AI: Investigate SB role in Batu Buruk riot

Malaysiakini – Sep 18, 07 4:44pm
The ambiguity surrounding the exact function of the police Special Branch (SB) unit raises the question as to whether they should be deployed for crowd dispersal purposes, said human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI).

In a statement today, campaign co-ordinator K Shan said investigations into the riot last Saturday in Batu Buruk, Terengganu, must also uncover any role that plainclothes SB personnel may have played.
“The question is: Was the SB part of the crowd-control squad in Batu Buruk? If they were, why weren’t they in uniform and adequately equipped to handle the situation. Why were they carrying a lethal weapon?” he asked.
A plainclothes police officer shot two PAS supporters after being allegedly set upon by a mob. Police have claimed that the policeman was a general duties officer and that he fired the gun in self-defence.
But opposition parties and ceramah organisers deny this, alleging that police were trigger-happy and that the riots were sparked by agent provocateurs aligned to Umno.
Shan said the role of the SB and its wide powers could result in provoking disorder in a public assembly, including leading to forceful random arrests.
“How do the police expect civilians to react to such actions by an individual who is not in uniform? Obviously civilians would resist and there will be tension,” he said.
Shan said similar situations were observed during public gatherings in the Kesas Highway incident in 2001 and on ‘Bloody Sunday’ last year, when scores of protestors were arrested by plainclothes police personal. Some protestors sustained injuries.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia open inquiry into the Kesas Highway incident concluded that it was possible that the police had instigated violence in an otherwise peaceful assembly.
Functions not defined
Shan said the Batu Buruk incident reinforces the need for the implementation of Recommendation 11 of the Royal Police Commissions Report 2005.
The commission had recommended that the functions of the SB should be spelt out in law, such as through amendments to the Police Act 1947, which presently only defines the SB as a ‘security intelligence’ unit.
“At the moment there appears to be no legal provisions dealing with the functions, powers and duties of the (SB),” said the commission in its report.
At the time, the commission said the SB “appeared” to be governed by a charter issued by the prime minister after independence in 1957, to which the commission has had no access.
As such, Shan said the SB appears to be operating in a legal vacuum and that its functions seem to overlap in operations ranging from investigations to licensing. Its ‘security intelligence’ functions are not spelt out in law.
“It is worrying that there are no laws to hold the SB accountable. The word ‘security’ is not defined and could be interpreted for political purposes. Hence, the motives and intervention in the Batu Buruk context are highly questionable,” he added.