PETALING JAYA, July 29 — PKR today held its own screening of the Bersih rally videos taken on July 9 at the KL Sentral underpass to counter police claims that the demonstrators had provoked them to fire tear gas into the tunnel.

Party vice-president N. Surendran, Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah and Lawyers for Liberty’s Fadiah Nadwa Fikri showed reporters at the PKR headquarters here videos taken by Free Malaysia Today and TV Selangor.

From left: Fadiah, Sivarasa, Surendran and Yew at the press conference on July 29, 2011. — Picture by Melissa Chi

The lawyers said that in one of the clips, it showed Brickfields OCPD Wan Bari Wan Khalid shouting for the crowd to disperse, and within the next minute he had ordered his officers to shoot, and 12 shots could be heard.“Is it lawful for the police to fire that many shots at the protestors; it was not a very large crowd at the time, it was in a confined space in a tunnel,” Fadiah said.

Sivarasa added that the police should also give the demonstrators at least five minutes to disperse before giving a second and third warning.

Another clip also showed a man being restrained by police, and a policeman beating him repeatedly with a baton.

Internal Security and Public Order director Datuk Salleh Mat Rashid said a week ago that six special police teams tasked with investigating the police’s own actions at the July 9 rally concluded that police exercised “restraint” and were “hospitable” when dealing with Bersih supporters.

He also showed video clips taken by the police as well as “individuals” present that day which “proved” that police officers were patient, and had to deal with “individuals as well as provocative groups.”

One video clip, claimed Salleh, showed PKR’s Chua Tian Chang running towards police officers in KL Sentral while another clip showed protestors “running” towards a Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) water cannon truck near Dataran Maybank.

“There was provocation by protestors against the police… some protestors ran towards the water cannon truck. Warning calls were given nine times before any action was taken.

“The police acted according to standard operating procedure,” said Salleh.

Today, Klang PKR division chief Yew Boon Lye told reporters that a tear gas canister barely missed his left eye, grazing his face and leaving a small wound.

Sivarasa pointed out that Yew was not the only one who got hit. Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad was hit in the back of his head and the wound required six stitches. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s bodyguard Fayyadh Afiq Albakqry, 25, took a canister directly to his face, shattering his cheekbone.

“There is no question that those tear gas rifles were deliberately aimed not just at the people, at their heads, with intent to cause serious injuries,” said Sivarasa.

Surendran said the police action on that day could be classified as attempted murder.

The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has been put on the defensive over the Bersih rally as the international community, from Singapore to the UK, has criticised the government’s handling of the public dissent.

Bersih estimates that 50,000 people showed up at the July 9 rally for free and fair elections despite efforts to prevent it from taking place while police have said there were only 6,000.

The protest turned chaotic when police fired tear gas and water cannon at thousands of demonstrators, resulting in nearly 1,700 arrests, scores injured and the death of ex-soldier Baharuddin Ahmad, 59.

The government has promised to investigate allegations of police brutality while the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) will hold a separate public inquiry into police conduct during the rally.

By Melissa Chi, The Malaysian Insider
July 29, 2011