic square, which the courts had already barred to the public over the weekend.

Just before 3pm, some protesters breached the barricade surrounding the landmark, leading police to disperse the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.

Police then continued to pursue rally-goers down several streets amid chaotic scenes that saw violence from both sides over the next four hours.

Several dozen demonstrators have alleged that they were assaulted by groups of over 10 policemen at a time and visual evidence appears to back their claim, but police also point to violence from rally-goers who also attacked a police car.

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