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A tale of two shootings


(Malaysia and UK maps: Wiki commons; gun: svilen0001 @ sxc.hu)

MALAYSIA is facing yet another fatal police shooting, this time of 15-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah. The reactions and responses to Aminulrasyid’s case remind me of another fatal shooting which took place in London in 2005. However, the reactions and responses to the London case were markedly different.

I have set out below the tragic tales of these two shootings. I leave readers to draw their own conclusions about our nation’s leaders and their ability to acknowledge when wrongs have been committed. Admitting mistakes is often seen as a weakness. But I believe that until our leaders have the strength to do so, genuine reform will never occur, and we will see tragic cases such as this recur time and again.

United Kingdom, 2005

Jean Charles de Menezes was the son of a bricklayer from Brazil. He was a trained electrician. In 2002, when he was 24, he travelled to England, found a job and stayed on.

On 22 July 2005, he left his rented apartment in greater London to fix a broken fire alarm. He got on a bus, heading to Brixton tube station to catch a train. The station was closed due to a terrorist alert and bomb threats the day before. He then travelled by bus to Stockwell tube station, went down the escalator to the platform, boarded a train and sat down.

Multiple police officers then approached Menezes. He stood up, was forced down again onto his seat, and then was shot seven times in the head. He died instantly.

Police reaction


Menezes (Wiki commons)
Police had mistaken Menezes to be a suspected bomber, and had shot him because they thought he was about to blow up the train. The city had just faced the 7 July bomb attacks where 52 people died. A failed attempt on 21 July had been discovered and suspects had been identified.

The day after Menezes’s death, then Metropolitan police chief Sir Ian Blair announced that police had shot the wrong man. He confirmed that Menezes was completely unconnected to the bomb attacks, and apologised to the Menezes family, saying it was a tragedy.

Inquiry

Several days later, it was announced that the shooting would be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Although critical of police action, the commission later decided that no disciplinary action would be taken against specific officers.

In 2007, the Metropolitan police went on trial for endangering public health and safety, and Menezes in particular. The court reviewed a host of issues: the procedure for identifying suspects; procedure on the use of firearms; and the quality of communication between the surveillance and firearms teams, to name a few. The police were found guilty, and were fined £175,000 and £385,000 in costs.

In 2008, an inquest was held into Menezes’s death. The court heard evidence from over 100 witnesses, including 40 police officers. A jury dismissed police officers’ claims that they were acting in self-defence and gave warnings before shooting Menezes.


Stephenson (Source: met.
police.co.uk)
The acting police commissioner at the time, Sir Paul Stephenson, said the force had made a “terrible mistake” and apologised again.

In 2009, the Metropolitan police reached a private settlement with Menezes‘s family of £100,000, with the commissioner making another “unreserved apology” for the tragic death.

Malaysia, 2010

Aminulrasyid Amzah was 14, going on 15. He was a Form Three student at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seksyen 9 Shah Alam. His father had died about five years ago and he lived with his mother Norsiah Mohamad.

On 26 Apr 2010, he had driven his sister’s car to pick up his friend Azamuddin Omar for drinks. On his way home at about 2am, he passed a police car, which started chasing him. Gunshots were fired, and Aminulrasyid was shot in the head. His friend Azamuddin said Aminulrasyid died in his lap.

Police reaction

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said the shooting occurred at 2am in an area that experienced frequent break-ins. He said that Aminulrasyid’s behaviour had aroused the suspicion of the police. Media reports alluded to the fact that Aminulrasyid and his friend were possibly involved in robbery and break-ins, leading to angry protests from Aminulrasyid’s mother. 


Musa Hassan (Wiki commons)
Musa Hassan also said a car could be a weapon if used to plough into officers who tried to stop drivers.

He then reportedly threatened to instruct his officers to refrain from stopping cars being driven suspiciously, or illegal racers from taking over roads. “If you do not want police to enforce the law, then say so,” Musa reportedly told reporters on 29 April.

Police also claimed that Aminulrasyid had been reversing his car into them to avoid a roadblock.

They also said they had found a machete in the car boot.

Government reaction

Home Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein defended the police and asked the public to be fair. He reportedly said, “People are angry when a member of the public is shot, but the same can’t be said when the police are shot. They have no sympathy at all. Is there a difference between the life of the public and police [officers]?”

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil made a comment about parents needing to know where their children were at night.

No apology was forthcoming from any government authority regarding Aminulrasyid’s fatal shooting. The cabinet, however, eventually issued a statement to Aminulrasyid’s family on 5 May, expressing sadness and condolence.

