B.Suresh Ram, Charles Ramendran and Giam Say Khoon
KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 10, 2007): Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz says severe action should be taken against the rioters in Kuala Terengganu on Saturday (Sept 8) evening.
“I’m disappointed. Rioting is not only against the law but it is also an act of defiance against the police,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat (Parliament) today.
“Severe action will ensure such an incident did not recur,” he added.
Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Ahmad Shabeery Cheek said opposition party members rioted because “they feared losing again in the state in the next general elections”.
Ahmad Shabeery, who is also the Kemaman MP and the state Barisan Nasional (BN) Information chief, said the opposition’s behaviour would only affect the state’s tourism sector.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament lobby, he called BN supporters in the state to remain calm and not react to the rioters.
Also in Parliament, Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) called for the establishment of an independent public inquiry into the Kuala Terengganu riot to establish its full facts and circumstances.
“Such a public inquiry is imperative as the Kuala Terengganu incident seems to have provided the final proof that all the three major objectives of the 125 recommendations of Royal Police Commission for world-class police service – to reduce crime, to eradicate corruption in the police force and to uphold and respect human rights – had been completely disregarded,” he said in his debate on the Budget 2008.
He added that the riots would not have happened if the recommendations of the commission to the police to respect human rights, in particular with regard to the fundamental right to hold assemblies, meetings and processions had been taken seriously.
Lim, however ,agreed that action should be taken against opposition members who burnt the Jalur Gemilang (national flag) during the riot.
“It is unacceptable for such an act, irrespective of whether the person is opposition or otherwise,” he said, adding that the law and regulations enforced by the police on permits for ceramah were lop-sided.
“How could a peaceful ceramah could turn into a riot? Who is responsible for provoking it?” he asked.
Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera) said the police were willing to issue the permit to the opposition party, but wanted the locationto be changed. “Holding the a cemah in a tourism area like Pantai Batu Burok is inappropriate. ”
In a telephone interview from Kuala Terengganu, state police chief SAC I Datuk Ayub Yaakob said the gunshots which hit two suspected rioters and injured them were not fired by police to disperse the rioting crowd.
“It was fired in self-defence by a plainclothes policeman who was being attacked by a mob of over 20 people,” he said, adding that the policeman was among the crowd when one of the rioters recognised him.
He said when the rioter began attacking the policeman, dozens of others in the crowd joined in the assault.
“My personnel identified himself as a policeman but he was still punched and kicked, even after he fell to the ground. With more than 20 of them pouncing on him, he had no choice but to defend himself.
“He used his handgun and fired warning shots into the air and it was not until his attackers had fled did he realise he had shot two men,” he said.
He said although the policeman was bleeding from his eyes and was badly bruised, he got up and ran towards other policemen to seek help for the injured rioters. The injured policeman was also hospitalised the same night and discharged on Sunday.
Ayub said: “It was not the police’s intention to use any force on the crowd comprising mostly of opposition party members. We did not want it to end like this. I had told my personnel to use the soft approach at all times which they did.
“I told my men to advise them politely to disperse and not confront them as I do not believe in the use of force in resolving a problem unless it is the last and final resort. But when my men told them to leave because they did not have a permit to hold the ceramah, they became upset. Suddenly, they turned rowdy and unruly, they began shouting and yelling and even attacking police personnel.” said Ayub.
He said initially only general duty policemen were sent out to the disperse the crowd of 500 people but when the situation turned ugly, the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) was called in as the rioters started hurling bottles, stones and other objects at the general dutypolicemen at about 10pm.
Ayub said the two protesters who suffered a gunshot each, another rioter and a policemen injured in the clash, are recovering and are in stable condition in a hospital here and Kubang Kerian Hospital.
Except for the injured men and another rioter who was caught after light explosives were found in his possession, police have released 18 of the 22 people detained in the incident which forced the police to use water cannons and tear gas to control the charging mob.
“I understand the crowd was upset they could not hold the ceramah, it is only natural for them to feel that way but they should have some control of themselves and not resort to violence. We are carrying out our investigations to see who is behind all this mess or ignited this clash.
“Although initial investigations show that my men had done everything by the book in crowd control but if at all I discover that they had not done so, they too will not be spared and will face severe action. I take full responsibility and assure a fair investigation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia director Dr Zaidun Kamari said the 38-year-old man who was shot on the left side of his chest underwent a three-hour operration at 8.30pm yesterday to remove a bullet. “His condition is stable.”
In Kuala Lumpur, The Coalition for Free and Fair Election (Bersih) condemned the police for using live ammunition to disperse the public attending its peace rally which was hosted by PAS.
Bersih spokesman Datuk Mustafa Ali, who is also Terengganu PAS commissioner, allged that plainclothes police officers were among the crowd to instigate the riot by refusing a permit.
He said after the crowd was provoked, they tried to apprehend the undercover police officer and two of them, Suwandi Abdul Ghani, 37, and Muhamad Azman Aziz, 21, were shot.
“The government must set up a Royal Commission to conduct a full investigation on this matter,” he told a press conference here yesterday.
Mustafa said the incident had caused PAS to look like a party that did not adhere to the laws in conducting a peaceful ceramah or talk.
He said PAS, as the host of the Bersih’s nationwide peace rally campaign to raise the awareness of the people for free and fair elections, had applied for polic e permit on Aug 30 but the application was rejected on Sept 6 on four grounds:
- the place is a dense public residential area;
- the infrastructure of the Batu Buruk recreation park was vandalised after similar events;
- disturbing public order in areas adjacent to the Al Muktafibillah Shah palace, houses of the judges and department chiefs; and
- causing disturbance to the tourists staying in the adjacent resorts.
“We cannot accept these reasons because they are untrue. We have been conducting ceramah and talks there since 1990s and we have never caused any problem,” he added.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat secretary-general Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said the use of live ammunition in dispersing a crowd attending a peaceful ceramah terrified him the most.
“It’s very unnecessary and inappropriate to use live ammunition against unarmed civilians,” he added.
DAP non-governmental-organisations bureau chief Ronnie Liu said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s statement on Sunday, justifying the police’s action “is very dangerous as he is indirectly allowing the police to do the same in future political ceramah”.
Updated: 08:08PM Mon, 10 Sep 2007