Crowd broke FRU barricade, mocked cops, Bersih inquiry told
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 ― Demonstrators broke through a barbed wire barricade outside Dataran Merdeka on April 28, forcing the Federal ReserveUnit (FRU) to fire water cannons and tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd, theHuman Rights Commission (Suhakam) inquiry into the Bersih rally heard today.
Superintendent Zahari Mohd Yusoff, a FRUfield commander, also alleged that prior to firing of water cannons and tear gas, the FRU gave warnings but the crowd showed no signs of dispersing.
“The crowd of 20,000 broke the barricade and tried to stop the FRU truck holding water cannons from moving forward,” Zahari said.
He claimed that police gave repeated warnings before, during and after firing the water cannons.
“We told the crowd to disperse immediately or we will take action.
“However, we waited few minutes before the firing, giving the crowd time to disperse,” he added.
Zahari also related to the panel that it looked like the breaking of the barricade was a well-planned move.
“The barricade was completely broken. The crowd looked eager to ram into the human barricade consisting of police and FRU officers stationed at Dataran Merdeka.
“It is our responsibility to protect them. We didn’t look at the crowd as enemies. We asked them to disperse in a nice manner but they refused. We only fired cannons containing clear water,” he said.
He revealed that the crowd uttered profanities and provocative statements that forced the police to take actions.
“The crowd also threw stones at policemen,” he said.
However, he claimed that the police did not fire water cannons and tear gas directly at the crowd but instead fired into the air.
Several witnesses previously claimed the police fired teargas directly at the demonstrators.
“As far as I know, the troop I was commanding did not fire directly at the crowd. Not sure if any other troops did otherwise,” he said.
He also added that his officers were all trained in anger management and did not behave in any unruly manner.
“We were on duty to prevent the crowd from entering Dataran Merdeka. We were not given instructions to arrest or use physical force on anyone,” he said, speaking of his duties during the rally.
Zahari added that he and his troop left Dataran Merdeka at 5pm after the crowd began to disperse.
“We left and headed to Bukit Aman police headquarters to rest after the ordeal,” he said.
A total of 89 FRU officers were on duty during the Bersih3.0 rally on April 28 to maintain law and order.
“I agree that the peaceful assembly had changed into a violent riot.
“I was very afraid of my officers acting in an unruly manner. But thank God, they did what they were ordered to do,” Zahari said in a cross-question session.
In relations to attacks on journalists on April 28, Zahari said that not all journalists had their media tags with them.
“It was hard to distinguish journalists from demonstrators as not all of them had their tags. But my officers were ordered not to harm journalists,” he said.
The inquiry panel, led by Suhakam vice-chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee and aided by commissioners Professor Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid and Detta Samen, will be interviewing some 22 witnesses and selected members of the police force over a period of 22 days.
The inquiry continues on August 9.