Yes, Prime Minister, we need answers!
APRIL 30 — Two days after Bersih 3.0, and after viewing many videos and photos on the Internet, I would like to pose a few questions to the authorities, specifically the prime minister, who missed a golden chance to walk his talk (and claim to be a reformist).
1. When was the decision to fire tear gas made? Was it a spur-of-the-moment decision or was it made much earlier?
2. Why was the phone scrambler being used at about 2pm (around which time, all of us at Masjid Jamek area were unable to send out messages and make calls) when the whole rally was still peaceful and looked more like a carnival?
Did the authorities already know by then that there would be violence and the use of the phone scrambler was to prevent any pictures and videos being sent out?
Was the failure on the part of the crowd to disperse due to the fact that Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan’s call to disperse not reaching those who were in other parts of the rally and who could not receive messages/calls on their phones?
3. Who were those who broke through the barrier at Dataran Merdeka? I was at the barrier area earlier and saw many lines of police standing right in front of the barrier. How could people break through the barrier if that was so? Many accounts told of the police suddenly leaving the barrier, and that led to some from the crowd (provocateurs) breaking through the barrier. Was that what led to the firing of tear gas?
4. Why the need to fire deep into the crowd when just some of them went over the barrier? Wouldn’t it be possible for the police to arrest those few that went over instead of firing tear gas and beating up many innocent people, including the media who were there to perform their duty?
5. Who ordered the closure of the LRT stations in those areas where the people assembled? I left the Masjid Jamek area after Ambiga’s speech, and I still managed to catch the LRT back. However, later these stations were closed, leading to many people being unable to leave. If the police crackdown was to ask people to disperse, then why the illogical decision to close the stations?
Isn’t it contradictory that on the one hand, the authorities wanted people to leave but on the other, the means to leave the area was denied to these same people? Or was the crackdown meant to punish the people, 99.9 per cent of whom were peaceful and harmless?
6. Did the authorities not remember that under the Peaceful Assembly Act, the people have the right to assemble and the police’s function should be to facilitate and protect those who assembled peacefully and arrest the few who made trouble, and not by shooting tear gas indiscriminately ?
7. If the rakyat can assemble for the annual New Year’s Day countdown in Dataran, why can’t a peace movement be allowed to assemble? Isn’t asking for fair and clean elections more important than counting down to a new year?
I support Ambiga’s call for a complete, thorough and open investigation, but as a Malaysian, I feel that I deserve the right to answers to the above questions.
* Dr Hsu Dar Ren was a peaceful participant at Bersih 3.0.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.