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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wanita PKR accuses Hisham of treason in Bersih clampdown

PETALING JAYA, July 7 — PKR accused Datuk Seri Najib Razak today of being unable to control his Cabinet after allowing Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to ignore the wishes of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong by continuing to obstruct the Bersih rally on Saturday.

Wanita PKR said today that Hishammuddin’s orders for the police to continue arresting supporters of the electoral reform movement and insistence that Bersih is still illegal was an act of treason against Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin “who has already consented to the peaceful gathering.”

“How can Hishammuddin say that despite the Agong meeting Bersih, they will still take action against any Bersih-related activity? This is treasonous and challenges the Agong,” said Wanita PKR vice chief Haniza Talha.

Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin (picture) added that despite Bersih already accepting Najib’s offer to move the street protest to a stadium, the prime minister “has washed his hands and seems powerless to control his own ministers.”

“Who is more powerful? Agong, Najib or Hisham?” the Ampang MP asked.
The King stepped in on Sunday to defuse tension by advising the Najib administration and Bersih 2.0 to hold consultations over the issue of free and fair elections.

But Najib said yesterday that Bersih, although still an illegal entity, will have to make an official application to the police despite the electoral reform movement agreeing to move a planned Saturday street rally to a stadium.

Both Hishammuddin and Deputy Inspector General of Police Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar had also insisted that Bersih was still outlawed and required a permit for Saturday’s planned gathering.

“No, they are still banned, still illegal. Nobody can be above the law. Just because Tuanku met them doesn’t mean they are no longer illegal,” Hishammuddin had said, referring to the audience granted by the King to Bersih yesterday, after which it accepted the stadium offer.

The police have continued to make arrests in connection with the rally, most of which revolving around yellow T-shirts with the word Bersih emblazoned on them in a clampdown that has also seen Bersih being declared illegal.

Cops, locals clash over alleged Quran desecration

Lucknow, July 6 (IANS) Police clashed with a group of Muslims in an Uttar Pradesh village Wednesday over the alleged desecration of a Quran, an event some police officials said never happened.

The clash, which led to exchange of fire, took place in Arahlatnagar Bagah village on the outskirts of Moradabad city, about 350 km from here. Some people were injured but no one was killed, officials said.
According to reports reaching the state headquarters here, the clash followed the alleged desecration of the Quran by a team of cops during the course of an investigation into a sexual harassment case.

According to the police, the team was attacked by a man whose son was allegedly behind the harassment of young girls of the locality.

"When the police retaliated, the family members of the accused spread false reports that a cop had snatched the Quran from a girl in the house and flung it. As the canard spread, people took to the streets, attacking the cops and burning government property," an official said.

By the time additional forces reached the village, a police jeep had been burnt.

PSM6 detained under ISA, claims party

(Malaysiakini) Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) believes its six members detained initially under the Emergency Ordinance (EO) for allegedly being a threat to public order have been placed under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

In a statement released late last night, PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan said this was the conclusion reached after information d jeyakumar arrested eo bukit aman bersih lawyeron the slightly different procedures and treatment accorded those detained reached the party.
The 'PSM 6' are Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar, (in stripped shirt) PSM deputy chairperson M Saraswathy, central committee members Choo Chon Kai, M Sukumaran, Sungai Siput branch secretary A Letchumanan, and Youth leader Sarat Babu.

The Emergency Ordinance is similar to the Internal Security Act, in that both allow the police to detain suspects for up to 60 days.

The police had earlier said that they had been arrested under section 3(1) of the EO related to public order, after an earlier accusation that they and 24 other PSM activists were being investigated for 'waging war against the Agong' was dropped.

Later yesterday, however, lawyer Edmund Bon, one of the defence counsel of the activists, expressed the fear, after he had met two of the detainees, that the six are now under the ISA

Numbers in place of names

"They were treated like ISA detainees. In fact Sarawathy was told she was detained under the ISA," Bon told reporters.

Arutchelvan, in his statement disclosed that all six had been told that from now they would be called merely by their numbers and not their names. When questioned, they were told that that was the ISA arrest procedure.

"Besides that, they are being kept in solitary confinement. Though psm jeyakumar and 5 others arrest under emergency ordinance 020711 1the family members were notified upon the arrest that they will be kept in lock-ups (federal police headquarters in) Bukit Aman but now it appears that they are being kept at a secret location. Most probably they are being kept in the Police Remand Centre (PRC) in Batu 5, Jalan Ipoh, KL," said Arutchelvan.

"All these clearly show that the 6 had subjected to the ISA-style arrest and not the EO. Under the EO arrest, detainees are not blind-folded and are kept in district police lock-ups.

Actions expose hollow allegations

"Bukit Aman and PRC have solitary confinement facilities used to detain ISA detainees for the first 60 days," he added.

Describing the crackdown on political activists and the subsequent justifications by the authorities based on grounds of 'security' and 'public order' as mere "manipulations", Arutchelvan said PSM calls upon the prime minister and the home minister to immediately release the EO six.

He also cited the fact that Filipino activist Romeo Castillo and South Korean university student Song Min-Young - who had earlier been detained after having been found participating in a PSM roadshow and thereafter accused of being "foreign agents" - have both been cleared of all charges and deported.

Castillo was said to have been deported on Tuesday morning, while Song was sent off last Friday.

