FRU driver: Bersih rally-goers only pelted truck after hit by water cannons

FRU police are seen engulfed in their own tear gas during Bersih’s third rally in April 2012. – Reuters pic
FRU police are seen engulfed in their own tear gas during Bersih’s third rally in April 2012. – Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 ― Participants of the Bersih rally two years ago did not start throwing stones at a Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) truck until the police division fired its water cannons at them, the High Court here heard today.

Corporal Ramli Hj Musa was testifying today in the government’s civil suit against the rally’s organisers Bersih 2.0, and was responding to lawyer Syahredzan Johan over the damage sustained by the latter’s FRU truck.

“Do you agree that the actual reason that stones were thrown at your vehicle was because water cannon was used?” Syahredzan asked during cross-examination.

“Agree,” Ramli, who is the government’s ninth witness, replied.

Syahredzan, who was representing two of Bersih 2.0’s committee members, then asked: “If the water cannon was not fired, (stones) won’t be thrown?”

Ramli, who has been driving FRU trucks equipped with water cannons for seven years, replied in the affirmative.

Earlier, Ramli told the court that his vehicle was one of the two trucks stationed together with some 200 FRU members at the historic Dataran Merdeka, which was initially cordoned off to the participants of the April 28, 2012 rally.

Ramli said he only advanced or stopped his truck, which was facing the crowd, upon orders from his commanding officer (OC).

He agreed that orders to fire the water cannons — which were in the direction of the crowd and manned by two other FRU members — were given while the truck was moving forward.

But earlier he told both Syahredzan and another of the organiser’s lawyers, Tan Cheng Leong, that he did not know if the water cannons contained chemical-laced water.

During re-examination by SFC Normastura Ayub, Ramli explained that when the order was given to move the FRU truck forward, participants of the rally had breached the cordon around Dataran Merdeka.

Ramli initially told Syahredzan that he could not see the individuals who had thrown objects at his truck as it was only pelted sideways, but the FRU officer of 18 years later told Normastura that the throwers were clad in dark colours, as well as yellow shirts with Bersih’s logo.

Tan also pointed out that Ramli did not state in his witness statement that he saw the rally’s participants throwing objects at his truck.

During cross-examination by lawyer Lim Jit Kiong, Ramli agreed that he had not made written notes of the damages to his vehicle after the rally and also that that the details of damage in his witness statement were inaccurate.

Ramli later explained to Normastura that he did not think to include details of the damage in his April 29 police report, but asserted that he had conducted checks on the truck both before and after the rally.

Both Ramli and former policeman Muhamad Hamirul Hassan - the eight witness whose police car was damaged - told Syahredzan that they were not briefed on the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012  before the rally.

Syahredzan represented Andrew Khoo and Arumugam K., while Tan and Lim are lawyers for Arul Prakkash and Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon respectively.

The hearing before judge Datuk John Louis O’ Hara resumes tomorrow morning.

The government is expected to call a total of 35 witnesses.

On May 23, 2012, the government sued the electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 under Section 6 (2) (g) of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012, claiming compensation for alleged damages to property — mostly police vehicles — during the rally.

The government’s statement of claim — which is against the 15 defendants currently listed — details 15 vehicles that were repaired at a cost of RM122,000.

The government is also seeking a declaration that Bersih 2.0 breached the same clause, where organisers have a duty to “ensure that the assembly will not endanger health or cause damage to property or the environment.”

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