Sep 9, 07
Opposition parties PAS and PKR are claiming that the police used unprecedented violence – including firing live bullets – to disperse a ceramah in Pantai Batu Buruk, Terengganu, late last night.Party sources told malaysiakini that two individuals have been seriously injured as a result of being shot.
Terengganu police chief Ayub Yaakob, in a specially arranged press conference this afternoon, confirmed that one live bullet was fired by one of his officers.
Ayub said the officer, who is from the Federal Reserve Unit, was set upon by a group of men in the vicinity of the ceramah.
“At about 11.45pm last night, the officer Azmi Hussein, 29, was doing his duty near the Permai Inn car park when he was surrounded by 20 men who proceeded to threaten and assault him,” Ayub was reported as saying by Bernama.
He said that the FRU personnel was pushed to the ground and attacked by the crowd, leaving the FRU officer with no choice but to draw his weapon and fire a shot to defend himself.
Ayub said that the crowd dispersed soon after the shot was fired, allowing the FRU personnel to escape from the area.
The state police chief added that as a result of the single shot, two men from the group were hurt – one in his shoulder and another in his neck.
They are currently undergoing treatment at the Kuala Terengganu Hospital.
Four police personnel were also injured after being attacked by the crowd, claimed Ayub.
However, several eyewitnesses told malaysiakini that more than one shot was fired at the crowd last night. They also claimed that several members of the public also suffered injuries as a result of police violence. At least 23 opposition supporters have been arrested.
Makeshift stage torn down
The stand-off between the police and the crowd of 500 people started following the refusal by the authorities to ban a ceramah organised by polls watchdog Bersih.
The police said that the organizers had no permit to conduct the ceramah. Among those who were to address the crowd were PKR treasurer Khalid Ibrahim and PAS vice-president Mohamad Sabu.
Bersih, a coalition of opposition political parties and non-government organisations which campaigns for free and fair elections, is organising forums to raise awareness on the subject nationwide.
According to sources, the application for the permit to organise the forum had been sent to the police prior to the event and Bersih had assumed that the event would be given the green light and decided to proceed with it.
The situation turned unruly when the police and the local authorities prepared to tear down the makeshift stage at about 10pm.
Eyewitnesses also said that the police also shot tear gas and fired water cannons to disperse the crowd.
According to state police chief Ayub, his men had to use tear gas and water cannons after the crowd turned aggressive and started hurling stones at them.
The police also claimed that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the Federal Reserve Unit personnel who were brought in to control the crowd.
‘Permit originally granted’
In an immediate reaction, PKR information chief Tian Chua said that while the opposition has come “to expect such injustices from the current government, the sheer amount of violence is appalling”.
He observed that such high-level of violence had not been used to break up a peaceful gathering in an “extremely long time”.
“The shooting, gassing, beatings and arrests of scores of people whose only ‘crime’ was to seek alternative views and information clearly indicates that the BN government has reached the heights of desperation,” said Chua.
“The extremely last-minute decision of the police to revoke the permit for the gathering which they had originally granted is not only unreasonable but also highly suspect, and points towards political meddling.”
He called on the government to order an independent inquiry into the incident.
“We also call upon all Malaysians, who wish to preserve their rights to gather peacefully and seek alternative views, to voice up our unequivocal condemnation of police brutality.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak defended the police action, saying it was their duty to ensure law and order.
“This is within the jurisdiction of the police. The government did not give any instruction to the police,” Bernama quoted him as saying.
Shot man in ‘critical condition’
PAS leader Syed Azman Syed Ahmad one protestor who was shot was in hospital in a critical condition.
He said the violence erupted after police fired tear gas and used water canons to break up the peaceful gathering.
According to Syed Azman, the situation became tense when police refused to allow speakers to proceed.
“The police gave orders to arrest me and the other speakers. At this point, the police fired tear gas at a nearby group and used water canons to disperse the crowd,” he said.
Of the 23 people arrested last night, 19 of them were freed on police bail by the Kuala Terengganu Sessions Court today. Four, however, have been remanded for further investigations.
Malaysiakini: Live bullet fired at ceramah crowd