Inquiry

An eight-member special panel, headed by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop, was set up to “monitor” the police investigations into the shooting.


Abu Seman Yusop (Wiki
commons)
On 4 May, the panel reportedly went to the shooting site late at night to begin investigations. Their Home Ministry bus was escorted by a police outrider, a convoy of police cars, and journalists.

Aminulrasyid’s family has called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to be set up to investigate the incident. They want the results of an independent investigation to be made available to the public. 

However, after their late-night excursion and a three-hour meeting on 5 May 2010, the special panel said there was no need for a Royal Commission. The deputy home minister reportedly said, “We concluded that the police investigations into the case have been transparent and fair.”


Ding Jo-Ann isn’t holding her breath about the results of the special panel’s investigations.

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18 Responses to “A tale of two shootings”

  1. Neo says:

    Malaysia boleh lah. Otherwise the PDRM wouldn’t be known as Polis Raja Di Malaysia.

  2. Calvin Sankaran says:

    I hope the writer did some real research before coming up with such a half-baked article. The way the shooting was handled by the British police was so shameful that even the defence of PDRM pales in comparison.

    The British police tried to cover up and only concerted pressure from the public for months finally revealed the truth.

    I am not trying to defend the PDRM here, but my point here is that the Malaysian alternative media has to be more objective and impartial in their reporting instead of only trying to run down the country and the authorities. This is an example of such biased and half-baked reporting.

    I hope the writer willl be more careful and do some real homework, otherwise she will end up with eggs on her face.

  3. reza says:

    What a travesty. Imagine all the other shootings/deaths that have come about the same way but didn’t get any media attention [...]

  4. the reader says:

    Macam langit dengan bumi…

  5. Ritchie says:

    To apologise and acknowledge that the police or any official was wrong in carrying out his or her duty is not an act of weakness but the essence of integrity. What we have witnessed in the halls of Parliament and from the mouths of politicians here are shameless lies. These lies were repeated constantly, and they promised citizens of transparency, integrity and a people-first establishment.

    In comparison to how Metropolitan police chief Sir Ian Blair of the London Police acknowledged their mistake in shooting Charles de Menzes and how local IGP Musa Hassan has handled the Amirul shooting, I see three glaring differences:

    First, we have a police inspector general who is reactionary rather than objective towards a fatal shooting incident. Second, instead of paving the way for an open investigation towards an incident that calls for close scrutiny, the IGP attacks citizens with threats to halt his [personnel] from carrying out their duties. And third, citizens of this country witness the arrogant and vindictive nature of the police force that is supposed to be public servants accountable to the people.

    Having Deputy Home Affairs Minister Abu Seman Yusop head the special panel to investigate the shooting has undermined its credibility. Once again we witness how a brutal shooting and taking of life is trivalised and eclipsed by autocratic power play. When [people] who are appointed to be custodians of the law abuse the law, good men and women are not to remain silent. The time has come for the [rakyat] to speak clearly and boldly against the culture of corruption and its threat to destroy our nation.

  6. subash says:

    There are hundreds of police shoot-to-kill operations throughout the country. Most victims are dark-skinned Malaysians who are treated as street dogs and so far no inquiry of this kind took place such as for Amirulrasyid. My sympathies to him and his family for the fatal shooting.

    One thing all Malaysians must admit is that there is clear discrimination based on colour by the police, government, KDN and civil society in all the shoot-to-kill cases and deaths in police custody. All the cries from their families and concerned groups are completely ignored.

    This time the killing happened to a Malay [Malaysian] boy who received wide-spread coverage from all mass media. An inquiry was set up. In the latest shooting the victim who is in critical condition right now happens to be another dark-skinned Malaysian. I doubt he will receive similar attention.

  7. Tan says:

    In Malaysia, as far as I can remember, ministers can do no wrong and so will never apologise even though the facts are against them.

  8. joni says:

    Most idiot comment. If you want to write down something serious do the research first, find out the truth. Do you know what stupid and stupidity mean?

  9. matt monroe says:

    If you are working in the banking sector, then customers are always right. But if you are just ordinary citizens, then the government is always right. Get the picture? I guess you know what I mean. I feel sorry for Aminulrasyid’s family. Be patient.

  10. Ida Bakar says:

    Dear Ding Jo-Ann,

    Thank you for the article above. It does illustrate how things can be done differently for the betterment of society.

