PM vows to crack down on Bersih rally

Andrew Ong, Beh Lih Yi and Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Nov 9, 07

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has vowed to crack down on a planned mass rally in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow and gave his support to the police to break up the protest and arrest participants.

“The police have said no, yet they still want to proceed. In that case, surely something bad is going to happen,” said Abdullah during his presidential winding-up speech at the end of the Umno general assembly today.
Abdullah said the rally organisers have shown that they were stubborn and defiant against the country’s laws.
“They are challenging the patience of the rakyat who want this country to be peaceful and stable. That is what they are challenging, not me.
“Tapi saya mesti kata saya pantang dicabar (But I have to say that don’t you dare challenge me),” said Abdullah to roars of approval from the delegates.
Abdullah was referring to the mass rally tomorrow organised by elections reform coalition Bersih which would take place at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur.
Nothing wrong with EC
Abdullah said the Election Commission (EC) has already given in to several of Bersih’s request and that street demonstrations were not the way to bring about change.
“They wanted a transparent ballot box and the use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting. The EC has agreed to that. Other than that, they can negotiate with the commission,” he said.
Abdullah blamed the opposition for finding faults with the EC despite the commission being the same body since independence.
“Does that mean that in this country the opposition cannot win? Of course they can. In Kelantan, PAS has formed the government numerous times. Then they won in Terengganu.
“They can win. If we control everything, there is no way they can win. But that is not our way. We want the public to sincerely tell us what they want and we will respect the results of an election,” he added.
Causing inconvenience
Citing recent by-elections as examples, Abdullah said the opposition boycotted the Batu Talam by-election because they could not win.
“But their reason was that the by-election was a sham. Instead, they placed an independent candidate and silently campaigned for him because they wanted us to lose.
“But in Machap and Ijok, they thought they could win. At that time, they forget about the Election Commission. They just think of winning,” said Abdullah.
The prime minister added that the planned march would be an inconvenience to the public as well as shop owners in the city.
Despite warnings from the police and Internal Security Ministry, Bersih has planned to proceed with the rally.
At a press conference later, Abdullah stressed that the rally is banned “because there have never been peaceful gatherings.”
When told that the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution, Abdullah argued that the people’s right to peace must also be respected.
Asked whether suppressing the rally will result in Malaysian leaders being unfavourably compared with the military junta in Myanmar (Burma), he replied: “Malaysia is not Myanmar… I don’t think what happened in Myanmar will happen here.”
He also argued the move to crack down on the rally would not make a ‘mockery’ of his repeated pledge to listen to the truth from the people.
“They have the chance to say all sort of things about me – the bloggers, so many mosquito newspapers, publications, bulletins and books – they know that they have never had it so good.”
Pressed on whether the crackdown would be violent, the prime minister say the government would leave it to the police to do their job.
“They know what to do, they are well trained,” he added.
M’sia to become laughing stock
In a statement today, Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang said Malaysia would become the laughing stock in the international arena if citizens are not even allowed the right to gather peacefully to submit a petition to the King.
He said that the protesters are not advocating any “violence or even for an overthrow of the government, but for electoral reforms to ensure that the next general election is clean, free and fair and the election results are not marred by electoral abuses, fraud and other malpractices”.
Lim, who will be among the top guns at the rally, said he can personally “vouch for the bona fide of the peaceful gathering tomorrow and that there is no intention whatsoever by anyone to create any untoward incident”.
“Let tomorrow be a day where all Malaysians can hold their heads high that democracy in Malaysia is observed in practice and not just in words.”