PRESS STATEMENT (20 NOVEMBER 2016): After BERSIH 5 rally, the fight for free and fair elections and institutional reforms continues

BERSIH 5’s success in Kuala Lumpur with an estimated of 120,000 participants is a loud and clear cry for both our 5 demands of institutional reforms: clean elections, clean governments, strengthening parliamentary democracy, right to dissent, and empowerment of Sabah and Sarawak, and also the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In conjunction with our fifth demand of empowering Sabah and Sarawak, peaceful rallies were also conducted successfully in Sabah and Sarawak. Detailed reports will be issued shortly. BERSIH 5 also continues to be held in 65 cities worldwide.

The coming together of Malaysians from all ethnic, religious, regional and socio-economic backgrounds in BERSIH 5 shows that institutional reforms and Najib’s resignation are a growing Malaysian consensus, that no institutions, parties or groups can suppress.

Beginning 1 October 2016, we embarked on a nationwide convoy which officially launched the BERSIH 5 programme. The convoys which reached 236 towns and villages in the 6 weeks before the rally on 19 November have proven to be an effective means to break media control and bridge urban-rural divide. We thank all who participated and helped in the convoys for making the success of BERSIH 5 possible. Bersih 2.0 will continue its efforts on reaching Malaysians on institutional reforms and Najib’s corruption.

While we had planned for BERSIH 5 a strategically planned programme, it was effectively disabled by the police’s citywide lockdown. Even after we extended our full cooperation to the police, being fully transparent with our plans, the IGP Khalid Abu Bakar and KL CPO Amar Singh has seriously undermined the rakyat’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble and freely express themselves by imposing restrictions.

The police barricades in Bangsar, Masjid Negara, Dataran Merdeka, and Masjid Jamek; the seizing of our Hiluxes which served as our stages; and the arrest of our drivers seriously jeopardised our programme, crowd control, security, and communications. These restrictions had forced us to make several ad hoc decisions and compromises, including the redirection to KLCC, for BERSIH 5 to continue peacefully.

BERSIH 2.0 would like to acknowledge the police officers on the ground who could not do a better job facilitating BERSIH 5 because of orders of command from above. We would also like to extend our gratitude to our supporters and participants who turned out, remained peaceful, and followed instructions despite all police restrictions. BERSIH 5 ended peacefully at KLCC at 5.30pm proving that a peaceful assembly does not disrupt public order.

BERSIH 2.0 also condemns the police crackdown on BERSIH 2.0 leaders, social activists and opposition leaders. We are especially shocked and disgusted with the blatant abuse of Sosma, a controversial law justified as a counter-terrorist measure, against an innocent citizen like Maria. This is a clear suppression the citizens’ right to dissent and undermining parliamentary democracy. BERSIH 2.0 demands for the immediate release of all detained.

In solidarity with Maria and those detained, BERSIH 2.0 will be holding a candlelight vigil at Jinjang Police Station at 8pm tonight. We urge concerned Malaysians to come and stand in solidarity with those arrested.

BERSIH 5 has ended peacefully, but our fight for a new Malaysia will continue. BERSIH 2.0 will embark on the agenda of institutional reforms to prepare for the inevitable post-Najib Malaysia. We will continue to object the Election Commission’s recent unconstitutional redelineation exercise and prepare for the looming GE14.

The detention of Maria Chin Abdullah and others will only harden our determination to push for change.

BERSIH 5 is another milestone in the building of a new Malaysia free from ethno-religious division and political violence. Malaysians have once again showed that the May 13 spectre is buried despite the UMNO-affiliated red-shirts’ futile attempts to cause violence and fear. Hidup Malaysia Baru!

Signed by the BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee members