|Fauwaz Abdul Aziz|
|Nov 9, 07|
Poll watchdog coalition Bersih submitted its appeal to Kuala Lumpur chief police officer Zulhasnan Najib Baharuddin yesterday after the application for a permit for Saturday’s rally calling for electoral reforms was rejected earlier this week.
The rejection letter and reasons for the rejection were contained in a letter by Dang Wangi district police chief Mohd Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman which was received by Bersih on Wednesday.
Three members of the event’s organising committee – coordinator of activist group ‘Penggerak Demokrasi Rakyat’ Anuar Tahir, PKR vice-president R Sivarasa, and DAP’s chief election strategist Liew Chin Tong – had signed the appeal.
In response to Zulkarnain’s contention that Bersih is not a registered organisation, Bersih clarified to Zulhasnan (right) in a letter despatched the following day that it was a coalition of 67 registered organisations and five political parties.
Dataran a public place
To ensure this does not become grounds for rejection, furthermore, PKR as one of the coalition members of Bersih had also served to endorse the application for the permit, reads the letter.
Countering Zulkarnain’s statement that no approval had been issued by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for the use of Dataran Merdeka, Bersih said the square was a public place that cannot be equated with a building or hall owned by DBKL necessitating its permission.
DBKL has, however, been informed of the rally, it added.
The letter also pointed out that Dataran Merdeka was only a transit place for participants of the gathering before proceeding to Istana Negara where they have planned to submit a memorandum on free and clean elections.
To Zulkarnain’s statement that there was another event slotted to take place at Dataran Merdeka at 4:30 pm, Bersih informed Zulhasnan that the gathering would already have dispersed by that time and therefore would not be a hindrance.
Zulkarnain had also claimed the police have information that certain quarters would take the opportunity to disturb peace and public order or threaten the safety of civilians.
To this, Bersih reiterated its assurance that it would ensure all participants to the rally gather and march in an orderly and peaceful manner.
“We welcome the presence in reasonable numbers of uniformed police to be with us from a distance as we march from Dataran Merdeka to Istana Negara.
“If there are any groups causing a disturbance, we regard as the responsibility of the police to control the situation and ensure that such individuals or groups be arrested to prevent any untoward incident.
“If the police have any information on hand regarding such groups, the police should give us their names and identities and warn them that the police will act in the event they commit violence and cause a disturbance.”
Human rights aspect
Bersih also dismissed the reason given by Zulkarnain that the disturbance to traffic was a reason to reject the application for a permit.
“It is evident that in any gathering and procession, whether medium-sized or small, will affect traffic. If this is used as an excuse, it will eliminate the right to assemble… Disturbances to traffic flow can be lessened and requires the cooperation of traffic police as shown in most large processions outside our country,” they said.
“We appeal that you see this from the aspect of human rights by which members of the public have the right to assemble and to freedom of speech. This issue is among the foundations of this country’s democratic practices and its political future.
“If there is no reform of the elections system, the people of this country will lose its faith in the political system and this will lead to dire consequences.
“We hope the police can decide professionally and not be partisan to any quarter. In the event of failure, the image of the police will be affected and it will be seen as a tool of the ruling parties.”