Subject: Apcet II hearing told of ‘dark side of justice’

Apcet II hearing told of 'dark side of justice'

Beh Lih Yi

Jul 19, 06 8:40pm

A witness testifying at the Apcet II hearing told the Kuala Lumpur High Court today that he was 'ashamed' by the Umno Youth-led mod which stormed a controversial international conference 10 years ago adding that the episode had showed the 'dark side of justice'.

"I was very concerned for the safety our foreign guests and at the same time was acutely embarrassed of my fellow Malaysians' barbaric behaviour. It was so humiliating in front of our invited guests," said Tian Chua, Keadilan's information chief, in his testimony.

Chua, 43, is among the 33 human rights activists and journalists who have filed a RM83 million suit over their wrongful detention on the opening day of the Second Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor (Apcet II) which was stormed by the mob.

Chua, who was then an Apcet II organising committee member, was detained for six days. The plaintiffs have named the government, then inspector-general of police Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor and two senior police officers - then Kuala Lumpur chief police officer Ismail Che Rose and then Dang Wangi OCPD Zainal Abidin Ali - as respondents.

"I was happy to regain my freedom but also ashamed by the violent behaviour of the pro-government mob. I was able to witness the dark side of our justice system," he told the court when asked on his thoughts on his release.

"This was one of the impetus for my determination to fight for change," said Chua, who is now the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) information chief. He is the fourth witness testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs.

On Nov 9, 1996, over 100 people - including 10 journalists - were arrested on the opening day of Apect II which was organised to discuss human rights abuses in East Timor and the troubled territory's struggle for independence from Indonesia.

As the conference was about to begin, 400 members from the Umno Youth- led Barisan Bertindak Rakyat Malaysia (BBRM), or Malaysia's People's Action Front, broke down the conference hall's doors, threw chairs and verbally and physically abused the participants.

Police then moved in to arrest the participants who were detained for between one to six days while 40 foreign participants were deported. The 33 activists filed their suit to claim damages for alleged mistreatment by the authorities during their arrest and detention.

'Pukul dia'

As a security measure, Chua told the court he asked the participants to form a human chain link and remain close to each other while the mob demanded for participants to leave the hall. Chua said he was grabbed by a few men from the mob and dragged out from the group.

"I was dragged around very roughly by these men. These men wanted to drag me down the stairs away from the conference hall. I had to think quickly and mustered whatever courage and strength I had and just laid down on the ground," he said.

Elaborating, he explained he knew this was the best way for him to actually identify who were the men hitting him and this also immediately stopped the men from dragging him down the stairs.

"At first, the mob did not know what to do with me in that position. Basically, I was lying down on the floor on my back and with my hand across on my chest. I tried to keep calm and avoid provocation.

"Then I heard someone shouting these words. 'Pukul dia' (Beat him), 'NGO out', 'Keluar!', 'Keluar!' (Out! Out!). I refused to move from my position on the ground. A few of them attempted to talk to me and said that they would not hurt me if I left the hall," he said.

Chua (pix) noted that all these discussions took place with him lying on the ground surrounded by the mob. He, however, did not leave the hall alone as demanded by the mob as he insisted on doing so only with the entire group of participants.

He said the police started to arrest the participants after claiming the participants were holding an 'illegal assembly' and this when the participants were in the midst of discussing their next course of action. He told the court that there was insufficient warning and time provided for them to disperse.

Chua also recollected the deplorable condition of the lock-up during his six-day detention which triggered his asthma attacks, ac fever, flu and skin rashes on his leg and body. There was no running water in the cell, he said.

Senior federal counsel Kamaludin Mohd Said, in cross-examining, asked Chua why the organising committee chose to go ahead with the conference despite knowing government leaders then had not given their 'blessing'.

Chua said though then deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim and deputy home minister Megat Junid Megat Ayob had said the conference was not advisable to maintain good ties with the Indonesian government, both leaders also admitted the conference did not breach any laws.

