By Anisah Shukry
KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — Police used “excessive” and “brutal” force on demonstrators during yesterday’s Bersih 3.0 rally for free and fair elections, the Bar Council said today.
Council vice-president Christopher Leong said today that their monitoring team witnessed the police’s use of “heavy-handed tactics” such as the indiscriminate discharge of tear gas canisters, assault on detainees and attacks on members of the media.
“Police fired tear gas directly at the crowd. They also manoeuvred their firing pattern to box in the participants.
“This is not action to disperse, but is instead designed to attack, a crowd,” Leong said in a statement.
He stressed that any breach of police barricades erected around Dataran Merdeka did not justify the police unleashing the “full force” of their arsenal upon “peaceful” crowds.
Leong added that their conduct showed they did not have the maturity, discipline and restraint required of a professional force. “Instead of displaying action to calm the situation, they aggravated it and contributed to the escalation of the conflict.”
“In this regard, the Malaysian Bar strongly disagrees with the Minister of Home Affairs’ assertion that the police acted professionally.”
He further pointed out that police had overstepped the court order, which excluded members of the public from Dataran Merdeka, by closing additional roads and restricting access to other areas not covered by its terms.
He added that the court-ordered closure of the square as well as the closing of ancillary roads leads to the “tense situation” and violence.
Police had on Friday secured a court order barring the use of Dataran Merdeka and its bordering roads by Bersih until May 1.
It was reported some 388 protesters were arrested following the rally yesterday.
The number arrested is far fewer than the 1,667 detained in the Bersih 2.0 rally in the city held in July 9 last year.
Yesterday, police had fired water cannons and tear gas at demonstrators who pushed through the barricade in front of the DBKL building, resulting in chaos on the streets.
Some of the 15,000-strong crowd broke down the barriers along Jalan Tun Perak and moved towards the historic square, resulting in police firing chemical-laced water and tear gas canisters.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali tried to negotiate with police, who told the Gombak MP to calm the group down. But despite his advice they still broke through the barricades.
Police fired as far as the DBKL premises, which are across Jalan Parlimen, and the move broke up the crowd at Dataran who fled helter-skelter.
Angry protestors later attacked a police car, which then crashed into at least two people while trying to flee.
The angry crowd then surrounded the policemen but volunteers from PKR’s Jingga 13 formed a human shield around the officers, saying “don’t blame them, it’s not their fault.”
After an ambulance took away the injured policemen, the protestors flipped the car over on its side but then fled after tear gas was fired.