IGP defends police action to curb massive Bersih gatherings

Charles Ramendran and Pauline Puah (The Sun)
KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 12, 2007): Police said today the roadblocks they placed at major roads in the Klang Valley on Friday and Saturday (Nov 9 and 10) were part of preventive measures to prevent any untoward incident during the Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (Bersih)’s rally which saw thousands of people assemble at Dataran Merdeka on Saturday (Nov 10).

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said the roadblocks were conducted for safety reasons, in particular to ensure no weapons or other offensive objects were being taken in by by those who may attend the gathering.
“The situation at such large gatherings can be volatile and undesirable elements can join in to create chaos. Anything can happen and the police are responsible for the peace and safety of innocent members of the public.
“When we saw there was a threat, we had to do the necessary by checking vehicles at roadblocks. The assembly organisers did not have a police permit and had hidden motives,” he said.
The roadblocks saw thousands of motorists caught in jams of up to three hours.
Asked if the roadblocks had been effective and whether they trimmed the rally organiser’s expectation of 100,000 participants, Musa said: “We can’t be sure of that.”
He said police will act against the organisers of the rally.
On the fate of the six senior opposition party members who have yet to meet police despite being called up more than a week ago, Musa declined to say if they will be arrested but said they will be summoned in accordance with the law.
Asked if the use of tear gas and water cannons by police on the rally participants was high-handed, Musa said he considered the manner his personnel handled the situation as fair.
“Those in the assembly had broken the law by being there. My personnel handled it in a fair manner when restraining the crowd although there were times when they were pelted with stones and challenged by some of those in the rally,” he said.
“Do we want things to be chaotic like in certain countries? We must have peace and order. Such street demos are not the way to do things, instead the rally organisers should opt to hold a dialogue to iron out any issues they may want to discuss.”