Cabinet should  direct the IGP to tender public apology for widespread police violations of human rights at the Kesas Highway last November,  institute an inquiry to identify the police personnel responsible and ask the Attorney-General to withdraw all  pending  charges against peaceful protestors

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): The Cabinet tomorrow should issue a policy position on the  Suhakam report on widespread  police violations of human rights against peaceful protestors at the  Kesas Highway last November, direct the the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai  to tender  a public apology for the police abuses and   institute an inquiry to identify the police personnel responsible for such misconduct and ask the Attorney-General to withdraw all charges pending in court in connection with the Kesas Highway incident.

The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), in its report on the Nov. 5, 2000 Kesas Highway incident with regard to the 100,000 people’s gathering at Jalan Kebun, Klang and which was made public yesterday, identified widespread  police human rights abuses which included:

I can personally vouch for the veracity of the Suhakam findings about widespread police human rights violations at the Kesas Highway last November as I was present at the gathering together with other Barisan Alternative leaders and can bear testimony as a eye-witness.

Suhakam has rightly  blamed the police  for creating chaos by setting up road blocks to prevent members of the public from proceeding to Jalan Kebun in Klang, thus creating a massive traffic jam on Kesas Highway - which did  not come within the the scope of the  maintenance and preservation of  law and order as allowed by Section 26 of the Police Act.

Suhakam hit the bull’s eye when it castigated the police for giving insufficient warning and time for the crowd to disperse. Only those close to the police heard orders to disperse and the police moved in almost immediately, using water cannons and tear gas, without giving the crowd the time to disperse.

After a four-month inquiry into the allegations of police brutality against peaceful  protestors along the Kesas Highway last November, Suhakam concluded that the police was wrong  in moving to stop the rally at Jalan Kebun in Klang  on the grounds that it was illegal due to non-issuance of a permit.

It said: “The question of applying for a licence for the proposed rally does not arise as  the proposed premise for the rally was a private property and not a public place.”

It added that if the rally had been allowed to take place at Bukit Jalil stadium as intended earlier, with police exercising traffic and crowd control, no untoward incident would have occurred.

Suhakam also accused the police of practising double standards for allowing a counter-demonstration to take place three days before the Jalan Kebun gathering

The Suhakam report said: “It appears to the panel that the police were relying on the possible threat of clashes between the residents and those attending the rally to justify stopping  the rally.”

The Cabinet at its meeting tomorrow should endorse the recommendations of Suhakam to ensure that the police, in discharing their police roles,  are always mindful of their duty  to promote and protect human rights in keeping with the Rukunegara commitment to maintain a democratic way of life in Malaysia, such as:

The Cabinet’s preparedness to give prompt attention to the Suhakam report on the Kesas Highway police violations of human rights will be an acid test as to whether the government is serious in the promotion and protection of human rights in Malaysia in line with the  Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 - or whether the government is only waiting for another eight months when the present two-year term of the Commissioners expire before revamping the Suhakam to stack it with more malleable commissioners who would slavishly toe its line on the question.

The Police itself should come out with a detailed response to the strictures of Suhakam report on widesread human rights violations against peaceful protestors at Kesas Highway last November as well as a public commitment to fully review and reform existing police policies and practices to ensure that they conform with human rights aspirations of Malaysians.

*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman