Sunday, 13 May 2012

Police brutality ‘victims’ stage small demo

About 40 people who claimed to be victims of police brutality during the Bersih 3.0 rally staged a demo in front of the Bar Council office calling for an end to violence.

KUALA LUMPUR: Some 40 self-professed Bersih 3.0 victims of police brutality staged a small demonstration here calling for the end to police violence and to reform the police force.

“We want people who are against police brutality (at the Bersih 3.0 rally) to stand up and voice their grievances,” said the group’s spokesperson Gerard Suresh.

This was the first protest held by ordinary citizens against what opposition and Bersih 3.0 leaders called excessive police aggression on a peaceful assembly calling for free and fair elections.

Suresh said the protest started as a one-man-show when he was moved to start a Facebook page calling on citizens to express their discontent with the police handling of the rally.

Police fired dozens of what was said to be United Nations-banned teargas canisters and water cannons to disperse some 80,000 protesters on April 28 which resulted in a violent standoff between them and the authorities.

On the Bersih side, protesters claimed the police assault was uncalled for and unnecessary. They blamed the authorities for the clash that broke out just moments after the police moved in to arrest protesters. Scores were left injured while some were hospitalised including police officers and pressmen.

The Najib administration on the other hand said police acted accordingly and only retaliated after several Bersih protesters breached the barricades leading to Dataran Merdeka which was barred from public entry following a court order against Bersih 3.0.

But media reports and the surfacing of several video evidence of police aggression on the internet have forced the government to admit its fault and prompted the setting up of an independent panel to probe into the violence committed at the rally.

But opposition and Bersih 3.0 leaders have rejected the panel and called it a sham after Putrajaya announced the appointment of former IGP Hanif Omar as the head of the panel.

Suresh said he was not personally a victim of police violence but a teargas canister hit his left leg as he was trying to assist an elderly person to escape the fracas.

He also claimed to witness police aggressively manhandling protesters as they made arrests. The “violence”, he added, was what gave him the calling to hold today’s protest.

Majority of the protesters gathered in front of the Bar Council office here clad in yellow tees, the colour of the poll reform group, carrying placards saying “end police brutality” and shouted “police reform”.

Suresh, who is in his late 20s, said he hoped the protest against police brutality will continue until the force is completely reformed and police aggression ends.

“Now that it is okay to assemble, I hope citizens would use this opportunity to voice their concerns,” he said, referring to the newly legislated Peaceful Assembly Act.

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