Monday, 10 September 2012

Cop unaware of constitutional right to assembly


A police officer in charge of a duty sector during the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 24 told the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) inquiry today he is not aware that freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the federal constitution.

“I don’t know,” said Inspector Farid Sairi when asked about the matter by lawyer Roger Chan, who was holding a watching brief for the Bar Council, on the 15th day of the inquiry into alleged human rights abuses during and after the April 28 pro-electoral reform rally.

bersih 3 rally 090512 04 police and fru at dataran merdekaStationed at Dang Wangi district police headquarters, he is attached to the anti-narcotics unit and was assigned as officer in charge of Sector three of the police duty zone during the rally.

Farid, however, was not able to inform the panel of anything else of any significance since his duty sector, which included the restaurant and church next to the Royal Selangor Club, was far from any action and faced away from Dataran Merdeka.

He did confirm that he saw detained Bersih protestors being taken to the holding area near the social club and that some of them appeared to be injured but said he noticed no other details.

He was also unsure if the detainees had medical assistance, but saw an ambulance parked near the holding area.

Apart from that, he claimed that he and the nearly 300 police officers on standby in his sector did not see nor hear anything of the chaos that happened on the other side of Dataran Merdeka.

Farid was the 31st witness called before Suhakam’s inquiry panel after a public outcry over allegedly disproportionate police response to the gathering, which was not only the largest in recent times but one that saw the sternest crowd dispersal actions yet taken by the police.

Farid and another colleague took the stand today, before proceedings were postponed for lunch.

'I was scared'

When the hearing reconvened at 2.30pm, Inspector Ambri Mohd Nayan, the 33rd witness was called to the stand.

bersih 3 rally 080512 04 along jalan tun perakIn command of the General Operations Force’s Public Order and Riot Unit (Poru) 15 which was on duty during Bersih 3.0, Ambri told the panel that protesters were menacing his men with jeers and insults as well as hurled bottles, rocks, wood and plastic chairs at them.

"They looked like they want(ed) to fight," said Ambri, who is stationed at the fourth battalion of General Operations Force (GOF) at the central brigade, where Poru 15 was drawn from.

Faced with the aggressive crowd, he said that he "was scared" and was afraid for the safety of his person and his men.

"If they rushed us, we 48 against over 8,000. I don't know..."

However, he maintained that he and his 48-men unit were only doing their duty to maintain public order without malice, his priority being to ensure the safety of his men and the protesters themselves by preventing any direct physical confrontation.

riot police fru bersih tear gasTo do so, he said that his unit fired volley after volley of tear gas canisters and threw several dozen tear gas grenades into the crowd to prevent them from surging forward and possibly overrunning his position.

Ambri was describing the situation when his unit was tasked to assist another Poru detachment and later a stranded Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) water cannon truck in Jalan Tun Perak near Masjid Jamek when they were faced with nearly ten thousand protesters during the rally.

The proceedings today ended with his testimony with the public hearing scheduled to continue on Wednesday.

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