PETALING JAYA: Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga felt that the police personnel on duty during the April 28 rally violated their superiors’ orders not to have physical contact with the protesters.
“If that is true [there was an order not to cause physical harm], then the police clearly breached the order in view of the number of people who got hurt and complained of being manhandled,” she said.
Ambiga was responding to independent advisory panel chairman Hanif Omar who said that the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) was not equipped with batons on April 28.
“Normally the first rank would be the baton party but they were not given batons that day. All were instead equipped with tear guns or tear grenades. The order was never to come into physical contact because people could get hurt.
“That was the first thing they were concerned about, so gas and water were used to disperse the protesters,” he had said.
The Hanif-led panel was tasked with probing the allegations of excessive force and violence used during the Bersih 3.0 rally.
Is there a mutiny?
Ambiga said the violence perpetuated by the police on that day was probably because “they did not bother with the order” or the police had two sets of orders.
The former Bar Council president also expressed shock that Hanif, who was a former inspector-general of police, claimed that tear grenades and tear gas canisters were less harmful than a baton.
“There is evidence that tear gas canisters were intentionally shot into the crowd and caused physical damage.
“The way tear gas canisters were fired into the crowd and at the people showed there was an intention to cause harm,” she said.
Ambiga further noted that the number of tear gas canisters and tear grenades used against the protesters was also evident of the police wanting to cause physical harm.
“A total of 967 canisters were fired on that day. In my view, physical damage was intended,” she said based on the revelation by the Home Ministry on the number of tear gas canisters and tear grenades used on April 28 that cost the government RM1.8 million.
Based on the videos of the rally, Ambiga said it was clear that some police personnel had a different agenda even though there were those who were professional in executing their duties.
Meanwhile, Bersih steering committee member Wong Chin Huat, who was manhandled and arrested during the rally, drew two conclusions based on Hanif’s statement.
“If that is the case then there is clearly a defiance of order and possibly a mutiny in the police force.
“The other possibility is that there was a group of people impersonating the police,” he said, urging Hanif to look into this as well.
In a related development, social activist Marina Mahathir published a photo of the FRU with batons and shields taken during the rally on her micro blogging site, Twitter (photo, left).
“They had batons, I saw them,” she told FMT.