Tuesday, July 12, 2011

‘Flag-waving, God-fearing supporters were patriotic citizens’

Joseph Tawie | July 12, 2011

Despite being shot at with water cannons and tear gas canisters, the people remained non-violent during the July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally, says Baru Bian.

KUCHING: The “arbitrary and unconstitutional” arrests of Sarawakians in the runup, during and after the Bersih 2.0 rally, on July 9 in Kuala Lumpur, has come under heavy criticism from the opposition here.

Strongly condemning the detentions, Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian said: “These arrests were arbitrarily executed, unconstitutional and a gross contradiction of the universal right by every human being to freedom of expression.

“Sarawak recognises that the people are no more afraid to stand up for their rights. We honour these brave men and women who took risks to have their voices heard.

“We will not let the sacrifices demonstrated on July 9 by these brave men and women go to naught and be in vain.”

Bian said that many Sarawakians had travelled to Kuala Lumpur to be a part of the Bersih 2.0 rally, which called for sweeping electoral reforms.

“The objective was clear. Many of the people who participated were flag-waving, God-fearing, patriotic citizens who wanted nothing more than a peaceful expression of their frustration of the status quo.

“I was personally present at the rally and I was glad to be part of the people’s voice. The rally was peaceful and our security men and marshals were splendid in crowd control.

“Despite being shot at with water cannons and tear gas canisters, the people remained non-violent. I am proud that I had a taste of tear gas myself,” said Bian, who is the state assemblyman for Ba’Kelalan.

Show of unity

Bian said that it was amazing to see that people of various races, age groups, and religious backgrounds were well represented at the rally.

“Sarawakians were also well represented. Everyone I spoke to said they had come for one main reason – to show solidarity and unity for free and fair elections.

“It was even more amazing to see the people helping one another after the water cannons and tear gas attacks.

“Unfortunately for some, they were arrested for simply being there,” he said.

Seven persons from Sarawak were arrested including two Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) members Matek Anak Gram and Niloh Anak Ason, Willie Kajan, a member of anti-Baram dam committee, Doris Lawai of Malaysian Election Observers network (MEO –NET) and Buboi, a member of anti-Bengoh dam committee.

June Rubis, the daughter of former assistant minister Patau Rubis, had also been arrested. They have all been released.

In Sarawak, Krian assemblyman Ali Biju, native customary rights lawyer Paul Raja and Iban land activist Kelvin Kilo were among those detained, alongside 15 others on the same day.

‘Head-hunting days’

Meanwhile, in Miri William Mawan Ikom, president of Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), blamed the organisers of Bersih rally for “muddling” the prevailing peace and political stability in the country.

He said those who supported the rally “should be ashamed of themselves”.

He added that everyone should be mindful that when exercising their rights, the need to safeguard the existing multi-racial harmony, peace and political stability must be given top consideration.

He said street demonstrations should not be allowed as they indirectly reminded the people to go back to the “headhunting days” where there was no peace.

He added that the government has to defend the rights of the people who demanded to live in peace and harmony.

“Why should we put our people at high risk and let the current strong solidarity be in jeopardy?” he asked.

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