    However, I would like to point out that the shooting of Juan Charles de Menezes and the subsequent inquires exposed the wrongs of the Metropolitan Police. The Met was tailing the wrong guy. If de Menezes was indeed a suspected suicide bomber, why was he allowed to get on to the bus and into the tube station. Worse still, after the shooting there was an attempted cover up with tales of de Menezes jumping the tube’s turnstile (he used his Oyster card) and running away (the CCTV did not support this). To date no one is held accountable for the shooting.

    Later on 22nd June, the Met raided the home of two brothers and shot Mohammed Abdul Kahar age 23 on the shoulder. The Met accused the brothers of being terrorists but this proved to be false. Then there was an attempt to pin child pornography charges on the shot victim. The judge threw the case out.

    The London Metropolitan Police has its faults. The hallmark of a civilised society is the ability for the society to demand accountability from those acting in the name of the society. Malaysia does not have an Independent Police Complaints Commission to for see these things. To rely on politicians with their self-serving agenda is not the way forward.

  11. DRFadlyM says:

    It is very easy to blame the other for anything that happens. For me, the writer is comparing two incidents that are totally different. And it seems more politically-driven than to find the truth.

    One thing for sure, on both occasions there was a terrible mistake, the one in London, it was a malicious act, but the one in Malaysia needs to be investigated further before we jump to a conclusion. I am sorry for the family, but the mother’s fault should be addressed too, how can she let her 15 year-old boy who doesn’t have a driving license, on a school night, drive around at 2am. The police who shot the boy should be punished if there is any proof of misconduct. But the family should also be punished [...]

  12. pal says:

    What a pity for the policeman doing his duty and suddenly he is [to be punished] for doing his job. Why not also prosecute the mother? I don’t love the police but I don’t hate them either. I think they have done a very good job. I hope that people who love peace will stand behind the policeman who is being charged!

  13. Ahmad Abang says:

    Questions: Why is a teenager driving a car? At night? At that age does he have a valid driving licence? NO.

    Then, when the police are certain that he did not have a valid driving licence and is overtaking a police vehicle while every sane person is sound asleep, doesn’t that sound fishy?

    Come on, if I am that police officer I would be very suspicious. You can only drive a car when you have a valid driving licence. No licence, you are at your own risk when you insist on doing just that fatal thing.

    That teenager is going against the law. The family should remember this.

    Beware! Not just buyers beware but drivers should remember this too. Go against the law -You are risking yourself.

  14. farha says:

    I’m not trivialising this (and possibly other) incidents. But tragedies do happen. And meanwhile, while we’re tearing our hair at ‘the need to set up a royal commission’, ‘increasing police shooting/brutality’ yadayadayada. Let’s stop and think whether the CRIMINALS will stop what they’re doing. Will they?

    If i have to pick my poison, I’d have a brutal police anytime rather than a brutal rapist/murderer/drug pusher… at least if the former is brutal, it’s more likely in the interest of the public.

  15. :( says:

    I just could not believe the incredulous act of carelessness of a policeman! Shouldn’t they stop the car by bursting the tires or something and put the boy under scrutiny first, rather than to shoot him dead?? If the boy was dangerous and say he was armed, don’t you think he would have retaliated by shooting or maybe throwing the parang at the policeman? SIGH.

  16. callin says:

    @ Ahmad Abang

    It is normal for teenagers to drive without license. Surely everyone does that. Not only in Malaysia- everywhere in other countries. Aminulrasyid was just being a teenager. There’s nothing else to be said. All teenagers are stupid. They do stupid things. Yes, I agree there are consequences when you do anything that’s against the law.

    However, the law also should be conducted correctly. The policeman shouldn’t have abused his authority. Even so if the boy is guilty, the policemen SHOULD NOT KILL THE BOY! Unless the boy tried (not by ramming) but to shoot or to stab them after he is caught and detained (at the side of the road). I can somewhat understand Aminulrasyid’s action to run off and not stop because he knows he is guilty. Driving underaged, using somebody else’s vehicle. Any kid who happened to be chased after by police officers would be scared shitless. It’s an injustice man!

    Please officers, you should think first before you act so drastically.

  17. Peter says:

    Before the crowd here becomes partisan, I think the main issue here, again, is when should the police use their firearms?

    If a car charges a roadblock or ignores police instructions to stop, should the police shoot without further checking? Or is it preferable to let the car go and then follow-up in a less dangerous manner?

    What is the reasonable response?

    I’m reminded of a saying: It is better to let a thousand criminals go than to slay a single innocent. Is it?

  18. jehan says:

    This is so sad. Compensation will not bring the boy back. Reinforce the police force please. Make them more aware and smarter. Don’t repeat this mistake ever again. Chaos and tension for nothing good.


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