Crowd broke FRU barricade, threw stones, bottles, Bersih inquiry told

Thanusya Shanmuganathan, The Malaysian Insider

Demonstrators broke through a barricade outside Dataran Merdeka here on April 28, forcing the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) to fire water cannons and tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd, the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) inquiry into the Bersih rally heard today.

ASP Alekzandra Dawam, FRU officer in charge of his unit, said that prior to firing water cannons and tear gas, the FRU issued several warnings to the crowd.

He said the crowd moved towards them from Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman at around 3pm.

“I ordered the crowd to disperse or I will take action three times but the crowd continued to move towards the FRU and policemen guarding the barricade.

“I ordered my 69-men troop to fire cannons containing clear water at the crowd,” he said.

He claimed the crowd continued to move forward, some of them throwing objects like stones, bottles, mosaic tiles and ball-bearings at the police and FRU.

“We were forced to fire water containing acid when the crowd continued to move forward,” he said. 

“When we stopped firing acid water, the crowd continued to move forward.

“I then ordered my troop to fire tear gas, facing upwards, forcing the crowd to retreat towards Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman,” he said.

Alekzandra also said it was not standard operating procedure (SOP) for the FRU to issue repeated warnings before firing acid water

However, he said it was SOP for them to use physical force if water cannons and tear gas did not work.

“If nothing worked to disperse the crowd, then it was SOP to use pistols and rifles,” he added.

He claimed he received orders from Bukit Aman police headquarters to return to the police base at Jalan Tun Perak at 6.30pm where the crowd began clearing the area.

“Things were starting to get calm when we arrived. We were there till 7.30pm,” he said.

He said the crowd also consisted of women and schoolchildren, but the FRU’s SOP was not to use tear gas on them but it was all right to use rattan canes.

Alekzandra also said if the crowd did not break through the barricade, there would be no need to use water cannons and tear gas.

He said the police did not arrest those responsible for breaking the barricade despite knowing who the perpetrators were.

“From where we were standing, we could see who broke the barricade but we did not arrest them,” he added.

The inquiry panel, led by Suhakam vice-chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee and aided by commissioners Professor Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid and Detta Samen, will be interviewing some 22 witnesses and selected members of the police force over a period of 22 days.

The inquiry continues on August 9.