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I'd like to share my views on the Pantai Batu Buruk shooting incident, but first, let me relate a few incidents that I witnessed almost a decade ago.

I was stirred by the injustices faced by Anwar Ibrahim and it led to me becoming a silent but ever present spectator at reformasi demonstrations. At various points in time, I was at Kampung Baru, the Sogo shopping complex, Masjid Negara and even at the mammoth gathering at the Kesas Highway.

In most of these demonstrations, it was never difficult for someone like me, standing a bit further away from the main crowd, to see those clever Special Branch (SB) officers at work.

At Sogo, they were the ones that made the most noise shouting 'reformasi' and, when the FRU moved in, they turned around and arrested the activists standing next to them. They were at Kesas highway when Anwar wife's Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Lim Kit Siang were present. I vividly recall one of them hurriedly running away from a group of people when someone there recognised him as a SB officer. But when the tear gas trucks came, they moved in to make their arrests.

Their most effective work was done on the day Anwar's verdict was given, which was on April 14, 1999.

I saw them burn tires at some road junctions near Lebuh Ampang. Although I can never prove they were SB people, it was strange to see one person bring one tire to a junction, set it on fire and then coolly move away from the area.

It certainly looked like the tire was burnt for no other reason but to create a nice photo opportunity so that it could appear on the front page of the papers the next day. After all, Malaysians had to be convinced that the reformasi movement was a 'violent' one and bent on 'overthrowing' the government through force.

The last episode I want to share about those days is also the strangest. Some may recall that there were reports that school students had taken part in reformasi gathering. Some of the reformasi leaders were taken to task for that.

Well, I saw some of those students. On that afternoon of April 14, I was at Masjid India area when I saw what can only be described as the most pathetic band of reformasi activists I had ever seen. One man was leading a group of about six students in school uniform. The man had a loud-hailer and they walked the length of the Masjid India road with him shouting reformasi without passion into the loud-hailer and his loyal crew of students echoing his call with even less passion.

If one were to pause and think for a moment, obvious questions arise. Why were the students in school uniform? Weren't they smart enough to dress in more casual clothing if they were planning to come for the demonstration? Why wasn't this small group afraid of walking in the centre of the road when the area was literally crawling with cops? Anyway, that sad group of budding reformasi activists disappeared on reaching the end of the road and also from public view, never to be seen or heard from again.

And again, Malaysians were manipulated, through the efforts of some imaginative people, to believe that the reformasi movement was 'dangerous' and that their children were at risk of being 'misled'.

The use of agent provocateurs is a tactic used by security forces all over the world and documented in great detail. If it can be shown that the activists are violent, it's easy to turn public opinion against them. Also, the resulting violence brought about by these agent provocateurs gives the excuse to security forces to arrest ring leaders.

Coming now to Batu Buruk, I wonder if something similar happened? Was the cop really there to shepherd ladies and children away from those dangerous demonstrators or was he there to make mischief? Why would he need to be in plainclothes if he was on what was essentially traffic warden duties?

Based on what I saw with my own eyes in KL at the height of the reformasi movement, I am not inclined to believe the official explanation from the police. But then, even that version is unraveling. Within two days, the police has already changed the name of the injured police officer and increased the number of shots fired from one to four .

Why, in the first place, did the police even interfere with the gathering? I am convinced that the people of Terengganu were in no danger from that gathering. On that point, the facts speak for themselves. Whenever the police stayed away or allowed an opposition organised gathering to proceed without interference, the result was always peaceful.

During the reformasi days, I, an ethnic Indian, walked around in Kampong Baru at night during the demonstrations and mingled with thousands of people at Taman Melewar in Gombak when PAS organised one of their ceramahs. Never once did I feel any personal fear or had the impression that violence was an option being considered in their fight for justice.

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