Hishammuddin: Police acted with restraint
KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 —Police acted with the “utmost restraint” and efficiency in handling the Bersih 3.0 protest, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said, despite tear gas and water cannons being fired at demonstrators.
Police fired at least 40 rounds of tear gas as protestors tried to force their way into Dataran Merdeka, where they had planned a sit-in to call for free and fair elections.
“Police acted with utmost restraint and efficiently. Situation under control. Alhamdulillah. Will get back to u guys. Later,” the home minister wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter at 4.10pm today.
City police chief Datuk Mohmad Salleh also said the protestors threw “all sorts of objects at police and broke through the barriers and headed towards Dataran Merdeka.
“Police were forced to fire water to disperse the group. As they continued to move towards Dataran Merdeka, police fired tear gas to halt their progress,” he said in a statement this evening.
But civil rights watchdog Human Rights Watch has condemned police action, saying it showed “contempt for basic rights and freedoms.”
“Despite all the talk of ‘reform’ over the past year, we’re seeing a repeat of repressive actions by a government that does not hesitate to use force when it feels its prerogatives are challenged,” its Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said.
Earlier, police fired water cannons and tear gas on demonstrators who pushed through the barricades in front of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) leading to Dataran Merdeka, resulting in chaos on the streets.
Some of the 15,000-strong crowd broke down the barriers and moved towards the historic square, leading to police firing chemical-laced water and tear gas canisters.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali tried to negotiate with police, who told the Gombak MP to calm the group down. But despite his advice they still broke through the barricades.
Police fired as far as the DBKL premises, which are across Jalan Parlimen, and the move broke up the crowd at Dataran who fled helter-skelter.
More than 30 were arrested and taken to be processed at the Royal Selangor Club, which is the closest they have gotten to the square so far.
“Police were forced to release tear gas when assembly participants tried to break through the barricade,” the force said on its Twitter account.
Observers from law activists LoyarBurok say “tear gas was fired without warning deep and direct into the crowd.”