PRESS STATEMENT by Datuk Ambiga
Co- Chairperson Bersih 2.0 steering committee
1 May 2012
On Friday 27 April 2012, Bersih 2.0 made it clear that the Duduk Bantah rally on 28 April 2012 would be a peaceful one. While we viewed and continue to view the court order dated 26 April 2012 obtained by the police, and the barricades to prevent us from entering Dataran Merdeka as illegal, Bersih 2.0’s instructions to its supporters were clear – that we would not breach the barricades.
The breach of the barricades at Dataran Merdeka on 28 April 2012 came after Bersih 2.0 had declared the rally a success and had given instructions to the crowd to disperse. Bersih 2.0 does not condone the breaching of the barricades, and the parties responsible should account to the public, for their actions. Apart from the video evidence to date, we are receiving information that there was possibly more going on at the barricades than meets the eye which may have been misleading to the people near them as to whether they could go through. Nevertheless, we reserve further comment until all the evidence is presented.
The more serious issue through, is whether the breaching of the barricades was an excuse for the disproportionate and excessive use of force by the police. The chilling reality is that the brutality shown this year by the police far exceeded the brutality shown last year. The majority of the participants were already dispersing. It was only those who breached the barricades that needed to be policed. The police were therefore only justified in taking reasonable measures to push back the participants beyond the barrier. The police were not justified in firing round after round of tear gas after participants near Dataran Merdeka, along Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Pudu and as far away as Petaling Street and then beating up those they caught, while at the same time, preventing the participants from leaving the city by not letting the trains stop at the Masjid Jamek LRT station.
Despite the violence displayed by the police and the actions of the callous and irresponsible few, these enduring facts cannot be forgotten – a 250,000 strong crowd stood side by side in peace and for a common purpose for hours. They were the young and the old, Malaysians from different backgrounds. They came from the Klang Valley and as far away as Sabah and Sarawak. They came despite the threats by the government, the lack of transportation and the roadblocks placed in their way. And they were not the only ones. Thousands of other Malaysians gathered in Penang, Malacca, Johor, Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Kota Kinabalu and in more than 80 cities around the world. These are the true faces of Malaysia. They are a reflection of the true will and aspirations of Malaysians. No political manoeuvring, retooling of the facts by the mainstream media or allegations of ‘hijacking’ of the event will change that. Politicians from both ends of the divide ignore this truth to their peril.
In advanced democracies where the freedom to assemble is respected, both the organisers and the state have equal responsibility to ensure peace and security. Yet in this case, the state imposed the entire burden on Bersih 2.0. We discharged that burden fully and Bersih 2.0 had full control until tear gas was fired. Once that happened the burden shifted to the police to handle the situation that they had created. The responsibility became theirs. It must be noted that all the reported acts of violence that ensued came only after the tear gas was fired.
Again I commend the PAS Unit Amal and other security agents who did a sterling job in crowd control. Above all I commend the rakyat for the discipline and dignity that they showed throughout the rally. I also state that there were many police on that day who did act with restraint and honour. But there were others who clearly got a different memo from the top. They were ruthless and behaved like thugs inflicting maximum damage on the retreating participants. There were instances when they deliberately instigated the crowd. They were lawless. But, the truth will be told. No matter what the mainstream media may choose to portray, the evidence is emerging. And SUHAKAM must have an urgent independent inquiry into one of the most extensive acts of violence perpetrated by the authorities upon the people of Malaysia.
We too, have questions to ask. Amongst other things, we would also like to know, who gave the orders to come after the participants in that fashion? Who were the officers in Bersih T-shirts in the crowd? Who were those men in blue who had no identification numbers or names on their uniforms? Is it true bus loads of people were brought in just to create havoc and if so who brought them in? How do you do explain the vast difference in the behaviour of the police before and after the firing of tear gas? What exactly were their instructions? Why is the government through the mainstream media choosing not to give the whole picture?
If Berish 2.0 has to answer questions (and we will readily do so before an independent inquiry), then the government has much more to answer for.
So, in response to the Prime Minister’s statement that Bersih 2.0 broke its promise, I say no, Mr Prime Minister we did not. But that day, members of the police force who are entrusted with the responsibility of protecting us, turned on us and betrayed the trust of all peace loving Malaysians.