Friday, 11 May 2012

Malaysian Bar's EGM blasts police violence

Updated : The Malaysian Bar today condemned the excessive, indiscriminate and wrongful use of tear gas and water cannons by the police on the Bersih 3.0 participants a fortnight ago and wants the government and police to issue a public apology.

Besides the apology, the Bar also called on the government to take steps in line with the Medellin Declaration to prevent crimes against media personnel, investigate and penalise such crimes and promote awareness and train Malaysian law enforcement officials.

“The Bar calls on the home minister and the inspector-general of police to issue a public apology to the public, media and lawyers who were assaulted or beaten by the police.

NONE“We renew our call for the government to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as there is a need to have an independent body to monitor the police actions,” said Bar president Lim Chee Wee in the resolution.

A total of 1,270 members attended the extraordinary general meeting to condemn the police’s heavy-handed use of force on Bersih protesters and without giving them ample time to disperse.

A total of 939 voted for the resolution while 16 voted against.

Lim, who was flanked by his deputy Christopher Leong, secretary Tony Voon and treasurer Steven Thiru, also told the press that they felt not enough time was given by the police for the protesters to disperse.

NONELim (left) said the police failed to adhere to international standards of crowd control adopted in the United States, Australia, Egypt and the Philippines.

“At some points, there were no police engaged to issue a warning or talking to the crowd to disperse, but had reacted to fire tear gas and water cannons,” he said.

Lim asked why the police deployed in Kuala Lumpur at that time could not act professionally like the police in Johor, Malacca, Ipoh and Kuantan, which handled the crowd in a proper manner.

He said he will forward the resolutions to the authorities and engage them in a dialogue.

“There is a suggestion from the floor that the Bar will have a walk to make its views known and we will consider that,” he said, in obvious reference to the Walk for Justice following allegations of a slide in the judiciary.

The EGM today also noted that three of its members were injured during the April 28 rally and heard their experience. The EGM also saw the tabling of the Bar’s full 45-page report on the Bersih 3.0 rally

Disappointed no police charged

Lim noted that the people in the crowd acted well when tear gas were fired upon as instead of a stampede they calmly walk away and this is testament to Malaysians of all races helping each other out.

Leong noted that members of the Bar have questioned in the meeting today why the police had reacted in such a manner.

“Members of the Malaysian Bar felt resoundingly that it was not necessary for the police to act the way they did. All that would have resulted is members or sections of the rally wanted merely to sit in Dataran Merdeka. Instead, police action resulted in the participants being chased and made to run.

“So that was an issue the Malaysian Bar found incongruous,” he said.

Lim also said the police should be professional with their approach when they are jeered upon.

“Does calling the police sampah (rubbish) or anjing (dog) justify the firing of tear gas and water cannon? Need that be the test? The police have the responsibility and the powers and the weapons. Malaysians do not have that, as the police are the force to keep peace in favour of and for the benefit of Malaysians,” he said.

“Any international guidelines state that police should emphasise restraint and professionalism. If the Malaysian police acted because they were jeered, that would make Malaysia a police state,” he said.

He said they are the ones with the weapons and not the protesters and noted that it has evidence while the protesters had thrown items to the police the law enforcers had reacted to throw the items back at the crowd and that certainly should not be the way.

The Bar Council president noted that Suhakam’s report on the Kesas highway protest had suggested that police should exercise restraint when dispersing people participating in a peaceful assembly by stopping the use of canes and batons and giving ample loud warning and time for the crowd to disperse.

“Sufficient time to disperse should be given and the larger the crowd, a longer time should be allowed to disperse. People who are trying to get away should not be chased and assaulted. However, the recommendations made by Suhakam in the Kesas protest had not been adhered to,” he said.

While the past few days had seen a lawyer and several Bersih protesters being charged for participating in the rally, Lim express disappointment that so far no police officers had been charged.

“Why is it the police are able and put up investigation papers for prosecution in respect of wrongdoing by participants or demonstrators? But when it comes to the wrongdoings of the law enforcement officials, there are no steps being taken on that front.”

“That, the IGP has to answer, and we intend to ask him in the face of such evidence. I am mostly disappointed that equal vigilance has not been applied on that front,” he said.

Lawyer questions resolution

One of the 16 lawyers who voted against the resolution, Abu Backer Sidek, criticised the Bar Council for calling for the EGM.

NONEAbu Backer (left) claims to have been in Egypt and witnessed the crowd and supported the police action.

“I do not want to see that happening in Malaysia. I am sad the Bar Council has resorted to an EGM and am sad to be a member of the Bar,” he said.

“Yes I may be a minority here and I do not recognise the resolutions made today. There should be another Bar Council which is more fair than this,” he said.

He noted that there were those among the protesters who had resorted to the use of force against the police and defended the authorities’ use of force.

While talking to reporters after the EGM, some lawyers criticised the press for hearing Abu Backer’s minority view and some even said it was because of people like him that Bersih 4.0 should be held.

Lim, commenting on the matter, said it respect the views aired by those who oppose including Ranjit Singh Dhillon, who was not present but had made known his message.

“I was expecting him and was looking out for him to come as we would respect such views,” he said.

Ranjit has made a YouTube message in opposition to the holding of the EGM.

[More to follow]

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