The electoral watchdog will hold another protest at Dataran Merdeka to push for reforms.
KUALA LUMPUR: Electoral watchdog Bersih, which held a mammoth street protest last July that dealt a severe blow to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s administration, has fixed April 28 for its next rally.
Speaking at a press conference here, Bersih’s committee revealed that the rally, which would be a sit down protest (duduk bantah), would be held at Dataran Merdeka here.
However, the planned rally might run into trouble since Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz objected to the venue.
“Dataran Merdeka is not a gazetted area for peaceful assemblies,” he told reporters in Parliament.
Meanwhile, Bersih chairperson S Ambiga said apart from the movement’s original eight demands, the upcoming rally would focus on three key issues – the resignation of the Election Commission, the electoral process must be cleaned up before the next general election and international observers should be allowed to monitor the polls.
She also said that Himpunan Hijau, which was protesting against the Lynas plant, would hold its 3.0 rally alongside Bersih 3.0. In addition to that even Sabah and Sarawak was on board with the initiative.
The last protest, dubbed Bersih 2.0, had forced the government to set up a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to look into reforming the electoral process.
Ambiga claimed that although the PSC made several sound recommendations, certain important issues such as election frauds continued to exist and the committee did not probe this in depth.
“It was dealt in a cursory manner. We want an independent audit on the electoral roll. But nothing of that sort was suggested by the PSC. They could have made that suggestion.
“Why did we have a PSC then?” she asked.
500,000 crowd expected
Bersih’s co-chairperson and national laureate A Samad Said added that one of the main reasons for having another rally was because the PSC did not live up to expectations and the government was insincere about having free and fair elections.
“The fraud continues unabated thus leaving us with the feeling that the government has no ambitions to have free and clean elections.The upcoming election promises to be the dirtiest yet.
“Bersih (along with 84 other NGOs) will gather peacefully nationwide and also internationally to voice our dissatisfaction over manipulations of the electoral roll in favour of the ruling coalition.
“It is time we think of the legacy we are leaving for our children… we invite everyone to join us. This will be Bersih 3.0,” he said to cheers from those present.
Samad said that Bersih expected a turnout of at least 500,000.
“When I am walking on the streets, on Facebook, in emails, so many people have been asking me, ‘When is the next one?’ (Based on this), we can estimate that 500,000 will turn up,” he added.
She praised the police’s conduct over the last few assemblies held and said that she had no doubt the police would help ensure that the assembly was peaceful.
She also urged Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim to sign a bi-partisan statement condemning political violence.
Asked if certain quarters such as the opposition might attempt to hijack the rally for their benefit, Ambiga stressed that it was an event which transcended political lines and invited everyone to participate.
“Everyone from any political party can attend as this event cuts across political lines,” she said as someone quipped, “Even Najib can attend.”
Also present at the press conference were representatives from Suaram, Lawyers For Liberty, Komas, Women’s Aid Organisation and many others.
Asked if there would be a voter backlash if the authorities tackled the rally with high-handedness, Ambiga answered in the affirmative and hoped that Najib’s advisers would advise the premier to handle the matter properly.
During the previous rally, the police had fired tear gas and water cannons on the protesters with scores being arrested as well.
Ambiga said that Bersih would never call for a boycott of the elections if the reforms were not implemented in time.
“Should it not be implemented in time, we will ask for 100% voter turnout. We will never boycott the election,” she added.