PETALING JAYA: Bersih is adamant that it will not meet with the government’s independent advisory panel until its head, former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Hanif Omar, steps down from the panel.
The coalition for free and fair elections was responding to Hanif’s call yesterday where he said that he would like to meet the organisers to get their point of view of what transpired during the rally.
Bersih co-chairperson, S Ambiga, said that it will not meet with Hanif as they were opposed to the panel based on principle.
“We are against the panel based on principle. There is nothing personal against Hanif but he has made remarks to reflect his bias.
“Therefore to us, the panel is a non-starter,” she told FMT today.
She said that Bersih was so strongly against the panel that it will not even make suggestions to replace the two members who have stepped down.
Hanif announced yesterday that two members have quit the panel. The two were former chief justice of Borneo Steve Shim Lip Kiong who pulled out for health reasons and Petronas corporate affairs senior general manager Medan Abdullah due to work commitments.
He added that it was up to the panel’s secretariat to announce their replacements soon.
Ambiga said today that one of the basic principles of law was that justice need to be seen to be implemented.
The panel, however, falls short of the principle following Hanif’s statements against Bersih during the rally’s aftermath, she added.
Hanif was appointed by the Home Ministry to lead the panel on May 9. Before his appointment, Hanif was quoted in a Bernama report linking communist elements to the gathering which demanded free and fair elections.
He reportedly said: “The tactics of using provocateurs to cause the demonstrators to clash with police and to bring children along in the hope they would get injured were tactics learnt from past pro-communist demonstrations.”
He added that based on images and photographs taken during the rally, he recognised pro-communist individuals who were involved in the 1970s demonstrations.
These comments drew brickbats from both rally organisers, Bersih and the Bar.
Ambiga, however, said that Bersih was ready to give its full cooperation to the Suhakam inquiry.
“Let them not think that Bersih is unprepared. We are prepared to speak to anyone who are not biased. Therefore we will fully participate in the Suhakam inquiry,” she added.
Suhakam, the national human rights commission, set up its own panel on May 21 to investigate abuses of human rights during the rally which turned ugly after a few protesters breached the barricade which cordoned off Dataran Merdeka.
Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee, however, reiterated that they were willing to meet with Hanif to explain its final report to him.
He, however, said the they, too, like Bersih will not be making any recommendations to replace the two panel members as they too found the panel to be flawed.
“We take the view that this panel is flawed with the membership of Hanif whose two statements disqualify him from sitting, and the lack of legal framework represents a great handicap, in comparison to the Suhakam inquiry,” he said.