Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bersih rally shows angry and divided nation, says Umno deputy minister

By Shannon Teoh
April 29, 2012
A protester shouts during a confrontation with police near Dataran Merdeka, in Kuala Lumpur April 28, 2012. — Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — An Umno deputy minister broke ranks with his colleagues today, saying the violent and chaotic scenes at yesterday’s Bersih rally pointed to an angry and divided nation that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) must take special care in addressing.
Umno supreme council member Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah told The Malaysian Insider the crowd that flooded the streets of the capital to call for free and fair elections was larger and more multiracial than last July 9’s Bersih rally.
“There were elements of defiance and anger from the crowd and police who acted strangely towards journalists. BN must be very careful in addressing this,” the deputy education minister said ahead of an Umno supreme council meeting tonight.
BN-linked media and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin have swiftly blamed Bersih and opposition leaders for the violence that followed after some demonstrators defied orders from police and organisers not to breach the barriers surrounding Dataran Merdeka.
Saifuddin said he would raise the handling of yesterday’s planned sit-in at the historic square during tonight’s party leadership meeting.
“Last year, members of the public were not angry, they just wanted fair polls. This time they’re angry. But yet surveys show BN’s support has gone up. This just tells me the country is getting more and more divided.
“If not for the police car incident, Bersih 3.0 would be a bigger issue for BN,” he said.
Tens of thousands demonstrators were dispersed by police with water cannon and tear gas after some rally-goers pushed through the barricade in front of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and tried to rush into Dataran Merdeka.
Some of the 15,000-strong group sandwiched between police and DBKL broke down the barriers and moved towards the historic square, prompting police to fire chemical-laced water and tear gas canisters.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali had tried to negotiate with police, who told the Gombak MP to calm the group down. But despite his advice, they still broke through the barricades.
Police fired as far as the DBKL premises, which are across Jalan Parlimen, and the move broke up the crowd who fled helter-skelter but police chased them down at Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Raja Laut.
Angry protestors later attacked a police car, which then crashed into at least two people while trying to flee.
Despite most of the crowd dispersing, a pocket of 1,000 demonstrators then engaged in open battle with riot police near Masjid Jamek.
A police officer was seen dragging a man across the road, which resulted in Bersih supporters attacking the police with broken bottles, mineral water bottles and broken concrete slabs.
A convoy of police vehicles ferrying Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail in one of its cars was forced to make a U-turn near Masjid Jamek when met with a hostile reception from protestors who threw shoes and broken concrete slabs at them, smashing the windows of two cars.
~ The Malaysian Insider

Malaysian EC is backward, opines fact-finding group

  • Leven Woon
  • 6:43PM Apr 29, 2012
A Pakistani member of a fact-finding mission group on Malaysia election opined that the local Election Commission (EC) is backward, which is a cause of the country’s weak democracy.

At a press conference to release the group’s interim report today, Pakistan senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo said that he is surprised to find that Malaysia, as a modern country, still has an underdeveloped electoral system.

“A country like Pakistan has introduced electronic voting long ago,” he said.

NONEHe said EC deputy chief Wan Ahmad Wan Omar (left), when met by the group members, gave non-committal answer about several reforms raised by the members.

“The EC needs to be improved. Only if the institution improves can the democracy of the country improve,” he said.  

The seven-member international group, many of whom are politicians in their own countries, was invited by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to conduct the mission from April 25 to 29.

They have interviewed Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz, Bersih steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah, Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim, Anwar and Wan Ahmad on the election system for the Dewan Rakyat.

Wan Ahmad had told the group that “no current member of the EC team belongs to any political party”, when the group questioned the neutrality of the EC.

“(Wan Ahmad) expressed his personal views that no member of the commission ought to belong to a political party,” read the report. 

This is, however, in sharp contrast to his response to Sinar Hariana few days ago in which he admitted that he is an inactive Umno member.

'Ku Nan asked whether Malaysians mature for freedom'

Meanwhile, Australian academician Clinton Fernandez noted that Tengku Adnan had asked in a meeting with the group: “Are our people (Malaysians) mature for freedom?”

Commenting on political development in Indonesia, Fernandez claimed that Tengku Adnan had said: “One of the problems with Indonesia is that there is too much freedom.”

“I find these comments disturbing, it reflects the authoritarian attitudes at the highest level of power,” he said. 

India Today editorial director Mobashar Jawed Akbar also said he heard the statement with “deepest pain”.

“It is unfortunate that some voice in authority actually believes this great nation, as a template of post-colonial nations, does not deserve democracy.

“This is a statement that cannot be accepted,” he said.
In the report, the group has concurred with Bersih’s demands that the campaigning period should be extended to at least 21 days and overseas voters should be allowed to vote; while it recommends that the EC constitute its own physical verification team for voters’ status and make the 240,000 election workers as early voters.
They also mooted, among others, for the establishment of a Caretaker Convention as practised in the United Kingdom.

They are slated to publish a full report in 21 days.

~ Malaysiakini

Bersih denies losing control

  • Nigel Aw
  • 4:51PM Apr 29, 2012
Organisers did not lose control on protesters during the Bersih 3.0 demonstration yesterday, insisted Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.

NONEThe violence that ensued, said Ambiga, only happened after police decided to fire teargas on protesters.

"Bersih condemns any act of violence by any quarters. I would say the 250,000 people yesterday came in peace and did not come for violence.

"All purported acts of violence only took place after teargas was fired. Until then, we had full control of the situation before it all went awry," she said.
She added that Bersih had deployed 6,000 personnel including Unit Amal, who were in charge of security during the rally.

