Syed Jaymal Zahiid and Soon Li Tsin | Dec 11, 07 6:33pm
The road leading to the Parliament building was swarming with police personnel who were on a mission – Stop Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) members from entering the August House.
On the other hand, some 30 Bersih members had also gathered with a mission – Submit a protest memorandum.
And despite the heavy police presence, roadblocks and threats of arrests, eight Bersih members managed to sneak into Parliament to accomplish their mission.
Once inside, there was a change in plans.
Instead of submitting the memorandum to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Ramli Ngah Talib, they handed it to opposition MPs with the hope that it will be forwarded to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The eight were Khalid Ibrahim (PKR secretary-general), Dr Zulkifli Ahmad (PAS research director), Yap Swee Seng (Suaram director) Mien Lor (Komas activist), V Gayathry (Center for Independent Journalism executive director), Wong Chin Huat (Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence chairperson) Mustapha Ali (PAS election director) and Mokhtar Rozaidi (Harakah advertising manager).
They submitted the memorandum to PKR president and Permatang Pauh MP Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Kamarudin Jaffar (PAS – Tumpat), Salahuddin Ayub (PAS – Kubang Kerian) and Teresa Kok (DAP – Seputeh).
Following this, the ‘Bersih eight’ held a press conference at the Parliament lobby at about 12.30pm.
The eight were arrested as soon as they exited the lobby about 20 minutes later amid cries of protest from Parliamentary Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang and other opposition MPs.
However, their intervention was to no avail as the eight were escorted to a waiting police van.
“This is utterly contemptuous,” thundered a visibly upset Lim. “I will see the Speaker later and demand for parliamentary dignity to be restored.”
But not all MPs shared the opposition leader’s view.
Barisan Nasional (BN) Backbenchers Club president Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar felt that the police’s action was justified.
“The Parliament is a place for us to freely discuss matters of national interests without being disturbed.
“If Bersih wants to hand over the memorandum, do it in a proper way, not through demonstrating and disturbing the peace,” he said when met later.
The Bersih memorandum called on members of the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara to reject the Constitutional Amendment Bill which, if passed, will see the current Election Commission (EC) chairperson’s tenure being extended by a year, to the new age limit of 66.
According to Bersih, the government is attempting to bulldoze through the amendment so that EC chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, whom the former claims is biased, can continue to spearhead the commission for the coming elections.
Today was the second reading of the Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Dewan Rakyat.
However, Bersih’s efforts appeared to be in vain as the bill was unanimously passed by the Dewan Rakyat later.
At 4pm, the eight Bersih members were released by the police.
Mission accomplished: 'Bersih 8' sneak in memo