Peace and order at GST gathering

Peace and order at GST gathering
Barring a minor scuffle, the anti-GST rally on Thursday was a peaceful one. The police were around but seemed rather friendly and accommodating.

At the end of the anti-GST rally at Dataran Merdeka on Labour Day, Suhakam commissioner James Nayagam was in high spirits and rejoicing.

Calling the rally a success, the beaming Nayagam says both the police and the organisers of the rally had kept to their word, which enabled the public assembly to go on peacefully.

"I give the police an 'A' for their handling of this rally. The police were there. They were very professional and were talking to the people. There was a free flow of persons coming in and out of the area. They didn't stop anyone. People could freely assemble and express themselves. The police allowed and facilitated the assembly.

"I don't think there is anything more that the police can improve on," says Nayagam, who is a "veteran of sorts" at monitoring rallies, demonstrations and public assemblies, having monitored 35 of these in the last few years.

He is the Suhakam commissioner in charge of complaints, monitoring and inquiries.

He also gives the anti-GST rally organisers an "A".

"The organisers had gone to the negotiating table and come to an agreement with the police about the time of the rally, what time it would end, that they would not cross into the Dataran Merdeka field and that it would be a peaceful assembly.

"And they honoured their word. They came, spoke and left. They passed the test," he says.

It's been just a little over two years when Dataran Merdeka was transformed into a different scene altogether, on April 28, 2012, during the Bersih 3.0 rally.

Back then, the police had put up barricades and razor wires in strategic areas to stop protesters from getting too close to Dataran Merdeka. There was a heavy police presence and FRU trucks and FRU personnel were standing by in their full anti-riot gear.

Things turned violent when some protesters breached the police barricades to try and get to Dataran Merdeka, and the police responded by unleashing their water cannons and firing 961 canisters of tear gas into the packed crowd of tens of thousands, who were running helter-skelter to escape the chaos.

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