Dec 10, 07 2:14pm
The opposition-backed election watchdog Bersih accused Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Inspector-General of Police Musa Hasan of making fraudulent claims pertaining to its Nov 10 rally.
It was responding to a news report in the Star on Dec 7 which quoted an opinion piece published on the same day in the Asian Wall Street Journal, in which Abdullah said the police offered Bersih and Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) demonstrators to assemble in stadiums.
The premier also said, “If protesters had not sought authorisation, then the police were duty-bound to enforce the law and ensure public safety.”
Commenting on this, the Bersih secretariat said: “PM’s statements that Bersih did not apply for a permit and that police offered an alternative venue are false.”
Musa also made similar claims on Dec 3 to the local press, it added in a media statement issued today.
The Bersih rally, aimed at calling for free and fair elections, drew some 40,000 people whereas the Nov 25 Hindraf rally saw some 30,000 people taking to the streets.
Issue was never raised
“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,” said Bersih.
“The suggestion that Bersih “did not seek authorisation” 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,” it added.
Bersih also stressed that in its various dealings with the police over the rally, 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 organisers to ensure that the right is protected whilst ensuring minimum disruption to traffic, etc,” it added.
Chronology of events
The watchdog also listed the chronology of events, leading to the Nov 10 rally.
Oct 29: Bersih received a letter from Dang Wangi district police chief Mohamad Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman inviting Bersih to apply for a permit.
Nov 1: Bersih met with Kuala Lumpur police chief Zulhasnan Najib Baharudin, and 14 other senior police officers, including Zulkarnain, to discuss the Nov 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 police chief was that Bersih apply for a permit in accordance with the requirements of the law.
Nov 3: An application for a permit was submitted by Bersih to the Dang Wangi police chief.
Nov 5: Bersih had a discussion with the special branch chief of Dang Wangi 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.
Nov 6: The application was turned down via a letter from the Dang Wangi district police chief.
Nov 7: A written appeal was submitted to Zulhasnan as provided for under the law.
Nov 9: The appeal was turned down by letter.
Meanwhile, Bersih also stated that it is also important to note that the local authorities responsible for managing stadiums, parks and squares – in this case Kuala Lumpur City Hall – are not independent.
Bersih also informed City Hall on Oct 10 – 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 Nov 9 – a day before the gathering,” read the statement.
Yesterday, the police arrested 14 people, including two opposition leaders – PAS’ Mohamad Sabu and PKR information chief Tian Chua – in connection with the Nov 10 rally.
Bersih: PM being fed lies