The So-Called Independent Panel Will Not Be Independent

Press Statement 11. May 2012

BERSIH 2.0 rejects the establishment of the so-called independent panel formed to investigate incidents of violence which occurred after the BERSIH 3.0 rally on 28 April 2012 ended.  In our view, the panel will neither be effective nor independent.
Firstly, this panel is nothing more than a glorified task force.  No indication has been given by the Government as to what law will regulate the establishment and functioning of this panel.  If it is not to be constituted under any existing law relating to commissions of inquiry, the panel will have no power to summon witnesses, no power to insist that documents and information be produced, and no power to grant immunity to any person giving evidence to it.  There will be no protection for any of the victims of brutality who come forward to give evidence against a possible suit for defamation by the police in the event their evidence is not accepted and the panel concludes there was no brutality on the part of the police force.  There is therefore no assurance that it will be able to form a comprehensive understanding of the events that transpired on 28 April 2012 and form a sufficiently objective view of the same.
Secondly, the chair of the panel, Tun Hanif Omar, has already made 2 public comments in relation to the BERSIH 3.0 assembly.  He has claimed that communist sympathisers who were active demonstrators in the 1970s were involved in the BERSIH 3.0 assembly and utilised tactics learnt from past pro-communist demonstrations.  He has also agreed with Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib’s allegation that BERSIH 3.0 was an attempted coup d’état against the government.  By so doing he has shown that he is biased and has already pre-judged the outcome of the investigation.  As such, he is unable to approach the investigation with a fair and open mind.  These are very clear grounds for disqualification.
Thirdly, we also note that another of the panel members is the corporate affairs senior general manager of Petronas, the national petroleum company, and thus an employee of a government-linked company.  This would compromise his independence.  The other members of the panel are not known for their strong human rights positions, if at all.
Rather than proceed with this so-called “independent panel”, we reiterate our call to the Malaysian Government to invite and allow the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, to carry out their own independent investigations and to present their report to the Malaysian people and to the international community.  We also call on SUHAKAM, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission, to hold a public inquiry into the events of 28 April 2012.  These mechanisms have the necessary independence, impartiality and integrity to conduct a proper inquiry into the BERSIH 3.0 assembly.

Steering Committee
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (BERSIH 2.0)
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 comprises:

Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Co-Chairperson), Datuk A. Samad Said (Co-Chairperson), Ahmad Shukri Abdul Razab, Andrew Ambrose, Andrew Khoo, Anne Lasimbang, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Awang Abdillah, Dr Farouk Musa, Hishamuddin Rais, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Matthew Vincent, Niloh Ason, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh, Zaid Kamaruddin.