The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) are shocked at the police’s violent response to the Himpunan Hijau protesters at the Lynas plant in Kuantan on 22 June 2014.
This incident raises yet again the question whether recommendations for the police by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) on the standard operating procedure (SOP) for public demonstrations will ever be implemented. Recent rallies, especially the Anti-GST May Day protest, had given us hope that the police were capable of changing and stepping up to their role as facilitators to the democratic process.
However, that appeared to have been false hope. The police are continuing to beat up protesters – but only those who are against the ruling party’s policies – and are now even charging them under provisions in the Penal Code that are made out to be demonstration-related offences, rather than use the more recent, demonstration-specific, Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012.
At Lynas, according to the protesters, plainclothes police personnel set upon those who could not manage to disperse immediately after the warning was issued. Three were beaten up badly – one so brutally that he had to be admitted to the ICU (and was later diagnosed as sustaining cerebral concussion), and two even after they were handcuffed.
Next, a few hours after 16 protesters were arrested and taken to the Kuantan police headquarters, police allegedly did nothing when some 15 thugs attacked the vigilers outside; worse, they closed their doors to those being attacked, including a pregnant woman.
Not a single thug was arrested then despite it all happening under the noses of the police. Instead, 16 protesters were arrested in situ, with 15 of them scheduled to be charged for offences in the Penal Code at the Kuantan Court on 8 July 2014. Police only arrested some of the thugs – the details were not reported – after reports were lodged against them.
BERSIH 2.0 and SUARAM call for all charges against the 15 to be dropped immediately.
We also expect the police to reveal the details of their investigation into the thugs and to charge them under the appropriate Penal Code provisions for committing bodily hurt and creating a ruckus.
And we want the same action to be taken on the police personnel who beat up the protesters, especially those who continued beating the handcuffed protesters.
Going to the core of the matter, we reiterate the public demand for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). The government cannot run from this forever, especially after the latest sorry episode that points to the failure of its ‘replacement’, the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) in upholding police professionalism.
Meanwhile, the police must revisit the SUHAKAM recommendations on the SOP for public assemblies and give a set timeline to follow through, or there will be more such incidents that tarnish the image of the police.
To the legislators, our call is to review the legal framework. The provisions in the Penal Code pertaining to the right to assemble and the PAA must be amended to ensure that they adhere to the constitutional right to freedom of assembly.
Issued by BERSIH 2.0 and SUARAM
Maria Chin Abdullah
Yap Swee Seng