Call for inquiry

In light of this, Ambiga called on the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to initiate an inquiry into the events of yesterday’s protest, which was the biggest since the Reformasi movement in 1999.

“As days go by, you will all know the truth, who were responsible for the act of violence. We think a full inquiry should be held, nothing less,” she said.

However, Ambiga admitted that the volleys of tear gas fired by police were in reaction to some protesters attempting to breach the barricade at Dataran Merdeka and Suhakam should similarly investigate this.

“But was it even necessary? Were so many (tear gas canisters) needed? There were so many people there, if you fire into a crowd like that people are bound to get crushed, there is bound to be trouble,” she said.

NONEPointing to newspaper reports today alleging violence by protesters at the rally with the image of an overturned police vehicle, Ambiga said videos onYouTube had given a more complete picture.

YouTube accounts showed the car was overturned because protesters believed someone was under the car and it also showed protesters protecting the police officer,” she said.

The inquiry, like the videos, Ambiga said, would be essential to shed light on the exact circumstances of yesterday’s event.

‘Agents provocateurs may have been present’

She added that the electoral reform movement had received reports that there were possible agents provocateurs who were present during the protest, but added that they are awaiting for more information.

When queried about opposition leaders giving political speeches during the rally, Ambiga said this had not been part of the plan but that she could not control what they wanted to say.

“They are also MPs, and supporters wanted to listen to what they want to say,” she said.

NONEMeanwhile, Bersih steering committee Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa (right) said according to Hospital Kuala Lumpur, 117 demonstrators were hospitalised throughout the protest.

“This does not include the people that were treated by the seven medical teams which were on stand-by around Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

There was only one death which was not directly linked to the protest, where a man had died of a heart attack at Jalan Petaling before the demonstration began, he said.

“However, a doctor’s friend had been hit by tear gas canisters in his face and suffered hematoma. We have raised the issue of firing directly on protesters in Bersih 2.0 but it is still happening again this time,” he said.

Do you have photographs or video clips depicting police brutality during Bersih 3.0? Let us help you share them with Malaysiakini readers. Contact us here:

~ Malaysiakini

Masked Message From London To Najib – And Cameron!

Posted Saturday, April 28th, 2012
There was no tear gas in Belgrave Square today, but plenty of dripping umbrellas amid a sea of banners and masks, worn by students determined to defy threats and menaces that they could lose their grants if seen to support Bersih 3!
The rain had not deterred the crowd, who were conscious that their friends and family were facing far more testing conditions back in KL.
About a thousand or had turned up by the time the march was ready to set off in the direction of Parliament Square.
The most striking feature was the number of masks being worn, or scarves carefully pulled almost up to meet headgear, so that only eyes peaked out!  You may try to intimidate us, was the message from the young men and women alike, but you can’t stop us!
If these students are among Malaysia’s future elite, then the future is not with BN and certainly not with the existing management of the Election Commission!  Familiar slogans deploring the corruption, vote rigging and gerrymandering that have kept BN in power for over half a century dominated the gathering.
It was a very good natured group, seeking constant updates from each other about the news from the main march back in Malaysia and delighted at the huge numbers being spoken about.  However, concern started to grow towards midday as more and more information filtered through about tear gas, water cannon and arrests.
Many individuals seemed anxious to explain to the policemen, who were protecting stragglers from traffic, about the situation in Malaysia that they were demonstrating against. The Bobbies received an education on Malaysia’s problems with corruption and vote-rigging and listened politely!
Part of the crowd, Ilham Anwar gets hold of an umbrella!
Cheerleaders led the crowd through a series of chants and songs, belted out with enthusiasm.  Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter, Ilham, herself a student in London, gave a short and well-received speech.
She admitted that it had made her “pretty nervous”, but her age matched that of most of the crowd and they buoyed her up with enthusiasm.
However, the Embassy opposite were clearly not listening!  Staff had shut down and cleared out.
They had even pulled down the national flag.  Many felt it was a sign of shame and a wish not to be identified as the butt of the criticisms from outside.
Ashamed? The Malaysian Embassy had pulled down its flag
This time the flags were on the outside, waved by the crowd itself.  The message being that patriotism is not the preserve of BN.
The marchers made their way on towards Whitehall.  Because numbers were so much higher than expected the stewards arranged with the police to break the crowd down into three groups.  No fuss, no problems, not threats or aggression.
Message for David Cameron
The London rally was just one of nearly a hundred by Malay expats worldwide, much with the same template. However, there was a particular determination here in London to get one clear message over to David Cameron, just back from a trade visit to KL.
A lengthy letter was ceremoniously prepared by Suaram International’s London branch to be handed in to the Foreign Office by the marchers, so as to educate UK officials in a few home truths.
The main frustration has been over the British Prime Minister’s pat on the back for Najib in response to the PR stunt over repealing the ISA.
Last laugh - the students who made mockery of BN's threats to stop their grants
As the letter explained, this repressive law has been replaced with even more effective instruments against democratic political opposition and freedom of expression.
And the letter also pointed out that within days of the departure of the British PM, new provisions had been raced through parliament to make it easier than ever for officials to rig the elections unmonitored and unhindered.
If even Burma and Malawi have permitted election observers, why is it that Malaysia refuses along with a whole lot of other basic measures to prevent election rigging?
Next time Cameron seeks to praise Najib Razak could he please also seek to promote some freedom and democracy in the country he is so eager to do business with?
~ Sarawak Report