One of the main focal points in the allegation about police brutality in the bersih walk was the alleged firing of tear gas and water cannon into the compound of a hospital, Tung Shin.
I wrote an article on that which was carried in this blog and was picked up by Malaysian Insider, Malaysia Today and LKS’s blg, some of the most popular online sites in the country. I was told that article titled “Yes, Minister, you are wrong!” was quite widely read and circulated, and even many politicians have their PAs printed it out for them to read.
It may have contributed in a very small way to the setting up of a Ministry probe team to investigate about this. (There was an almost unanimous cry from NGOs and civil society and that was probably the main reason).. In a way, it also shows that no matter how bad our government is perceived to be, it is still a functioning democracy in which voices from the ground are still being heard, if it is loud enough.
So to have things changed for the better, sometimes, the civil society including all of us must speak up, we cannot rely on the political parties anymore! Many of the political parties are more dead than alive and many are bordering on being irrelevant .(A clear point was the fiasco of the Chinatown delegation led by a head of a component party which met SPAD, and which came out with a statement giving an impression that the land grab of chinatown was settled amicably, only to be rebuked by the Chairman of SPAD the next day. Now the people there have gone straight to a UMNO minister for help, and I think he should have more clout than the head of the component party in settling this issue. — that is besides this topic actually, my apologies!)
Now the probe team has completed its work, and according to Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Mahmood Adam, there were some unethical actions beyond the SOP of the police when enforcement was carried out at that time.
It has finally admitted what the netizens have long known from pictures posted in the internet and youtube, that there was indeed firing of teargas and water cannon into the car park section of Tung Shin Hospital. The emphasis on “car park” was, i think, a face saving exercise, to show that the main hospital building is not involved, even though the car park is already within the gates of the compound. Since air is not static and is constantly circulating, air with tear-gas chemicals would easily have reached the hospital wards.
This is a lesson for our authority to learn that they need to learn to response and not react to criticism. When there were cries of hospital being involved after Bersih, the Home and the Health Ministers came out respectively to deny that immediately; I am sure at that time, they did not even know that there were pictures posted in the net.
In hindsight, what they should have done is to make a statement that they would investigate and look into the complaint. But when you are up there surrounded by sycophants, sometimes it is difficult for them not to fall into the partisan trap and defend for the sake of defending.. In the end, it actually projects a perception of arrogance..
As leaders, they should be big enough to know when to response and when to apologise, when an apology is warranted. It is worth noting that Lee Hsien Loong’s public apology in the run up to the General Election in Singapore actually did help to swing back a few percentage points, otherwise, PAP would have received even lesser votes.
Leaders should remember they are human too, and they should be big enough to apologise when indeed they or people they are responsible for have mishandled or mismanaged.
After all, humans are fallible!