Fauwaz Abdul Aziz (Malaysiakini)
Nov 15, 07 12:27pm
Aleyasak Hamid Ali Hassan, a pisang goreng seller, offers incontrovertible proof that police had used excessive force in dispersing the Bersih rally for electoral reform in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.
A bystander whose curiosity got the better of him, his left knee was broken and crushed “by police officers” in the crackdown on protesters gathering in the vicinity of Masjid Jamek.
“I just wanted to see – to observe – this rally that people had been talking about. I wasn’t wearing yellow that day, I was wearing black, and it never even crossed my mind to participate in the rally,” said Aleyasak, 31, who lives in Kajang, Selangor.
“I also never imagined I would end up with a knee smashed by those who are supposed to be protecting the people against violence.”
Bersih – a polls watchdog coalition of 67 NGOs and five political parties – organised the rally and march to the national palace to submit a memorandum to the King’s representative. Some 40,000 people took part despite prior threats of action by both the police and cabinet ministers.
Aleyasak, – who disclaims any membership or affiliation to NGOs and political parties – was among dozens who took the brunt of a crackdown on what the police described as an illegal assembly after refusing to approve the organisers’ application for a permit.
He spoke to Malaysiakini yesterday, barely an hour after being discharged from Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL).
Grimacing in pain with every movement of his leg, Aleyasak related his ordeal while his wife, Maryam Jameela Megat Mohd Yusof, sat by his side.
“I had read about the Bersih gathering a month ago in the newspapers. As my mother-in-law was holding a Hari Raya open house on Saturday evening, we decided to drive around as a family to see what was going on,” he said.
“While caught in a traffic jam, we saw that the people demonstrating at Masjid Jamek were peaceful – they had nothing in their hands. So, I got down from the car at about 3.30pm at the corner of Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman to watch them from afar.”
Barely 10 minutes after his wife drove off to her mother’s house in nearby Kampung Baru, riot police took over the area in front of Masjid Jamek.
“A group of protestors near Masjid Jamek ran towards City Hall (in Jalan Raja Laut). I saw a number of police officers chasing then. They were all running towards where I happened to be standing.
“People were yelling ‘Run! Run!’ so I got scared and turned to run as well.”
Aleyasak did not get very far. After a few metres, he lost his footing on the slippery rain-washed pavement and fell face forward on the pedestrian walkway.
Seconds later, he was set upon by four to six uniformed police officers.
While several held his head to the ground, another officer stepped on Aleyasak’s left leg which had folded at the knee behind him.
“He was applying his weight on it. I heard my knee cracking, then, I head a ‘pop’ sound. I knew right away it was broken,” said Aleyasak.
Ordered to stand up, he told the police officers that his leg was broken. Instead of being carried, he was subjected to foul language and told to walk unaided towards a police truck waiting nearby.
He said: “I was told ‘Why should we carry you? Are you so special to receive that kind of treatment? You’re just a nuisance!’.
“One officer – I don’t remember any of the names or numbers on their uniforms – kicked my injured leg and it slammed against part of the truck. Another detainee already in the truck felt sorry for me and helped me to get into the vehicle.”
About a dozen detainees were taken to the police contingent headquarters. Almost immediately on arrival, Aleyasak said a St John’s ambulance took him to HKL where he was admitted.
Following surgery on Monday, Aleyasak was told it would take three to six months for his knee to heal. However, he will have to wait a full year before doing any sports activities or exercises.
“I won’t be able to work for the next few months in my condition,” he said, appearing resigned to the situation.
On the advice of friends, Aleyasak filed a police report at the HKL police beat-base, providing details of the incident.
He wants at least an apology from those responsible for the injury, and has not ruled out legal action against the police or government.
“I haven’t done anything wrong. I do not want to cause any trouble. I am not a member of any political party. I’m not against the police. We need to them to maintain security,” he said.
“But I want something done. Anything…but something. At this point, even just an apology from the police officers who did this to me would be good.”
Echoing this, Maryam, 29, said her husband’s injury has jeopardised their livelihood and meager earnings.
A tuition teacher, she said she was shocked and incredulous when she found out what Aleyasak had gone through.
“We are ordinary people. We have nothing to do with politics. Why was he treated that way? Even if the police were cracking down on protestors – my husband was just a spectator – there must be some limit to what they can do,” she said.
She said their children – aged six and two – have been curious about why their father has been injured.
“We don’t want them confused by telling them that the police were the ones that did this to their father,” said Maryam.
She was also incensed by those who had denied that any violence or excessive force had been used by police.
“I feel sad and angry. We want justice done. You can’t do this to people,” she said.