Violence against Malaysia

by Zan Azlee
The Malaysian Insider
May 04, 2012

MAY 4 — I waited for almost a week before actually writing or posting anything much about the recent Bersih 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur. There were so many emotions, I wanted to make sure that I was calm and coherent before actually commenting on it.

And now that everything seems ever so slightly clearer to me, the one thing that affected me most that Saturday was the violence that occurred.

The day had started early for me and walking all around the city, I felt the almost party-like atmosphere amongst all the Malaysians that had gathered.

Dataran Merdeka, of course, had a heavy police presence. It was cordoned off with metal fencing and even scary-looking barbed wire.

But, as I mentioned, the atmosphere was very festive and I guess the intimidation wasn’t working that well.

When the rally was in full force, I was standing alongside the leaders as they were giving their speeches and encouraging the people to sing.

Once everyone was as close to Dataran Merdeka as possible, I heard the leaders declaring the rally a success and calling for the crowd to disperse.

The crowd didn’t disperse and I made my way behind the barricade and police line with the help of my press tag.

Before I knew it, I heard people shouting and noticed the police running back from the barricade. The protesters had breached the barricade.

The police, of course, went into full riot mode with their helmets and gas masks on, carrying their shields. Tear gas was fired and the water cannons came out.

Here we go, I thought to myself. This wasn’t the first rally I had covered and I knew the drill and for the next hour or so, things weren’t really out of the ordinary.

People were screaming and taunting the police, challenging the authorities, just like at any demonstration and the police went out trying to disperse the large crowd.

From my observations, the police managed to actually successfully keep the crowd away from the Dataran Merdeka area.

But what happened next was something that I had never seen or experienced before. It was when the violence started.

Groups of policemen suddenly started attacking the protesters. They would gang up on individuals and just unleash punches and kicks.

I, along with many other journalists who were there, started shooting these attacks and arrests. Usually, on previous occasions like this, what would happen is that the police would realise the press was there watching and they would stop any aggression.

This happened at Bersih 2.0 in 2011 and there were times when I would run up to where police were roughing up people just so they would stop.

But last Saturday was different. When we journalists started documenting what was happening, we instead ended up on the receiving end of the aggression.

The police started screaming at us in a very hostile way to stop shooting. I had police shoving my camera arms, pulling and pushing me away.

At one point, I was even detained by the police who had accused me of shooting a group of them (around 20, I think) beating up a protester.

I didn’t want my equipment to be confiscated or to be arrested, so I denied shooting any video of the pounding. They let me off the hook with a stern warning.

I was lucky. Many of my other colleagues were assaulted and attacked just for doing their jobs. They were punched and kicked and suffered terrible injuries.

Their equipment was confiscated and many even had their cameras and lenses smashed and destroyed.

I also noticed something very strange. At one point, I saw that all the policemen who were in uniform had removed their Velcro nametags.

They were also moving in droves away from Dataran Merdeka and into the streets and they were just attacking, beating and arresting people.

Since I was witnessing all this and could not shoot anything, I started feeling sick to the stomach and decided to just walk to where I had parked my car and go home.

While I was walking along the sidewalk, I could see these policemen on the streets still going after people and beating them and arresting them.

And as I was walking, I even saw several injured people unconscious on the ground and being picked up by ambulances.

There were many passers-by along the street too and they had stopped to look. Some were shooting with mobile phones. I even heard someone shouting for the police to stop.

A group of men stopped me and asked if I was a member of the press. I said yes and they asked to be interviewed.

I looked over my shoulder to see if there were any policemen close by. But none were since they were too busy doing what they were doing.

The men told me that they had never seen anything like this before. They said it looked like a bunch of cats going wild in the back alleys looking for mice.

They told me that they felt disgusted. One of them even said that he was a retired policeman and he had never done anything of this sort during his career.

Once they were done expressing their feelings, I turned off my camera. Walked into the parking lot where my car was and drove off to go home and hug my daughter.

