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The oldest trick in the book?

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Any independent inquiry into the violence that broke out at the tail-end of the Bersih 3.0 rally would not be complete without a thorough examination of whether agents provocateurs or others bent on inciting violence were present in the crowd, writes Anil Netto 

The use of agents provocateurs to incite violence in a peaceful assembly is the oldest trick in the book – though no one will ever admit to planting people in a crowd to stir violence.

Wikipedia defines ‘agent provocateur’ as follows:

Traditionally, an agent provocateur (plural: agents provocateurs, French for “inciting agent(s)”) is an agent employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act. More generally, the term may refer to a person or group that seeks to discredit or harm another by provoking them to commit a wrong or rash action.

The Oxford dictionary defines it as “a person employed to induce others to break the law so that they can be convicted”.

If a crowd becomes the innocent victims of the trap, it is used to provide justification for a crackdown or to discredit them.

So who was really responsible or sparked the violence at the tail-end of the Bersih 3.0 rally?

Let’s hear it from three people who witnessed the rally:

Mobashar Jawed Akbar, leading Indian journalist and editorial director of India Today, a member of the international fact-finding group investigating the electoral process in Malaysia, at a press conference:

One of the oldest tactics is to provoke the victim in order to blame the victim…. The crowd had ample time to be violent if it wanted to. There was no sense of violence. It was a festive celebratory experience of the people – until the point came at the very end of it. And I do believe the provocation was perhaps planned in order to create images that would play well with … officially oriented media.

Tommy Thomas, constitutional lawyer, in this commentary:

Spin-doctors went into over-drive after the event to highlight the alleged violence against police and their property. The oldest trick in the book, employed for centuries by police and law enforcement agencies globally, when trying to control crowds in large rallies and marches is to use police operatives in plain or unidentified clothes to work as agents provocateurs to start trouble. Unless an independent, credible organisation reviews all the evidence, and makes a finding that the Bersih marchers were actually responsible for causing violence, I am not prepared to accept the police version. In any event, one must also consider their provocation and intimidation that resulted in such behaviour. The entire context must be taken into account.

It was clear to me after spending more than five hours on the streets last Saturday, that those who walked were absolutely peace-loving, and opposed to any physical action, let alone violence.

S Thayaparan, a retired navy commander:

Anyone who was there will tell you that the vast majority of protestors were law-abiding and peaceful participants in this process, but what they were up against was a police force poisoned by years of Umno interference.

It would not surprise me if they were agent provocateurs who were amongst the peaceful protestors. The so-called SOP (standard operating procedure) of retrieving recording devices from well, everyone, is evidence that the practitioners of the dark arts were out in full force.

But I also (and this where I will earn the scorn of Pakatan Rakyat supporters and maybe even Bersih supporters) would not be surprised if there were those within Pakatan who thought it would be a good symbolic gesture to reclaim Dataran Merdeka or at least make a go of it.

And anyone who has attended any of these demonstrations will tell there are always people who are there just for the sake of engaging in mindless violence for the sheer hell of it and were waiting for an opportunity to explode.

So any independent inquiry against the violence that broke out would not be complete without a thorough investigation into whether agents provocateurs or other parties bent on inciting violence were present in the crowd.

READ MORE:  Bersih soldiers on for electoral reform

Anil Netto is honorary treasurer of Aliran.

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