Presenting the observation report compiled from some 100 observers deployed during the rally, Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said police had used indiscriminate and excessive tear gas and water cannons against peaceful protesters.
Water from the cannons fired by the police, Lim told a press conference at Bar Council office in Kuala Lumpur today, went into the compound of Tung Shin Hospital, and according to eyewitness accounts, tear gas canisters also landed in the compound.
"Although we don't have any footage from our monitoring team, accounts from our eyewitnesses say 'yes, tear gas was launched and canisters did land in the Tung Shin premises'."
Lim also screened footage taken by an observer, showing the hospital being hit by water cannons during the rally
According to the report, the participants were hit by water cannons while the rally organisers were negotiating with the police.
"Some monitors noted that the police did give warnings prior to using the tear gas and water cannons. However, it was difficult for the huge crowd to hear what the police commandants said via their loud hailers, except for participants who were situated near the police," the report says.
Elaborating on the Bar Council report, Lim said the use of tear gas and water cannons was "wholly unnecessary" in many locations when the crowd was stationary and showed no indication that they would charge the police or create any havoc.
No warning, not enough time to disperse
He also said that police either did not give any warning or sufficient time for the crowd to disperse before unleashing tear gas and the water cannons, resulting in chaos and injuries.
"What we found was that throughout Kuala Lumpur, there had been a mismanagement by the police in terms of crowd control."
Another footage screened during the press conference showed police, without any provocation, firing tear gas at a group of protesters holding their position in front of the Agro Bank on Leboh Pasar Besar.
Lim then cited the example of the crowd behind Dayabumi, where tear gas was fired at them from both ends.
"The crowd was actually squeezed in on both ends by the launching of the tear gas. When you launch tear gas, it is with the aim of dispersing a crowd. You do not launch tear gas at both ends, without any exit routes for the crowd. This also happened in the Puduraya area."
He noted that the tear gas was fired towards the crowdat the human height level, instead of being fired up in the air, which is the universal standard.
Apart from the use of tear gas and water cannons, Lim also condemned the random and arbitrary arrests by police during the rally.
"We ourselves, the office-bearers, saw with our own eyes, as the crowd was dispersing, the FRU moving forward into the crowd with plainclothes policemen behind them, who then ran out and started arresting people at random. There was no need for this, as the people were already dispersing."
Lim urged the police to adopt the recommendations made by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) on engagement with the leaders of a demonstration to find out the intention of the group and to give sufficient time for them to disperse before resorting to the use of non-lethal weapons.
Nevertheless, he said, an exemplary model had been shown by the police on Jalan Hang Jebat, where the crowd was allowed to gather and listen to short speeches from their leaders just beyond the barricades after the organisers, including PKR's Chua Jui Meng, negotiated with the police.
"There was no use of tear gas or water cannons, nor was there any arbitrary arrest after or during the dispersal of the crowd. That is how crowd control should have been done throughout Kuala Lumpur."
He reminded the government that Suhakam had conducted at least two inquiries into public rallies and had come out with various recommendations to the government.
"We cannot understand why the government has not taken heed of the recommendations and suggestions of Suhakam," he added.
Malaysians mature and peace-loving
On the participants of rally, the report states that they generally behaved in a peaceful and calm manner, except for a few untoward incidents at Jalan Hang Jebat:
- One protester threw a bottle of water at a news reporter while he was up on the stairs leading to a basketball court hall, reporting live, but the reporter managed to evade it. Some of the crowd showed their middle fingers at the police and chanted "menyebuk" (troublemakers);
- At one point, the crowd booed the TV3 crew inside the building. As they chanted "penipu" (liars), some threw a few plastic bottles at the cameraman. None hit. Rally marshals told crowd to keep walking. No uniformed police personnel were present.
The report concluded that the rally had demonstrated that the people of Malaysia are mature and peace-loving when championing a cause they believe in.
"Most importantly, we witnessed that people from a wide variety of backgrounds across Malaysia participated in this rally, without any conflict.
"This is contrary to the fear of possible racial disharmony or riots expressed by certain irresponsible public figures," the report says.
Added Lim: "On that day, a lot of members of our monitoring team saw friends and acquaintances who are not aligned to any political party, whom they would categorise as very conservative people, but they were out there in the streets that Saturday because they are outraged by the way in which the government mismanaged this entire situation."