Rights Panel Quizzes Malaysian Police on ‘Double Standards’
Members of a Malaysian human rights panel investigating alleged police brutality at an opposition rally questioned Wednesday whether officers had adopted double standards in banning the gathering.
"Isn't that an illegal gathering?" Mehrun Siraj, a member of the panel, asked Klang district police chief Karn Kan Peng.
Mehrun was referring to photographs submitted by the police Tuesday of local residents who held a demonstration to oppose the opposition rally last November 5.
Police used tear gas, batons and water cannon to break up the protest by supporters of jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim on the Kesas main highway west of Kuala Lumpur, near the town of Klang.
Some 26 of the 125 people who were arrested reported injuries ranging from bloody noses to cracked ribs.
Several protesters earlier told the inquiry -- the first of its kind in Malaysia -- that police beat, punched and kicked demonstrators and fired tear gas indiscriminately to break up what they called a peaceful gathering.
Karn testified that police decided to ban the gathering because local residents had written letters to protest against it.
"In other words you decide who you take action against. You allowed the other group to go on (to demonstrate). I wonder how you decide -- some to go on and others not," Mehrun told Karn.
Another panel member Simon Sipuan commented: "Double standard?"
Mehrun also said that one letter to the police objecting to the opposition protest contained some lines which could be read as a "threat."
"That itself is wrong. I wonder why sometime it is wrong and sometime no action is taken," she said. "Shouldn't both sides be allowed to express some concerns they have?"
Karn said police had discretionary powers to decide what action to take.
Police have wide powers to declare any gathering of more than four people illegal.
Asked by Mehrun whether police helicopters had dropped tear gas on the protesters, Karn said: "No."
Retired judge Anuar Zainal Abidin, who heads the inquiry, told Karn that there had been such allegations by earlier witnesses.
Police began testifying on Tuesday, when a senior officer defended their actions.
Johar Che Din, deputy police chief of Selangor state, said demonstrators posed a national security threat.
Protesters defied numerous warnings to disperse, shouted abuse and threw stones, he said. The inquiry is continuing -- KUALA LUMPUR (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)