Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Shooting of tear gas at Bersih protesters not intentional, official tells inquiry

Police did not intentionally spray water and shoot tear gas at the Tung Shin Hospital and Chinese Maternity Hospital, a Health Ministry official told the Suhakam public inquiry into the Bersih 2.0 rally.

Zailani Hashim, who is secretary of the Ministry's committee investigating the claims, said Wednesday it occurred in the process of dispersing protestors.

"Through our initial findings, there was water sprayed at the multi-level car park and the main entrance, and two tear gas canisters were fired in the area near the Waz Lian building," said Zailani, who is also corporate communications chief at the ministry.

The Waz Lian building is situated on Jalan Pudu Lama, off Jalan Pudu beside Tung Shin Hospital here.

Zailani said although tear gas canisters were not fired into the hospital compound, the wind blew a cloud of tear gas towards the main hospital building.

He said the findings were based on site visits, interviews with witnesses and also through video footage from YouTube and the Information, Communications and Culture Ministry.

The panel later visited Tung Shin Hospital and the adjoining Chinese Maternity Hospital to have a clearer picture of what transpired during the July 9 rally.

The panel was led by Suhakam vice-chairman Prof Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee, Prof Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid and Detta Samen.

After lunch, the panel interviewed ASP Ahmad Halimi Hamidi, who was in command of a team of Federal Reserve Unit officers who were on duty along Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Pudu that day.

Ahmad Halimi, who is based in Ipoh, said he was ordered to disperse protestors using the water cannon when a group gathered in front of the hospital.

"I noted there was a hospital and informed my superior officer. But he ordered me to fire at the protestors," he told the panel.

He added that seven tear gas canisters were fired but he was not sure who fired them or if any of them landed in the hospital compound, although he admitted that he gave the order to fire the tear gas.

The inquiry resumes Thursday at the Suhakam office.

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