With the authorities throwing in more roadblocks to deter Bersih from gathering at Stadium Merdeka, the movement said it will gather peacefully in the historic venue this Saturday.
KUALA LUMPUR: Dismayed by the Najib administration’s flimsy offer on a venue for the July 9 rally, Bersih said it will gather at the historic Stadium Merdeka this Saturday despite Putrajaya’s refusal to allow the poll watchdog to hold its gathering there.
“Bersih 2.0 is disappointed in the manner in which the Prime Minister and his cabinet has reneged on their offer to provide a stadium for us to hold our peaceful gathering.
“We have chosen Stadium Merdeka as the best venue for this event, due to its symbolic nature and central location, and we will not for one moment be swayed from our decision to gather there peacefully,” said the group in a statement issued late last night.
Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim said yesterday Putrajaya would not entertain any application from Bersih to hold rallies at the stadium where Malaya was declared independent in 1957 or any other stadiums in the capital city.
A Stadium Merdeka officer had also rejected an application made by Bersih.
Bersih had agreed to a compromise and hold its planned mammoth rally in a stadium after the Yang Di Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin advised the coalition against street protests.
The King also urged the Barisan Nasional government to sit down and listen out to the group’s concerns on electoral reform.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak himself had promised to provide the group with a venue but had since then “reneged” his promise when he made a drastic turnabout and said it was up to the police to decide if the coalition would be issued a permit to hold the rally.
Strong arm policing continues
Najib’s U-turn came just as the heightened tension appeared to have been defused with both sides showing reconcilliatory gestures following the King’s unprecedented intervention. Police actions too indicated no willingness to resolve the debacle amicably.
Yesterday, Deputy Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar warned people against displaying any Bersih’s insignia, saying that the coalition remains illegal after Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein declared it as an outlawed “organisation”.
But Hishammuddin, who is Najib’s cousin, said the coalition, which is made of 62 legitimate NGOs, can make an application through a registered group. The police said they were still waiting for the movement to apply for a permit.
Group chairman S Ambiga in an immediate response accused the authorities of “lacking good faith” for demanding that the group apply for a permit for the planned rally.
But the group said it will not be deterred by the threats and will continue to hold the rally peacefully.
“Recent statements by the Deputy IGP seem to indicate that the police fully intend to take action against us if we do anything on July 9th beyond staying at home.
“However, patriotic Malaysians who want nothing but the ability to choose our leaders through genuinely democratic means will never be cowered by the unjust and immoral exercise of power.
“Our first and foremost responsibility is to our future and our children, and we have resolved that they shall inherit a nation ruled by not by fear, but by the principles of justice.
“Whatever happens between now and then, the rakyat will gather peacefully in an orderly fashion to call for clean and fair elections at Stadium Merdeka on the Julu 9, at 2pm. We are coming, we will be peaceful and together, we will build a better Malaysia,” said the group.
“If the Prime Minister is a man of his word, he will make the appropriate arrangements for the event to proceed peacefully at Stadium Merdeka,” it added.
Malay right wing group Perkasa also stated its interest in holding a counter-rally at the Stadium Merdeka on the same day and urged the authorities to deny Bersih the permit.
No response has been given to Perkasa so far, according to its controversial chief Ibrahim Ali.