Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Independent commission the way to go - Marina Mahathir

This following article was published in The Star this morning so must be written before the so called independent Bersih 3.0 probe panel was announced. Knowing Marina, she must be shocked with the selection of the panel members - 1Christians

Musings Marina Mahathir

All perpetrators of violence, no matter who they are, must be brought to book.

I GREW up with a healthy respect for the police, as did most Malaysians. I always saw them as protectors whom I could turn to if I was in danger.

Unlike places like Mexico where people have reasons to worry about the police, our country has never been like that.

Which is why I can walk in the streets and not expect to be harassed by the police.
In some countries, you can get arrested just for loitering. If we had that in Malaysia, our jails would probably be full.

But generally as citizens, we can expect to have no need for the attention of the police unless we’re in trouble, such as if we’re in an accident, got our bag snatched or someone assaulted us.

So it was not unreasonable for the tens of thousands of Malaysians who went walking two Saturdays ago to expect a nice and peaceful day out.

They trusted that, after last year, their Government would have learnt how to better manage a large crowd and would not want to repeat the violence that happened. And indeed there was nothing to indicate otherwise.

My friends and I alighted our car in Brickfields amidst swarms of policemen and women, all of whom looked benignly at us and the hordes of people, many dressed in yellow, who were also making their way in the same direction.

There was not a single hostile glance from either side towards one another. We were all there in the heat, on a Saturday, in our city.

This atmosphere continued for many hours afterwards. At the Central Market car park, the participants and the police mingled.

There was no harassment of each other at any point.

Once I saw a young policeman carry a whole box of mineral water bottles to his colleagues, just as Bersih participants did the same for theirs. It was hot; everyone was thirsty.

When we finally started walking, it was orderly but festive. People chanted and sang, waved balloons and took photos. The police stood on the sidelines and simply watched. It was no different from any other crowded event in town.

Our instructions were simply to walk to the barriers, stop and sit down. My friends and I got to the nearest one on Lebuh Pasar where just before the bridge crossing the river, plastic highway barriers and razor wire had been placed across the road. The idea was to stop us from reaching Dataran Merdeka. On the other side of the barrier stood a line of policemen and women.

This was the first time that the police looked unfriendly. Even that would be an overstatement. They looked neither unfriendly nor friendly. They just looked. But the razor wire signified something else.

Since that day I have begun to notice barbed wire everywhere. In most places it is used to keep intruders and burglars out of private property.

It assumes that those who are to be kept out are criminals. So the razor wire at the barriers seemed to assume that we were the same.

Still there was no overt hostility.

When people talk about the violence at Jalan Tun Perak, they fail to mention the peace that was at Lebuh Pasar and elsewhere before the tear gas came out.

The young people at the barriers did nothing more than sit down and chant.

The police watched us and when I spoke to one of them, he nodded politely. There was no indication of anything to come.

Then, rather like the prelude to a tsunami when the waves recede, the police suddenly withdrew. Trucks and helmeted and be-shielded men appeared.

Why exactly was unclear to us. We were well behind the barricades; nobody had done anything to provoke anyone on either side.

What happened not long after on the other streets is now well known although the causes are still fuzzy.

Everyone is busy blaming everyone. But the violence, especially from those meant to protect us, is impossible to deny, what with the thousands of videos, photographs and eyewitness accounts.

I have been puzzling over this for a while. How is it that the police turned from benign to hostile seemingly without much reason?

And, if as our Home Minister insists, nobody ordered the police violence, what made them do it, and to such a disproportionate extent? Sixty-five people wound up in hospital, out of which only two were policemen. Surely this says something.

We all need to get to the bottom of this for everyone’s sake.

The only way to do that is through an independent commission of enquiry.

All perpetrators of violence, no matter who they are, must be brought to book.

Otherwise what will happen to the trust that we had that our police would never harm us?

No comments:

Post a Comment