That Saturday, I had never felt so angry before. Angry because my fellow journalists and I were threatened and assaulted for doing our jobs.

In all my years as a journalist, I have never felt as threatened and intimidated as I did that day. And I am one who has reported in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Lebanon and Pattani.

If the police felt like they were justified in what they were doing, why then did they not allow journalists to document it?

That Saturday, I also felt very sad. Sad because I witnessed so many of my fellow Malaysians suffer at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them.

There is so much noise right now in the country.

This side accusing that side of breaching the barricades, and that side accusing this side of not complying with the law.

This side accusing that side of being unjust, and that side accusing this side of not being reasonable.

Like I said, this is all just noise.

I have never begged before. But I am begging now. I am begging that we Malaysians keep our eyes on the ball and do what is best for our country.

  1. #1 by shukurhasran on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 12:00 am

    Don’t make excuse for the police force, nothing to do with them being misled by a death of one of them…a well planned crowd bashing.

    Well said evidence on velcro nametag pieces…a pumped up, motivated kampung style when they are proud to be working alongside mossad advisors..

    Bersih 4.0, I will come again to support Bersih cause

  2. #2 by monsterball on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 3:31 am

    Come BERSIH 4…you can be very sure Najib is busy out of K.L. again…and come back….when told his plan for Emergency Rule failed..and start his concerned.. nice guy image all over again.
    I will be at BERSIH 4..once in a lifetime to feel and see all Malaysians participating with no fear for country and people.
    It’s revolting with no arms..nor fear.
    It’s revolting to expose how dirty and crooked Govt. is.
    It’s challenging Najib to prove us wrong.
    It’s shaming Najib and his slogans…all are hallow words.
    It’s a day of joy for participants to do the biggest and greatest contributions to country ….people and King.
    Impossible for anyone to miss such an opportunity…if one has the time and means to do it.
    Those that cannot come….it’s OK.
    We will be grateful if you feel grateful to us..participating.
    Just say a prayer for all enough.
    Bring on BERSIH 4!!

  3. #3 by Cinapek on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 10:53 am

    “…..Groups of policemen suddenly started attacking the protesters. They would gang up on individuals and just unleash punches and kicks…”

    “…I also noticed something very strange. At one point, I saw that all the policemen who were in uniform had removed their Velcro nametags….”

    These are very, very serious allegations against the PDRM. And the fact they were made openly in public by a journalist who witnessed this firsthand has lent strong credence that these allegations are true. The police has repeatedly hidden behind the excuse that complainants should provide proof. So here is another irrefutable proof for the world to see and if the PDRM has even one shred of credibility or honour left, it should investigate these allegations without delay.

    Don’t wait and hide behind the “independent” panel the PM is proposing. That is a political tactic and lacks sincerity. No one believes in panels or commissions anymore in this country. The police will do much to regain their honour if the more decent members of the force have the courage to immediately act and identify those policemen responsible for the violence and take action. More importantly, the police must identify who gave the orders to do what they did ( unless they are all in this together). Because the name tag removal smacks of a sinister, deliberate and premeditated deadly plan to attack and inflict maximum violence on the participants, the very people paying the taxes that pays the police their salaries and the roof over their heads.

  4. #4 by SENGLANG on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 12:15 pm

    They simply can’t let the Bersihn 3 to be a peaceful event. If so they will lose all their face. More so they will not have reason to refuse another rally when ask for. They have plan and make it chaotic. The Police will not act on their own and instruction must have given. From what have reported it seem the police are well informed on what to do. They took off their name tag and badges and just put force on the people.

    It will be long time before the police will be able to win back the trust of the people.

    This morning Najib is visiting the Brick fields Buddhist temple but the people there was not as many as it expected. He is fighting a losing battle. He has lost the trust of the people.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Sunday, 6 May 2012 - 12:10 am

    D blardi truth: After 3pm, 428, it was simply PURE NAKED PREMEDITATED polis aggression, violence against rakyat with d blessing of UmnoB/BN, IGP

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