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Why the Hanif panel is getting stick — The Malaysian Insider

May 21, 2012

MAY 21 — It would appear strange that the panel investigating the Bersih 3.0 violence is getting criticised before they even start their work. Especially because it is helmed by Tan Sri Hanif Omar, the respected and longest-serving police chief in Malaysia.

Yet, it is because of him that the panel is getting stick.

Hanif did not do himself any favours by talking about Marxist elements in Bersih. This is akin to a judge commenting on a case before it is even heard. And no matter how much that judge can argue about his impartiality, his comments have already influenced people about his handling of the case. Just like what Hanif did.

The former IGP had reportedly made several anti-Bersih comments before the panel was set up, such as the coalition intended to “topple the government” and that it had been “infiltrated by communist sympathisers”.

His words have disqualified him from such a panel, let alone lead the panel. The government should have taken that into consideration when naming him to the panel and even making him the chairman.

Because his words have made a mockery of claims by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that the panel is independent. How can that be so if the chairman thinks poorly of Bersih?

Hishammuddin had said the personalities of the members in the independent panel to investigate violence during Bersih 3.0 do not matter as the mission is to find the truth of the incidents that occurred during the rally, but Hanif’s earlier remarks could colour the outcome of the panel’s investigations.

“The point is the panel is not about individuals, it is about finding truth and justice — not only for the police but also for the public, the media and whoever feels they need an avenue for them to relate to what actually happened,” said Hishammuddin.

If he was intent on getting the truth, why not ask the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to conduct the inquiry? They have the legal standing to compel evidence, unlike the panel, which the Bar Council pointed out would invalidate the legitimacy of any of its findings but Hishammuddin had dismissed.

So, who would respect such a panel, no matter all the good work that they intend to do? Would anyone even bother turning up to testify in front of a panel led by a man who has made up his mind about them?

Putrajaya should take heed of the objections. No one condones violence in Malaysia and any investigation into the April 28 rally must be done by those who have an open mind about the incidents that day. Perhaps it’s best that Suhakam conducts the inquiry and the guilty be identified and brought to court.

Because the Hanif panel has lost its credibility with Hanif as its chairman. And if they continue, the government itself will lose credibility for not ensuring an independent panel investigates the Bersih 3.0 violence. Why score an own goal so easily? Why shoot your own foot, Putrajaya?