"We had acted within the law which meant the conference was not illegal. We were of the view that it was important for us to help to defend the rights of the East Timorese and we felt it will forge a friendly bilateral relationship between Malaysia and East Timor in the long-term," he said.

'Avoid repetition'

To another question, Chua pointed out then United Nations Special Representative to East Timor, Jose Ramos Horta - who is now the newly- minted East Timor premier - was among the prominent guests invited to the conference.

Ramos Horta, however, was denied entry to Malaysia.

Justice Wan Adnan Muhamad told counsel representing both parties to expedite the hearing and told Kamaludin not to repeat the same questions on undisputed facts during the latter's cross-examination.

He advised both counsel to focus on the subject as to whether police gave sufficient warning in dispersing the conference participants, whether the police had acted within its powers and whether there was any breach of statutory duty or negligence on the police's side.

The plaintiffs' lead counsel Ranjit Singh then agreed to compile a list of facts as agreed upon in the hearing so far to avoid repetitive questions as advised by Wan Adnan for future hearings.

The hearing was then adjourned to Aug 15.

The hearing started off this morning with the cross-examination and re-examination of another of the plaintiffs, Premesh Chandran, who was a journalist at The Sun then and now chief executive officer of online newspaper malaysiakini.

Among the other high-profile plaintiffs include Malaysian Trade Union Congress president Syed Shahir Syed Mohammad, PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali (right), vice-president R Sivarasa, Parti Sosialis Malaysia president Dr Nasir Hashim and New Era College principal Dr Kua Kia Soong.

Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan, also then journalist at The Sun, is also among the plaintiffs.


The Sun

RM83m suit against govt adjourned to Aug 15 Maria J.Dass

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court today (July 19, 2006) adjourned to Aug 15 (2006) the hearing of the RM83 million civil suit filed by 33 human rights activists involved in the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor II (APCET II) against the government and police for wrongful detention, to allow both parties to determine the areas of dispute in the case in order to save proceeding time.

"Agree on the facts of the case as long as it is not prejudicial to you," Judge Datuk Wan Adnan Muhamad told Federal Counsels Kamaludin Md Said and Chandra Devi, and counsels for the plaintiffs, Ranjit Singh and M.Moganambal.

"If not, we will have to hear the same statements from the witnesses and repeated line of questioning on the same matters," he said. "This way we can shorten the proceedings."

The activists filed the case in 1998 against the government, then Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor and two senior police officers - the Kuala Lumpur CPO Datuk Ismail Che Rose and the Dang Wangi OCPD Zainal Abidin Ali - for negligence and wrongful detention.

Among the activists are New Era College principal and director of Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) Kua Kia Soong, current Malaysian Trade Union Congress president Syed Shahir Syed Mohammad, Parti Keadilan Rakyat deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali, vice-president R.Sivarasa and information chief Chua Tian Chang, and Parti Sosialis Malaysia president Dr Nasir Hashim.

Today, Chua - who was the security coordinator of APCET II and the fourth witness to testify since hearing began in March this year (2006) - described how the event on Nov 9, 1996, was disrupted by a violent mob which broke down the doors of the hall in Asia Hotel, where it was being held.

Chua told the court the seminar organisers had met with then deputy home minister Tan Sri Megat Junid Megat Ayob who informed them that although the conference was legal, the government was not in favour of it as it would offend Indonesia.

Chua said then deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had also advised them not to hold the conference.

"We went ahead because we were sure that what we were doing was not illegal," he said.

"The welfare of the East Timorese was more important, and it was also a good way to forge a relationship between Malaysia and the East Timorese for the long term," he said.

Chua told the court that when the police arrived, OCPD Zainal ordered the mob to leave the premises - which they did together with their leader Saifuddin Nasution, who was then an Umno youth leader.

He said the police then checked the documents of the participants for two hours after which the foreign participants were escorted out of the hall.

The plaintiffs claimed they were not given time to disperse when the police told them to do so, while the defendants alleged that the participants of the conference had defied police order to disperse immediately, which led to their arrest.

Updated: 08:35PM Wed, 19 Jul 2006

Back to July menu 
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu