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Call for apology, resignation over Bersih gathering

Updated 11 Nov 2008, 6:15pm

KUALA LUMPUR, 11 Nov 2008: Civil society groups have called on the Home Minister to apologise and for the Selangor police chief to resign over the use of excessive force during the police crackdown during the Bersih gathering in Petaling Jaya on 9 Nov.

In a statement released during a press conference held in Parliament today, the 12 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) strongly condemned the attack by police on a 100-member-strong crowd who were singing the national anthem.

The groups said Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar should apologise to Malaysians over the police action, and that Selangor police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar resign to “to take responsibility for his part in the fiasco”.

“We are deeply appalled by the unusual manner of the police dispersal of citizens in a peaceful gathering,” said the statement, which was signed by, among others, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), the Writer Alliance for Media Independence (Wami),the  Centre for Independent Journalism, and the Centre for Policy Initiatives. 

“The 9 Nov police attack on the citizens, the nation and the monarchy has yet again reminded us of the urgent and immediate need for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC),” said the statement.

Twenty-three people were arrested in the incident, including Selangor state exco Ronnie Liu and Member of Parliament (MP) for Petaling Jaya Utara Tony Pua, when they gathered outside Petaling Jaya Civic Centre to commemorate the first anniversary of Bersih rally.

Another person, a journalist from Suara Keadilan, was later arrested at the police station for questioning Khalid about the police action. Thus far, all but one of those arrested have been released.

Yesterday, Syed Hamid defended the police action, saying the cops were only doing their job in ensuring that public order was maintained.

MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok, who was at the press conference, also condemned the use of violence to disperse the crowd. She said 53-year-old Dian Abdullah was attacked from behind by several police officers and suffered injuries to her head, which necessitated four stitches.

“I was informed that women were dragged and arrested by all-male Federal Reserve Unit (riot police). No female police officer was around then,” said Kok, who is also a Bersih steering committee member. 

She also condemned the manner in which the police treated the participants, and pointed out that the way MP Tony Pua was dragged into the police truck was very unprofessional.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan reiterated that the organisers had not applied for a permit for the gathering, which was also attended by anti-Internal Security Act (ISA) supporters who have been holding a candlelight vigil in Petaling Jaya every Sunday to press for the release of ISA detainees.

Human rights lawyer Haris Ibrahim said at the press conference the candlelight vigils will continue.

“The Pakatan Rakyat leaders should show their support by attending the next candlelight vigil on 16 Nov.  They should protect people that have supported them,” said Haris, who is also Bersih steering committee member.

Haris praised Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s stand in condemning the police action, but said he was disappointed with Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s silence on the matter.

“The protest is in support of the Pakatan Rakyat state’s stand in [being] anti-ISA,” said Haris.

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