Archive for September 10th, 2007

Batu Burok riot – immediate independent public inquiry warranted

(Speech on the 2008 Budget in Parliament on Monday, 10th September 2008)

I must start with the shameful episode to the nation, which marred not only the presentation of the 2008 budget but also the 50th Merdeka Anniversary celebrations — the police firing live bullets at a ceramah crowd at Batu Burok, Kuala Terengganu on Saturday night and wounding two and the ensuing confrontation between the crowd and the police.

In 24 hours, the minimal “feel good” effect created by the 2008 Budget had been destroyed by two incidents – the police contempt for human rights and excessive use of force in Batu Burok on Saturday night and the latest Auditor-General’s Reports highlighting continuing widespread and incorrigible government inefficiency and waste of public funds.

All Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs, are shocked by what happened in Batu Burok on Saturday night, especially with the mainstream media carrying screaming headlines like “750 pembangkang merusuh, rosakkan harta awam di Terengganu” (Utusan Malaysia), “4 polis cedera rusuhan di Kuala Terengganu” (Berita Harian), “RM1m damage, 23 held in riot” (New Straits Times), “Ceramah clash” (The Star), “23 held and 7 injured in riot” (The Sun).

Why did a traditionally peaceful ceramah organized by Bersih, a coalition of political parties and NGOs campaigning for free and fair elections degenerate into a confrontation between the police and the crowd, turning it into a “riot” with police firing live bullets, resulting in four being hospitalized and 23 arrested?

Isn’t it a reflection of failure of the police to uphold law and order when what would have been a peaceful ceramah ended up into a “riot” between the police and the crowd?

Who must bear responsibility for the disgraceful incident in Kuala Teregganu — the police or the ceramah organizers?

The police has only itself to blame when its official account, giving full publicity by the mainstream media, both printed and electronic, are suspect as history has shown that official accounts, whether police or that of other authorities, could give distorted and very one-sided accounts.

The best example was the Kesas Highway Incident on 5th November 2000, where I was personally present, with the members of the public who had gathered peacefully for a rally treated like criminals by the police, which indiscriminately fired tear gas and water cannons. Read the rest of this entry »