Malaysia

Hanif panel hampered by poor response

By Clara Chooi
June 18, 2012
Latest Update: June 19, 2012 02:53 pm

PUTRAJAYA, June 18 — Putrajaya’s Bersih 3.0 investigative panel has only received one response so far since it called for voluntary witnesses three weeks ago, likely owing to the perception that its probe would be biased.

According to a panel secretariat member, the only person who had agreed to come forward voluntarily was theSun’s special and investigative reporting editor R. Nadeswaran, who testified this morning.

“No one else so far, not since we issued the press statement calling for members of the public to come forward,” the member told reporters after today’s hearing at JW Marriot, Putrajaya.

Aside from Nadeswaran, two journalists — theSun’s Pauline Wong and this writer who was present at the hotel this morning to cover the hearing — were asked if they would be willing to testify. Both agreed to do so.

But apart from the trio, The Malaysian Insider understands that the panel would have to issue special invites to other witnesses instead of waiting for them to come forward.

Despite the less-than-enthusiastic response, however, panel chairman Tun Hanif Omar (picture) insisted that this would not hamper the probe.

“We did not get many public responses... not too many of that. But so far, it has not hampered the panel...

“There are things to deal with first to get the picture on both sides. We will listen to both sides.

“We have also identified certain persons whom we want to call,” he said, pointing out that over 80 individuals have lodged reports with the police on the rally.

Hanif, however, continued to encourage members of the public to come forward with their accounts of Bersih 3.0, giving his assurance that the panel’s purpose was to get the “true picture” of events during the rally.

“We’ve got no other instruction from the government, except to get the true picture,” he stated.

“So anybody who can contribute to giving us the true picture, we would like to listen, things that happened before (Bersih 3.0), things that happened on that day, things that happened at that point in time, things that subsequently happened, we would like to know all that,” he said.

Hanif disagreed when asked if this was considered a “slow start” to the panel’s probe, pointing out that no timeframe has been given for it to complete its findings.

He said panel members want to conduct their probe at an “appropriate pace” to ensure that all those involved would be able to absorb every testimony given and understand in full the procedures of the police.

The former top policeman added that the panel intends to view all 73 hours of uncut videos they have obtained from the police, as well as other clips available online.

He also revealed the panel’s intention to invite all parties crucial to the probe to give their testimony, including rally organisers from election watchdog Bersih 2.0, the Bar Council, which had deployed a team of 78 monitors during the event, and key police personnel, including riot unit commanders, the ground commander during the event, the Dang Wangi district police chief and those who were in charge of the water cannons.

“So we can get into detail — why did they do this at that point and so on and so forth... what did they see?” Hanif said.

Apart from the three journalists interviewed today, the Hanif panel also heard a briefing from the Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Mohmad Salleh who reportedly revealed his orders to the ground during Bersih 3.0

Hanif said the panel had also asked Mohmad to check if Malaysia is obliged to adhere to the standards enshrined in the United Nation’s Medalline Charter on the protection of media personnel during events like Bersih 3.0.

“If the government accepts it (the charter) and then it is incorporated into municipal law, either in primary law as passed by Parliament or secondary law or direction from the minister, then it becomes obligatory for the police to (follow),” he said.

The panel reconvenes on Wednesday and more journalists are expected to be summoned to attend the hearing.