PM’s statements that BERSIH did not apply for a permit and that police offered alternative venue to BERSIH are false

Press Release: 9 December 2007

BERSIH deplores the false claims by Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan and the Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that BERSIH had not “sought authorization” and that police had offered an alternative venue for BERSIH’s November 10 gathering.
The Star reported on Friday, 7 December 2007, that in an opinion piece published on the same day in the Asian Wall Street Journal, Prime Minister Abdullah wrote: “the right to protest is fundamental but it is a right that must be matched by a responsibility to respect general public safety”.
The Star report also said that “Abdullah added that if protesters had not sought authorisation, then the police were duty-bound to enforce the law and ensure public safety. Abdullah also said police had offered demonstrators in both cases – BERSIH and Hindraf – to assemble in stadiums.”
IGP Musa Hassan also made similar claims on 3 December 2007 to the local press.
The Prime Minister, who is also Internal Security Minister to whom the police report to, is clearly being fed false statements by the police — statements he is either knowingly or unknowingly spreading internationally.
The suggestion that BERSIH “did not seek authorization” for the gathering and the statement that the police offered an assembly in stadiums are both false. An application for a permit was submitted on the advice of the police themselves.
BERSIH stresses that in our various dealings with the Police over the November 10 gathering, as detailed below, at no point was the issue of a change in venue brought up.
In any event, BERSIH reiterates that the so-called ‘offer’ to assemble in a stadium is a complete non-issue as the right of public peaceful assembly is simply that – to assemble in public view, and not hidden away from it! The role of the police is to cooperate with rally organizers to ensure that the right is protected whilst ensuring minimum disruption to traffic, etc.

29 October 2007:
BERSIH received a letter from the Officer in Charge of the Police District ( OCPD ) of Dang Wangi, Mohamad Zulkarnain Bin Abdul Rahman inviting BERSIH to apply for a permit.
1 November 2007:
BERSIH met with the Chief Police Officer ( CPO ) of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Zulhasnan Najib Baharudin, and 14 other senior police officers in the state including Zulkarnain, to discuss the November 10 gathering and how all parties should cooperate to ensure that the fundamental right to assemble would be protected with minimum disruption to traffic etc. All that was requested by the CPO was that BERSIH apply for a permit in accordance with the requirements of the law.
3 November 2007:
An application for a permit was submitted by BERSIH to the OCPD.
5 November 2007:
BERSIH had a discussion with the Special Branch Chief of Dang Wangi Police District’s and another officer on the details of the overall programme and the route intended to be taken by the participants. Again, no other options were raised at all.
6 November 2007:
The application was turned down by letter by the OCPD.
7 November 2007:
A written appeal was submitted to CPO Datuk Zulhasnan as provided for under the law.
9 November 2007:
The appeal was turned down by letter.

BERSIH wishes to stress too that it is also important to note in any event that the local authorities responsible for managing stadiums, parks and squares — in this case Kuala Lumpur City Hall — are not independent.
BERSIH had also informed City Hall on 10 October 2007 – a whole month before the gathering – the use of Dataran Merdeka as a gathering point.
City Hall chose not to respond to our letter for a month, and sent a rejection letter which was signed on 9 November 2007 – a day before the gathering.