By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has urged that all violent protesters face the “full force of the law” if they had indeed staged attacks against the police yesterday without being provoked.
The Bersih co-chair told The Malaysian Insider that she was “very perturbed” by numerous reports that protesters for the sit-in, which was meant to be peaceful, had provoked and even attacked the police during yesterday’s event.
“To me, there is no question about it. We have never and will never ever condone that type of violence. They must face the full force of the law. This is wholly unacceptable,” she said over the phone yesterday.
Ambiga was responding to claims that protesters who insisted on staying on after Bersih 3.0 was declared concluded had used force against the police, including flinging hard objects like broken concrete slabs, traffic cones, mineral water bottles and stones at them.
But, the former Bar Council chairman stressed that she had not seen these incidents occur, pointing out that from where she had been standing, the event had gone on peacefully.
“I was on the mobile stage and from there, they were all very peaceful. I do not know who these people are... but they must face the full force of the law. No excuses at all,” she said.
She repeated concerns raised by observers that the melee may have been started when “agent provocateurs” deliberately broke through the police barricades surrounding Dataran Merdeka, which had been cordoned off to protesters due to a police court order.
She said she found it “difficult to believe” that the thousands of protesters, who had earlier been careful to remain orderly, had suddenly decided to turn unruly.
“But be mindful that I am not downplaying this violence. I do not know the facts,” she said.
Ambiga added that Bersih officials are still gathering information about the rally to ascertain who had provoked the violence and if Bersih’s protesters were indeed at fault.
But be mindful that I am not downplaying this violence. I do not know the facts. — Ambiga Sreenevasan
Riot police began making arbitrary arrests nearly four hours after the Bersih 3.0 rally was officially dispersed by its leaders when remaining protesters, numbering at least 1,000, refused to leave the streets of the capital.
In the ensuring melee, pockets of demonstrators continued to challenge and even mock the police despite being receiving repeated warnings to disperse.
Things took a violent turn when a police officer was seen dragging a man across Jalan Tun Perak, which resulted in Bersih supporters attacking the police with broken bottles, mineral water bottles and broken concrete slabs.
Amid the chaos, rumours spread that at least four protesters had died in the melee, with claims that one was even shot dead, further fuelling the crowd’s anger.
It was also reported that a convoy of police vehicles ferrying KL Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail in one of its cars was forced to make a U-turn near Masjid Jamek when met with a hostile reception from protestors.
They threw shoes and the broken concrete slabs at them, smashing the windows of two cars in the process.
A Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmaker has also privately admitted that the violence was a far cry from last year’s rally, and that attempts at “crowd control” were dismal at best.
“The order to disperse and go home has been given, please do so.
“The Pakatan leadership has said it is over. If you all still do this you suffer your own consequences,” a PAS Unit Amal officer was heard chastising some Bersih rally participants.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets yesterday to demand for free and fair elections in the third such rally organised by Bersih, a coalition of 84 NGOs.