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Ambiga: We can’t control what politicians say

 | April 29, 2012

The rally was to feature only speeches from Ambiga, co-chairman A Samad Said and songs, says Bersih.

KUALA LUMPUR: Election watchdog Bersih 3.0 has no control over what politicians say at its public events, its co-chairman S Ambiga said.

“We did not know that they [opposition] leaders were going to speak. Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim came up and spoke to the crowd. There were groups in the crowd which wanted to hear the opposition leaders speak.

“I cannot control what they say,” she said amidst reports that opposition leaders had incited the crowd to breach the barriers at Dataran Merdeka during the Bersih 3.0 rally yesterday.

She added that the plan for the gathering did not allow for politicians to speak.

In fact, she said that had Bersih known that politicians were going to deliver speeches, it would not allow them to do so.

“We wouldn’t have allowed them to speak,” she told a press conference today.

Yesterday, the peaceful assembly of about 80,000 people turned violent at about round 3pm when a few protesters broke through the barriers at Dataran Merdeka, which was sealed off.

The “attack” on the barricades prompted the police to fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd.

The clash between the police and the protesters lasted for about four hours.

No political speeches

There were many news reports which singled out PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and Anwar for inciting the crowd to breach the barrier.

Azmin reportedly told the crowd to reclaim Dataran which “did not belong to Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL)”.

Bersih steering committee member, Maria Chin Abdullah, who also present, said the event was to feature only speeches from Ambiga, co-chairman A Samad Said and songs.

“Before April 28, all the NGOs agreed to exclude any political speeches by political leaders… that was also agreed upon by the political parties,” she said.

Ambiga said that she could not comment on Azmin’s actions as she did not witness it in person and asked for it to be investigated.

“But Anwar [when he was on the truck with Ambiga] did not order the crowd to charge,” she said.

She added that Bersih had the last word, and which was to ask the crowd to disperse.

“Let me tell you what happened: I was on the truck and we told the crowd to disperse. We were moving into Jalan Tun Perak to tell the crowd to disperse in stages.

“Then someone charged [at the barriers]; it had nothing to do with us; we want to know as well.

“In fact, it is against what Bersih had announced,” she added.

‘Work of agent provocateurs’

Ambiga said that this could have been the work of agent provocateurs and called for a full inquiry by Suhakam into the whole protest.

Ambiga said the crowd was under control until the tear gas was fired.

“What I saw from the truck was amazing: people were gathered peacefully.

“All purported acts of violence took place only after the tear gas was fired; until then we have complete control,” she said, giving credit to PAS Unit Amal which provided most of the security for the day.

She said that such large crowds can be controlled as can be seen during Thaipusam and Wesak Day celebrations.

Ambiga also asked why the train stations were shut during the protest when police were dispersing the crowd after 3pm.

“These people wanted to leave but couldn’t. Who gave (RapidKL) the order to do so?” she said.

On the incident where a police car was overturned near Sogo, she said:

“There were some accounts that the car was overturned because the crowd believed that someone was under the car. Don’t just publish the picture of an overturned car. Please don’t make assumptions,” she said.

She again called for a full inquiry into the rally to identify who were the trouble-makers.

As for organising another rally, Ambiga said that nothing has been decided yet, adding that the group will continue to highlight the irregularities in the electoral process.

“The government must answer and not deflect [attention] from the issue just because of the violence (at the rally).

“Some 250 000 Malaysians turned up to demand for free and fair elections; what is the government’s response?” she asked.

Bersih chief medical officer, Dr Farouk Musa, said that 117 demonstrators were treated for minor injuries and dehydration.

He added that those who were hospitalised had been discharged this morning.


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