By Shannon Teoh
PETALING JAYA, May 12 — Some parties at the April 28 Bersih rally wanted serious injuries and death to occur, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today.
The home minister told students at the Gradmalaysia careers fair here that his biggest fear ahead of the planned sit-in at Dataran Merdeka calling for free and fair elections was the possibility of serious injuries and fatalities.
“I was relieved there were none. But there were some parties who wanted that to happen,” he said over lunch at Sunway Hotel here.
Bersih’s previous rally on July 9 last year saw scores injured and the death of an ex-soldier after tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of Kuala Lumpur despite stern warnings from the authorities that action would be taken against the illegal rally.
Hishammuddin said there were three different groups of people including those who wanted to cause chaos at the April 28 rally, which saw a larger turnout than last July’s event.
“There were those who genuinely went for free and fair elections. There were politicians who hijacked the rally and there were also rioters who wanted chaos,” the Sembrong MP said.
He added that he would “reveal to the Malaysian public next week what really happened that day. Even police who assaulted people will be caught.”
But he was quick to point out to students, who quizzed him over the rally that spiralled into chaos after some protestors tried to enter Dataran Merdeka, that the police were not the only ones who used force.
“The accusation that police attacked journalists. The most badly injured was from al-Hijrah; he was injured after trying to protect a policeman who was being attacked by protestors,” he said, referring to cameraman Mohamad Azri Salleh.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak had also said last night that the real purpose of the opposition-backed Bersih rally was to “fight, kick and strip the police.”
“If there were no clashes, then there is no story for CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera. That is their real purpose: to show we are a cruel government,” he said referring to the violence that was sparked at the assembly.
The Umno president had pledged last week that “credible, experienced and respectable” individuals would investigate the events during Bersih’s third rally for free and fair elections, which descended into chaos after police clashed with protestors.
But the prime minister’s choice of Tun Hanif Omar to head the panel came under immediate fire from the opposition and calls are growing for the former Inspector-General of Police, who led the police for two decades since 1974, to recuse himself.
The April 28 rally, which saw tens of thousands gather at six different locations before heading to Dataran Merdeka, was peaceful until about 2.30pm when Bersih chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan asked the crowd to disperse.
But her call was not heard by most of the crowd who persisted around the historic square which the court had already barred to the public over the weekend.
Just before 3pm, some protestors breached the barricade surrounding the landmark, leading police to disperse the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.
Police then continued to pursue the rally-goers down several streets amid chaotic scenes which saw violence from both sides over the next four hours.
Several dozen demonstrators have claimed that they were assaulted by groups of over 10 policemen at a time and visual evidence appears to back their claim but police also point to violence from rally-goers who also attacked a police car.
The police car then crashed into a building before some protestors flipped it on its side.