Sunday, 27 May 2012

Ambiga: Tear gas aftermath, police responsibility

Ambiga: Tear gas aftermath, police responsibility

Author/Source: Hafiz Yatim/Malaysiakini


The April 28 violence erupted when police began firing tear gas at the historic Bersih 3.0 rally participants, said Besih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.

In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini  on the Bersih 3.0 rally, she said that she was glad the organisers did not accept the stadium Merdeka offer, as things may have turned differently if that type of incident had occurred there, people would have been trapped.

The lawyer and former Bar Council president said four hours earlier between 10am and prior to the firing of the tear gas in the afternoon, the 250,000-strong crowd had been well behaved.

"In any such public assembly it is the joint responsibility of the government and the organisers. Look we do not have batons and we do not have the means (weapons) to go to the extent the police can.

NONE"As far as we are concerned, we did our best as things were under control until the tear gas.

"Even if the barricades were breached they (police and our volunteers) could have stopped it. However, when the tear gas was fired you cannot hold us responsible.

"What happens after police take action is their responsibility. I am not condoning violence but everything happened after that it is their responsibility. Everything went berserk after that," she said.

She added that police started shooting tear-gas canister after canister all over and continuously as the people were retreating. No warning given, she claimed.

Ambiga said she had earlier issued instructions three times for the crowd to disperse as the organisers felt that they had already achieved their objective and although opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had come-out to talk, we were moving the crowd towards Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

She said as there was a huge turnout, we knew it would take some time for them to depart.

"It was true we wanted to be there until 4pm and there were events lined up, but the crowd was huge.

"It was beyond our expectation as you can see Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman filled (with people wearing yellow t-shirts) and we could not see to the end of the roads.

"I made a judgment call because of the (huge) numbers, I was worried people would start to faint as it was hot, people had been to the event for a long time since 10am, and we had achieved the purpose. I know I am being criticised for that and I accept that," she said.

Independent inquiry necessary

Ambiga said she or the organisers did not lend support to the breaching of the Dataran Merdeka barricades as certain areas were open, giving the crowd the impression that they could go in.

Asked as to their location, Ambiga said they are still gathering more information on this, and for that reason they wanted an independent inquiry.

bersih 3 rally 020512 lma009She said the police were initially all right with the crowd having fun and a wonderful atmosphere with the ages of  the attendees ranging from 20 to 70.

"I told you we control it fine - it is after firing the tear gas - it is their responsibility - I had already asked the crowd to disperse - you should have left them alone and they would have left."

As to conflicting reports over some leaders alleged to have urged the supporters to move forward, she emphasised she had indeed asked them to disperse, and she cannot answer for the leaders.

"When Anwar arrives as he is an elected MP we allow him to talk. If BN MPs were also there, they would also be given an opportunity to talk as Bersih is for everyone, and we cannot stop people from supporting it.

"Anyway as Anwar came, people were not dispersing quickly as we moved towards Batu Road (Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman). Then I saw someone run towards the barrier.

"Police then started firing tear gas. My bodyguard and I then ran towards Masjid India with two other steering committee members and we stayed there for one and a half hours. I heard the beatings done outside," she said.

In yellow ‘we took KL'

Ambiga said if the program had been allowed at Dataran Merdeka, it would have been different.

bersih 3 rally 090512 03 fru at dataran merdeka"I think it would have been fine there would've been no issue. There were standing crowds of Malaysians in yellow at each street, then there is a patch of green representing Dataran - you did'nt give us Dataran - but we took KL," she laughed.

"But there were one patch of green (Dataran) - they (the authorities) were so stubborn in not allowing entry. I am still try to find answers to why we were kept out of Dataran Merdeka."

She also criticised the mainstream media for its misreporting of Bersih that day.

Ambiga said just look at the New Straits Times and TV3 describing it as Bersih riots.

"They did not give the whole story as they showed images of people lifting the police patrol car.

"What happened was the police patrol car had ploughed through the protesters and the public was worried that there could have been someone below the patrol car.

"I guess the agenda is to vilify Bersih as they must have been shocked by the numbers.
"But how do you undermine 250,000 people who were there. They have to change their tactics," she said, adding if you meet people in the streets they would know someone who had gone to the rally.

No basis for comparison

When asked about Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak comparing the Umno 66th anniversary celebrations at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil with Bersih's, Ambiga questioned its basis, pointing out that the police were on their (Umno's) side.

"What is the difficulty (with Umno) as police facilitated those events as compared with ours," she said.

Najib had in his London speech contrasted Umno gathering aspeaceful in contrast to the Bersih rally.

Ambiga said the freedom of assembly issue is that you can go to any public space. 

"The stadium is not freedom of assembly as it is half of what you are entitled to. You go out to the street peacefully and gather.

"Furthermore, Umno had also done this in the past in the street demonstration (with the Malayan Union)," she pointed out

bersih 3 rally 160512 10She said the Bersih rally had raised public awareness as people are tuned into electoral reform, not just locally but also Malaysians abroad.

For her, she said there has been a real shift of the middle ground, as people leading comfortable lives in the comfort of their houses took a stand,

"These people took a stand as they want to see free and fair elections. All of society, they were there that day.

"Everyone, knows someone who went to Bersih. It wasn't just KL as there were numbers in Penang, Johor, Kuantan, Kuching and also worldwide," she said.


The interview was jointly conducted by Hafiz Yatim, Hazlan Zakaria, Lee Way Loon and Abdul Rahim Sabri.

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《人民之友》发表对国内政局看法
马来文版已于9月23日刊出


人民之友成立于2001年9月9日,2018年9月9日是人民之友成立17周年纪念的日子。我们在这一天发表了一篇题为< 联合起来,坚持真正的民主改革! 丢掉幻想,阻止马哈迪主义复辟!>的文章作为纪念。

我们一如既往选择在这一个对我们来说,具有里程碑意义的日子,对我国当前阶段(大选后新政府上台)的政治局势发表一些意见,与为推动我国和世界民主人权运动而奋斗的同道们,互相交流。

为了面向国内不谙华文的广大非华裔群体,也为了让我们对当前阶段的政治局势的意见能够更广泛地传播开去,工委会决定尽快把这篇纪念文章先后翻译成马来文和英文。马来文版已于9月23日刊出。英文版也安排在较后日期刊出。


此外,现居新加坡的庄明湖已将他在《人民之友》发表的《20世纪60年代新加坡左派工运问题探索》(正篇)一文的英文译稿传送到编辑部,因原文中所述人物的姓名或者是党团工会组织的全称或简称,在译文中尚未解决或有待查证,需要一些时日来完成——人民之友工委都是自愿挤出时间来进行工作的,因而无法很快完成。无论如何,我们争取在9月底刊出,为我们的17周年纪念增添光彩!

值得在此一提的是,庄文所述的20世纪60年代新加坡工运遭遇问题(除了遭受来自外部的镇压,还要遭遇来自内部的破坏)的见解,或许能为一些读者(特别是不谙华文和不懂新马历史的读者)思考马来西亚民主改革运动在当前阶段面临马哈迪主义复辟的问题,提供一个历史殷鉴,或者是一个新的启示。

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