KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons during the April 28 Bersih rally, leading to violent clashes with protesters, and the situation was made worse by the use of barbed wire around Dataran Merdeka as it led to injuries to scores of demonstrators, a Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) inquiry was told today.
One witness told the inquiry that the barbed wire used by the authorities at Dataran Merdeka was usually used in war zones.
“According to my experience, it is the most dangerous barbed wire,” retired soldier Khairul Anuar Pawanchik told the inquiry.
He also told the Suhakam panel that he saw a man with his ear dangling from his head, and that he was sure it had been caused by the barbed wire used to sela off Dataran Merdeka.
Another witness, Kunabalan Rahagopal, told the inquiry that the police did not give any warning before firing tear gas into the crowd of thousands of protesters.
“I am certain that there were no warnings given before the policemen moved in, he said.
Suhakam kickstarted today a public inquiry into the violence in the national capital that erupted last April 28 over Bersih’s third demonstration for clean elections since 2007.
The inquiry panel led by Suhakam vice-chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Lee and aided by commissioners Professor Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid and Detta Samenwill be interviewing some 22 witnesses over a period of 22 days.
Apart from Khairul Anuar, 60, and 58-year-old Kunabalan, retiree Baharudin Hisham, 53, from Puchong was the third witness who testified today before observers from the Malaysian Bar, the police and several other independent monitors.
Tens of thousands of Malaysians converged on the streets of the capital city on April 28 to participate in Bersih 3.0, the polls watchdog’s third rally for free and fair elections.
Despite a peaceful start, chaos erupted shortly before 3pm when several protesters breached the barricades surrounding Dataran Merdeka, prompting police to fire tear gas canisters and water cannons to disperse them.