Malaysia's pro-democracy Bersih 2.0: It’s 50k and a big success; Support in Australia

Statement by Bersih 2.0 organisers: Malaysians show great bravery, the struggle for clean and fair elections continues

July 9, 2011 -- Bersih 2.0 -- Bersih 2.0 is proud that in spite of all the obstacles and hindrances that we were forced to face, Malaysians of all walks of life overcame the oppressive acts of the police to come out peacefully and in incredibly large numbers to show their love for their country and for the principles of justice.

We are nonetheless horrified that several hundred people have been detained, many of them without any justification whatsoever. We particularly condemn the arrests of Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevesan and Maria Chin Abdullah, two members of the Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee.

The only violence witnessed was perpetrated by the police, who unleashed immense amounts of tear gas and chemical laced water on innocent members of the public. Police also baton charged those who gathered, injuring many and some very seriously.

In one of the worst acts of violence, police fired tear gas into the compound of Tung Shin Hospital, severely jeopardising the health not only of the rakyat [people] who had sought refuge there, but the patients there as well. This was one of only various acts of totally unwarranted violence by the police against a rakyat who had exercised their constitutional right to gather peacefully.

We are especially proud of the great discipline and peacefulness shown by all the brave Malaysians who dared to stand up today for what was right.

Today’s gathering is not the end, it is but one more step in the long walk for clean and fair elections in Malaysia. The campaign continues, to work for electoral reform, the release of all detainees, and an end to harassment by the authorities. The struggle continues in the courts of law, the corridors of power, and the hearts of all the rakyat.

Althought our attempt to submit a memorandum to DYMM SPB YDP Agong did not take place today, we will make appropriate arrangements to deliver the memorandum when the police have calmed down.

In the meantime, we call on all Malaysians to continue to work to peacefully achieve clean and fair electoral process in our country. Inspired by their bravery and steadfast commitment, we will never rest in our efforts to work together as one people to bring about a better Malaysia.

Released by,

Steering Committee, Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)

The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 comprises
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Chairperson), Andrew Khoo, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Dr Farouk Musa, Haris Ibrahim, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh dan Zaid Kamaruddin.

Sydney supports Bersih 2.0

July 9, 2011 -- While "thousands and thousands" marched in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia today for democracy (braving police roadblocks, hundreds of arrests, water cannon, teargas, etc), in Australia some 750 Malaysian rallied in Melbourne today, 300 in Sydney, 200 in Perth, 150 in Adelaide, 40 in Canberra and 100 in Brisbane. Photos by Peter Boyle. Click HERE for more details.

Bersih 2.0: It’s 50k and a big success

By Tarani Palani

Kuala Lumpur, July 9, 2011 -- Free Malaysia Today -- The mass pro-democracy Bersih 2.0 protest organisers have called their rally a “big success”, but added that it is just one more step in the long walk towards free and fair elections. Speaking at a press conference here, Bersih 2.0 steering committee member Subramaniam Pillay said the rally exceeded expectations.

“It’s a big success but this (fighting for electoral reforms) is not a one day event. It was sucessful beyond expectations”, he said, adding that the objective of raising awareness had been achieved.

Bersih 2.0 believes that the crowd could have been as big as 50,000 but conceded that reporters would be able to judge the number better.

Bersih 2.0 also condemned the arrests by police of more than 1600 people, including that of its chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.

‘Ambiga says she’s fine’

Steering committee member Andrew Khoo said he had received a text message from Ambiga stating that she was fine.

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“She said that she was okay and that her phone battery was dying and that she wants to save it for important messages,” he added. She is expected to be released later today.

Meanwhile, national laureate A. Samad Ismail said that another date would be fixed to hand over a memorandum to the king on electoral reforms. “We tried to head towards the palace several times, but the police kept turning us away and threatened us with arrest”, he said.

Samad also criticised the police for acting in a “cruel” manner. “I saw them randomly firing tear gas at the crowd”, he said.

One of the questions posed during the press conference was whether the rally had been multiracial, to which the steering committee replied that people of all races had participated.

Ambiga released

Ambiga was released by the police at about 6.45 pm and immediately applauded Malaysians for their support for the rally. She said the protesters were courageous despite government intimidation. She also said the “amazing” show of numbers clearly signalled that Malaysians did not “want to be bullied” any longer.

“Rough intimidation does not work anymore,” she said.

More than 1600 arrested as Bersih 2.0 rally ends

By K Pragalath and Patrick Lee

Petaling Jaya, July 9, 2011 -- Free Malaysia Today -- The Bersih 2.0 rally ended today at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre here leaving a trail of destruction in various parts of the city. The supporters of free and fair elections clashed with the anti-riot police leading to the arrest of 1667 people while scores of others were reported injured.

Despite the arrests of top Bersih office bearers as well as several well-known opposition politicians and injuries suffered by its supporters, the coalition for free and fair elections is thumping its chest hailing the event as a grand success.

The organisers claimed that some 50,000 people took part in the event while news reports have scaled down the figure to 30,000 participants and the police reducing the number further to a laughable 5000.

The much-awaited day began slowly with the crowd trickling into various designated locations in the federal capital, with the focal point being the National Mosque for the march to Stadium Merdeka.

Although this group was dispersed by the police without much trouble, what they did not anticipate was that the crowd would continue to swell despite the lock-down on the city, with roadblocks erected at all roads leading into Kuala Lumpur.

The sparks began to fly just after noon when the crowds at Menara Maybank became “uncontrollable”. Then the police moved in, firing tear gas at them and also using water cannons to douse them.

Police dragnet

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The Bersih supporters ran to nearby roads like Jalan Pudu, but were cornered. They then fled to Tung Shin Maternity Hospital to escape the police dragnet. They were, however, allowed to leave the hospital after several opposition leaders managed to talk to the police.

The supporters then regrouped at Jalan Sultan Ismail, where they were joined by another few thousand more people who had gathered from various locations in the city. They then proceeded to the KLCC, and after a few speeches they were once again asked to disperse.

When this fell on deaf ears, the police again fired tear gas canisters and also opened up their water cannons on the demonstrators.

The rally finally ended at about 5 pm. The city was “reopened” half an hour later with the LRT and buses resuming their normal services.

A total of 12 political leaders were arrested. They are Mahfuz Omar, Salehuddin Ayub, Tian Chua, S Ambiga, Hadi Awang and Fuziah Salleh (all arrested at KL Sentral), Azeez Rahim, Mahfuz Mohammad, Khairy Jamaluddin, Ngeh Khor Ham and Sivarasah Rasiah (all arrested at Jalan Pudu) and Mohamad Sabu (Jalan Mahameru).

Apart from Bersih 2.0, the pro-government Umno Youth had also organised a counter-rally at Bukit Bintang, which resulted in the arrest of Khairy.

No-show Perkasa

The police had over the past week warned organisers of rallies to get permits but none of those who applied managed to get one, due to “security concerns”.

Bersih initially wanted to hold the rally in the city but after an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, it changed its mind and named Stadium Merdeka as its venue.

However, stadium authorities denied them permission to use the venue, saying that the historic site, which witnessed the declaration of the country’s independence in 1957, was undergoing renovations.

The organisers refused to change the venue and went ahead with the planned rally.

On another front, the Malay radical group Perkasa, which initailly announced that it would rally against Bersih, made an about turn – its leader Ibrahim Ali and supporters failed to show up at Titiwangsa indoor stadium.