Sep 11, 2007

Malaysian government rejects calls for probe into Terengganu riots

Call for independent inquiry by LKS "Batu Burok riot - immediate independent public inquiry warranted"

and the result is..

(AFP) KUALA LUMPUR : The Malaysian government has rejected the opposition's call for an independent inquiry into the bloody weekend clash in the north-eastern state of Terengganu.

Seven people were injured, including two who were hit by live bullets.

Speaking to our correspondent, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Nazri Aziz, defended the firing of tear gas and use of water canons by police.

The clash between Malaysian riot police and more than 500 people attending a public forum took place in the heart of Terengganu state.

During the forum organised by the opposition coalition, the speaker delivered a lecture calling for clean and fair elections.

Police say the crowd had gathered without a legal permit, so they fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the people.

Seven were injured and more than 20 arrested.

Also for the first time, live bullets were alleged to have been fired into the crowd, severely injuring two opposition Islamic Party members.

Although their condition is said to be stable, the opposition has demanded an immediate independent inquiry into the incident.

Opposition and human rights leaders have condemned what they call excessive use of force by the police.

Mustapa Ali, Chief (Terengganu), Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party, said: "There must be a thorough investigation by an independent body because we believe what happened was planned and premeditated by the government and the police. They will find any avenue to stop our message from reaching the masses."

Denying the charges, the government also rejected the need for an independent inquiry.

Nazri Aziz said: "It's very clear. You don't have the permit, you don't do it. There are laws in this country so you don't need a royal commission to look into this."

Mr Nazri said the crowd triggered the clash by hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at the police.

He added: "Police are also normal human beings. They've been attacked by a group of people they have every right to defend themselves, you can't wait till you're injured."

Despite the government's defence of the police action, opposition and human rights groups have vowed not to let the matter rest, saying they'll sue the police, press for debate in parliament, and continue holding more rallies.

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