|Suhakam Bloody Sunday report: Highlights|
The following are some of the crucial observations and recommendations made in Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) report of the public inquiry on the May 28, 2006 demonstration at KLCC.
Peaceful assemblies important for democracy
Recommendation: “It is timely that the police and the FRU realise and accept that demonstrations and peaceful assemblies are not an annoyance but are a necessary element in a democratic nation. With that realisation in mind, the best possible method to preserve and maintain order is (police) restraint.”
Cops interfered in protesters rights to assembly
The panel concluded that the participants of the demonstration were “entitled to the constitutional right to peaceable assembly, notwithstanding the lack of licence to do so.”
“(We) emphasise that every citizen, including members from the opposition parties, should not be denied this constitutional guarantee”.
“(We) find that the acts of the police in dispersing the assembly... had interfered with the right to the freedom of assembly of the protesters”.
Police used ‘excessive force’
The panel found that the police, in the act of dispersing the protesters, had used ‘excessive force’ on 10 individuals, including one journalist.
Evidence led the panel to positively identify L/Corp Mustika Lambonding to have used ‘excessive force’ on one of the demonstration participants.
Whether the assembly was peaceful
C/Insp Pusparajan and L/Corp Nasaruddin Hashim both from the FRU testified that the assembly, at all times, was orderly and not unruly. This was clearly observed in the video and sound recordings.
“[...] there was no evidence that the crowd became disorderly, unruly or violent at any time at all [...] there was no shred of any evidence that any third party was there to disrupt the assembly”
While there was no permit issued for the assembly, the panel stressed that the assembly was peaceful and did not warrant any arrest.
It was observed that some arrests were carried about appropriately but were not justified “as these individuals were merely protesting peacefully”.
The acts of the protesters during the incident “cannot be said to have breached the peace or calculated to have breached the peace”.
Licencing requirements to assemble
“Whilst international standards consider the requirement of prior authorisation or notice as being compatible with the right to freedom of assembly, the panel of inquiry finds that the requirement for a licence imposed by Section 27 of the Police Act 1967 and the lack of definition of the phrase, ‘prejudicial to the interest of the security of Malaysia’ effectively negates the right to freedom of assembly enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.”
Recommendations: “From the foregoing, it is observed that the laws regulating assemblies are moving towards a cooperative model in several jurisdictions where both parties, the organisers and the police, co-operate in the regulation of an assembly.
Such co-operations has proven to be effective in maintaining peaceful and orderly assemblies.
As such, the panel of inquiry recommends the repeal of subsections (2), (2A) - (2D), (4), (4A), (5), (5A) - (5C), (7) and (8) of Section 27, and also Section 27A of the Police Act 1967, thereby removing the need to apply for any licence to hold a peaceful assembly.”
Protest organisers should notify police
Recommendation: It was recommended that those intending to organise a peaceful assembly should notify in writing to the local police chief the details of the assembly.
“The panel of inquiry also recommends that the requirement of notification be followed by meetings between the organisers of the proposed assembly and relevant police officers so as to confirm the practical arrangements for the assembly or procession.”
“The panel further recommends that any persons whose rights may be affected by the assembly or any arrangement relating to the assembly should be allowed to make an urgent application to the High Court for intervention.”
Warnings of dispersal
The panel found that the police issued four warnings for the crowd to disperse, but “most of those in the crowd could not make out the announcements because the warnings were not effectively conveyed.”
It was found that most members of the crowd had started to disperse when the water cannon was activated but the police “charged after the members of the assembly”.
Recommendations: “Orders to disperse should be clearly audible and given at least three times at ten-minute intervals, with sufficient time given to allow the crowd to disperse.
“Once the crowd disperses, the police should not chase and arrest those moving away or those who have moved away,”
Identification of riot police
The majority of FRU personnel called as witnesses could not identify fellow personnel.
“Firstly, the persons who used violence were in protective body armour and were using helmets and visors which obscured their faces.
“Secondly, they did no wear personal identification (either names or badge numbers).”
Recommendation: “While the panel acknowledges the necessity of the police and FRU personnel to wear helmets and other protective apparel or items, these apparel or items should bear clear identification (of the personnel’s identity).”
Organisers should appoint marshals
Recommendations: Regulations or guidelines pertaining to peaceful assemblies should require assembly organisers to appoint marshals and provide their details to the police.
“The appointment of marshals should be implemented in Malaysia as they provide a focal point for members of an assembly and police for the purpose of consultation and liaison.”
Use of helicopter
The panel concluded that the police helicopter present at the protest had received specific instruction to fly ‘low and hover over the crowd’ for two purposes: To prevent the assembly from hearing the speeches and to disrupt the assembly.
“The panel finds that the instruction given to fly low and to hover over the crowd was rash and was given without consideration to the safety of the people at the place of assembly.
Recommendation: “The panel is of the view that no helicopter should be used to disturb any assembly. The panel is of the opinion that usage of a helicopter during assemblies, if necessary, should be limited for monitoring purposes only”