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Court order and barriers won’t stop Bersih

 | April 27, 2012

However, its co-chairperson S Ambiga hopes the authorities will remove the barriers at Dataran Merdeka and waive the court order in good faith.

UPDATED

KUALA LUMPUR:  Electoral watchdog Bersih will not be discouraged by the court order barring the public from gathering at Dataran Merdeka tomorrow.

Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga said the protesters would gather at the six designated meeting points located close to Dataran and from there, march towards the iconic square.

“We are asking the authority to show good faith to lift the barriers and waive the court order ex-parte,” she told a press conference here.

“We will gather at the meeting points, we will make our way to Dataran in the hope that the barriers will be removed. We will not break the barrier or breach the order, we hope the authorities will lift the barriers and allow us to use Dataran which belongs to the rakyat,” she added.

Ambiga said the protesters would sit peacefully at the stroke of 2pm wherever they are and begin their protest.

Barricades had been erected at Dataran following an order from KL Mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail whereas since 6am yesterday, all roads leading to the square had been closed until 6am on Sunday.

Late last night, the police obtained a court order to ban Ambiga, Bersih organisers and the public from entering the Dataran area.

The court order was served this afternoon on Ambiga who received it under protest.

Six meeting points

Bersih is of the view that the six meeting points – Masjid Negara, Masjid India, Pasar Seni, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), Brickfields and Jalan Sultan – are not included in the court order.

According to a map which accompanied the court order, Dataran Merdeka and Jalan Raja (which circle the square) are off-limits to Bersih 3.0 participants and the public.

The court order states that “urgent action” needed to be taken to prevent any behaviour which will affect public order or be hazardous to the people.

“Therefore, this order is needed and is issued ex-parte as the gathering will take place tomorrow,” the order stated.

Commenting on the legal aspect of the Bersih gathering, Ambiga said that there were three laws regulating the sit-in protest.

“They are the Peaceful Assembly Act [which came into force on April 23], the Local Government Act and the Federal Constituition,” she said.

The former Bar Council president added that under local by-laws, the mayor does have discretion to disallow protests or activities from taking place at any venue under the care of the city authorities.

“Under Section 8 of the local by-law, the mayor does have the discretion to allow assemblies and gathering… but to us, the Federal Constitution prevails over all these laws,” she said.

‘No permit needed’

Bersih 3.0 and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) have been locking horns in the past week over the staging of the event at Dataran Merdeka.

DBKL rejected Bersih’s application to hold the rally at the historical site as the gathering was not considered a “national event” for the benefit of the country.

DBKL and Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein offered Bersih four alternative sites – the stadiums in Cheras, Titiwangsa, and Bukit Jalil and Stadium Merdeka.

Bersih, however, is hell-bent on Dataran for its convenience and historical value.

The electoral watchdog also said that by the time the alternatives were offered early this week, it was too late to inform its supporters of the change in venue.

“Given such short notice, people will turn up at Dataran,” Ambiga said today.

“In fact, if we were to hold it at Stadium Merdeka, people would still turn up at both locations [the stadium and Dataran].”

Taking the police to task, Ambiga said that they have acted not in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA).

On Monday, the police disallowed Bersih to continue with its rally, citing “safety” concerns.

Ambiga said today that according to the PAA, the organiser need not obtain a police permit to proceed with the assembly.

“According to Section 14(2), the police have no power to deny the assembly. It can go on as proposed if there are no conditions set by the police.

“There were no conditions set by the police. Therefore, by our reading of the law, we can proceed… in fact, the police have breached the provision,” she said.

Ambiga also added that there was a sense of deja-vu in the manner in which the authorities have moved to clam down on the assembly.

“But this time around, we are not seen as a security threat by the government. There is also admission that it is our right to assemble.

“The only dispute this time around is the venue of the gathering which is the easiest (issue) to solve,” she said.

Also read:

Court order issued against Bersih rally

‘Rally all you want, but not at Dataran’

Bersih can still gather elsewhere


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