(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read previous Holding Court columns
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