Bar Council: Team 2's report on the BERSIH Gathering

Tuesday, 13 November 2007 09:48pm
Contributed by the Human Rights Committee
Sasha Lyna, Adilah Ariffin, Renuka Balasubramaniam and Komathi Arunasalam formed Team 2 and were stationed at Masjid Negara. This is their report.
By the time we got to Masjid Negara, it was already drizzling. At that time it was almost 2.15pm, and there were about 200-300 people gathered in the area of the mosque wearing the yellow BERSIH t-shirts. The FRU and policemen were stationed just outside the mosque, and we were inside the surroundings of the mosque. There were people going in and out of the mosque.
After about 10 minutes there, the police proceeded to close the front gate and stopped people from entering or exiting the mosque. We found that a bit peculiar. There were also some people wearing maroon t-shirts who were starting to form a line in front of the gate.
The FRU then stationed themselves near the gates. At about 2.30pm, it started to pour and people took shelter. When the rain subsided, a crowd converged at the area in front of the mosque. Instructions were issued to the crowd. The instructions were quite clear. Everyone was to adhere to the instructions of the ‘Unit Amal’ personnel. No one was to leave the crowd and attack the police.
By 2.45pm, a group arrived from the Dataran Merdeka area and the crowd started to get excited. Some ran towards the road but the ‘Unit Amal’ personnel took charge and formed a human chain to contain them. The human chain merged the crowds together. The police had by now stationed themselves in front of the road but kept their distance. The crowd then proceeded to walk to Istana Negara.
By the time we got to Istana Negara, there were water cannon trucks and FRU stationed in front of the Istana, and the crowd joined another larger crowd. At all times, the ‘Unit Amal’ was in charge, controlling the participants. They responded well in addition to ensuring that journalists and other observers were protected whilst walking in tandem with the group. The unit also helped the traffic police in controlling the traffic although some of the policemen found this annoying.
At Istana Negara, the unit again stationed themselves between the police and the crowd. They had walkie-talkies with them for easy communication. Once some leaders delivered their speeches, the police announced that they gave the crowd 5 minutes to disperse. This was surely insufficient as the mammoth crowd stretched from the Istana right up to the junction entering Jalan Tun Sambanthan. Amazingly enough though, the crowd started to disperse and peacefully walked away from Istana Negara.
We then proceeded to walk back to Masjid Negara. When we got there there was a do’a recitation and then crowds were ordered to disperse and go home.