Anwar, Azmin say signals meant ‘negotiate with police’
PETALING JAYA, April 30 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Azmin Ali denied today exchanging signals to break a police barrier in front of Dataran Merdeka during Saturday’s Bersih rally, insisting that the opposition leader had asked the PKR deputy president to negotiate with police.
PKR de facto leader Anwar told a press conference the rolling motion he made with his hands directed at the Gombak MP meant to “nego, nego.”
Azmin said he then jerked his thumb over his shoulder and nodded to the former deputy prime minister to say “I had already negotiated with police.”
A clip which surfaced on video-sharing site YouTube yesterday appears to show Anwar signalling to Azmin to breach a police barricade barring Bersih supporters from entering Dataran Merdeka.
Police had obtained a court order barring members of the public from entering the historic square and Bersih leaders had also told supporters not to defy the order and instead hold their sit-in rally for free and fair elections at the point they were stopped by police.
But after some demonstrators breached the barrier, police fired tear gas and water cannons at them, leading to spiralling chaos as police chased Bersih supporters down several streets and some rally-goers retaliated and attacked riot police.
“Nego, nego. Make sure you start talking to the police officer behind you,” Anwar said, repeating the rolling gesture before adding “break means break” and thrusting an open palm in front of him.
The Permatang Pauh MP pointed out that he had earlier told the crowd to “turn right into Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, not left into Dataran Merdeka” and insisted at no point did he call for people to enter the historic square.
In the very first few seconds of the 19-minute video, Anwar, who is standing on top of a truck, is seen making a rolling gesture with both hands in Azmin’s direction before the camera pans to the latter.
Azmin, who is standing on top of the barricade with his back towards the square, jerks his thumb over his shoulder and nods back in Anwar’s direction while an Indian male in a yellow T-shirt also makes the same gesture towards the PKR de facto leader.
The Selangor PKR chief then looks over his shoulder towards the man, who some on Twitter say is a PKR member from Negri Sembilan, who in turn points at Azmin and nods back.
A few members of the crowd of 15,000, who were sandwiched between the square and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), begin chanting “masuk, masuk (enter, enter)” and the Indian man pushes the metal gate aside, allowing the crowd to burst through.
This is just Umno’s propaganda to cover up police brutality. — Selangor PKR chief Azmin Ali
But Azmin denied today communicating to the man to open the fence.
“I cannot remember speaking to anyone. But if anything, it was to indicate that I had negotiated with police,” he said.
Anwar added that if it was true the man was a PKR member and acted against the party’s decision not to cross the barrier without police permission, “then we will certainly investigate.”
However, he said that while the party agreed with Bersih’s decision to respect the court order, “we will defend those who tried to reach Dataran.”
“I disagree but I will not condemn them. Those who came were under the impression to assemble at Dataran. I will defend them even though I disagree. Is it a crime as big as cheating in elections?” he said.
Azmin also said that he had earlier negotiated with a policeman to allow the crowd to peacefully enter the square as they were refusing to disperse despite being told to by Bersih and PKR leaders.
“But the senior police officer said ‘I have not received any instructions’ and told me to help calm my supporters down. So I told them to sit and calm down.
“This is just Umno’s propaganda to cover up police brutality,” he said.
Azmin also denied claims that he had said “masuk, masuk, (enter, enter) Dataran Merdeka” just before the barricade was breached, insisting he said “no such thing.”
PKR vice-president Chua Tian Chang also told reporters that the first breach was not where Azmin was located but closer to the Royal Selangor Club where he was.
“The people had already reached the fountain in Dataran before Azmin’s side broke through. Police were already taking up positions to load tear gas canisters.
“This has nothing to do with the barricade. We are talking about the police losing control. If the barrier was not broken, you think police would not have gone three blocks down chasing demonstrators? the Batu MP said.
Tens of thousands who attended the electoral reform movement’s third rally in just over four years were dispersed by police with water cannons and tear gas after some rally-goers pushed through the barricade in front of DBKL and tried to rush into Dataran Merdeka.
Police fired as far as the DBKL premises, which are across Jalan Parlimen, and the move broke up the crowd who fled helter-skelter but police chased them down at Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Raja Laut.
Angry protestors later attacked a police car which then crashed into at least two people while trying to flee.
After an ambulance took away the injured policemen, the protestors flipped the car over on its side but then fled after tear gas was fired.
Despite most of the crowd dispersing, a pocket of 1,000 demonstrators then engaged in open battle with riot police near Masjid Jamek.
A police officer was seen dragging a man across the road, which resulted in Bersih supporters attacking the police with broken bottles, mineral water bottles and broken concrete slabs.
A convoy of police vehicles ferrying Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail in one of its cars was forced to make a U-turn near Masjid Jamek when met with a hostile reception from protestors who threw shoes and broken concrete slabs at them, smashing the windows of two cars.
Police also arrested over 500 protestors, about a third of those detained in a similar rally on July 9 last year where a clampdown by the government saw Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration being widely condemned by the international press.