Fauwaz Abdul Aziz and Chua Sue-Ann
Nov 8, 07
Bersih, a coalition of 67 civil society groups and opposition parties, is appealing to the police for their assistance and cooperation during the planned public rally at Dataran Merdeka this Saturday.
The public gathering to call for electoral reform – which will march to the King’s Istana Negara to submit a memorandum on the matter – is expected to attract some 10,000 people despite the organisers having been refused a police permit.
In a statement from the event’s organising chairperson Mohamad Sabu, Bersih said it has taken all the necessary precautions to ensure the event is safe and peaceful and called on the public to participate in it.
“We urge the public not to be afraid of threats by the police or other irresponsible parties,” said Mohamed in a statement read by Bersih secretariat member Aiman Athirah Al Jundi.
“We do not intend to clash with anybody, not least the police, because we have proven that we are a peaceloving people,” he said.
A publicity convoy
The statement was read out to reporters at Dataran Merdeka this afternoon before the launching of a 10-vehicle convoy that will make its rounds in Kuala Lumpur to publicise the gathering.
Thousand of PAS, PKR, and DAP volunteers – aside from 600 other non-partisan individuals – are said to have been tasked with maintaining order and safety on Saturday.
These include the Malaysian Red Crescent and St John’s Ambulance whose officers will be on standby.
The Bar Council, Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) and several parliamentarians from Canada are also said to have agreed to send representatives to observe the event.
Those coming for the event have been advised not to bring any objects that can be construed as a dangerous weapon – not even umbrellas, said Aiman.
She added that there have been attempts to sabotage the event by identifying it as a strictly opposition gathering or there could be a move by certain parties to incite religious disharmony.
“This is not a PAS gathering or that of PKR or DAP. This is the people’s event seeking elections that are clean and fair,” she said.
Asked if the organisers had devised a plan of action in case of any unrest or clashes with the police, she remained tightlipped but reiterated that Bersih is confident the event will be peaceful.
No option left
Earlier this morning, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim also urged the authorities to respect the people’s right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression by allowing the rally to proceed without a hitch.
He criticised the police for turning down Bersih’s application for a permit on merely “technical grounds”.
The police are tasked to facilitate – rather than sabotage – the public’s wish to express to the King their grievances with the shortcomings of past elections and the electoral process and to demand free and clean future elections, Anwar said further.
“We have submitted thousands of memorandums, appeals, and details proving that elections held so far have been full with lies, chaos, phantom voters, and non-transparency,” he told a press conference at his office in Petaling Jaya.
“This has convinced us that protests and the usual memorandums have been ineffective… This demand (for clean and fair elections) is timely because we do not have any alternative option left,” he added.
“The evidence of fraud is comprehensive and it is damning.”
Bersih to proceed, appeals to the police