"Now it is clear that the foreign element threat said by the Deputy (inspector-general of police) IGP (Khalid Abu Bakar) and the built-up given by Umno mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia, are just hollow allegations," said Arutchelvan.

Putrajaya freezes bus permits for Bersih weekend

KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — Putrajaya has frozen temporary bus permits for travel across the peninsula to Kuala Lumpur, in what is seen as an effort to limit the turnout for Saturday’s Bersih rally.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar confirmed the directive is effective tomorrow, saying the commission did not want traffic congestion in the capital city.

“We don’t want to add to the congestion in the city, and are taking precautionary measures,” he told The Malaysian Insider this morning.

The former Home Minister added that SPAD did not see the need for temporary permits as there were no festive occasions or school holidays that would require more buses entering the city.

But he added that normal express bus and train services including the city’s light rail transit (LRT) would continue as usual.

“The LRT will run as usual without interruptions, and also normal bus services . . . no change, it will carry on as usual,” Syed Hamid said. “I don’t foresee any problems.”

Asked if action would be taken if the SPAD directive was ignored, he expressed confidence that the bus operators were responsible and would heed the instruction, adding he just wanted to tell the public to use regular bus services to the Klang Valley.

The Road Transport Department (RTD) confirmed the directive had been issued by SPAD, which has taken over the regulation of temporary permits from RTD for buses for students and factory workers.

RTD director-general Datuk Solah Mat Hassan told The Malaysian Insider that SPAD had notified the department to take action against any such buses operating from today to Saturday.

“As SPAD has made the decision, RTD and police can take action on any buses carrying passengers without temporary permits,” he said, confirming that the decision applied nationwide. “We can stop and impound the buses.”

He added that temporary permits would usually be issued a week in advance.

Bus and city LRT services were affected in 2009 during demonstrations protesting the use of the Internal Security Act 1960, which allows for detentions without trial.

The government’s latest action came as the mercury had risen over a planned Bersih street rally after Umno Youth and Perkasa pledged to hold counter-rallies.

A government clampdown over the past week that led to the arrest of hundreds of Bersih supporters only resulted in defiance from the electoral reform movement and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders, who have strongly backed the march as it seeks to build momentum ahead of a general election expected within the year.

The opposition coalition continues to insist that up to 300,000 will attend the rally, despite Bersih accepting a government offer to move the July 9 street march to a stadium.

The offer from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Monday came after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, stepped in to diffuse tension on Sunday by asking the government and Bersih to come to the negotiation table.

Despite Bersih’s acceptance of Najib’s offer, authorities are still insisting that the coalition of 62 NGOs apply for a police permit to hold its event.

However, Information Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim announced last night that the government would not accept any application to hold the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur as it was an outlawed organisation.

Bersih has vowed to carry on, and has told its supporters to gather in the historic Stadium Merdeka this Saturday.

This is the second such rally organised by Bersih. Fifty thousand people took to the streets in 2007 in Kuala Lumpur before they were dispersed by riot police using water cannons and tear gas.

The event has been partly credited for PR’s record gains in Election 2008, when the opposition coalition was swept to power in five states, and won 82 federal parliamentary seats.

Najib and gang say the darndest things

The government has two laws for Malaysians – one for itself and those it favours, and one for the rest of the people.

By Kee Thuan Chye
The Bersih 2.0 episode has taught us a few important things. About the officials who are supposed to serve us, the rakyat.

First, it has taught us that our prime minister, Najib Tun Razak, is a coward, a passer-of-the-buck, and a man with a slippery tongue.

Although he has now offered the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) a stadium to hold its rally on July 9, he refuses to say if the government no longer considers it an illegal organisation.

“This is a point whereby we consider them illegal, they don’t consider themselves as illegal but what’s important is public interest, I’m concerned with public interest,” he says. What kind of waffle is that?
Because he is wishy-washy about this matter, he appears utterly contradictory in allowing an illegal organisation to hold a public rally in a stadium that his government will provide.

Related to this, when asked by the media whether the police would continue to clamp down on Bersih 2.0 supporters nationwide, he said, “You have to ask the police.”

Asked if supporters would be arrested for wearing Bersih T-shirts at the rally at the stadium, he again said, “That is up to the police to decide.”

He doesn’t know? He doesn’t have a say? Who is the boss? The prime minister, who is the chief executive of the country, or the police?

He dared not even answer the media’s question about whether he was called to see the King on the morning of July 5 before the latter was to meet with Bersih 2.0. His lame and characteristically evasive reply was: “When I meet the King is my right, and as the prime minister, I am the chief adviser to the King.” He wasn’t man enough to be honest and transparent.

Same old trick

Now let’s look at Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. A few days ago, on the Bersih 2.0 rally, he warned that it could lead to chaos and invite “interference from major powers”. Where did he pull this out from?

“Based on the experience in the Middle East, we know that foreign powers are all too eager to send their troops on the pretext of helping to solve the crisis,” he said. What a hoot!

How ridiculous it is to draw from the Middle East experience (is the United Nations about to authorise the bombing of Malaysia?), and how convenient to blame it on some phantom foreign powers. It’s the same old trick the government used on Hindraf in 2007, linking it to the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. In the end, not a shred of evidence was ever produced. Once bitten, twice shy.

Sure enough, what Muhyiddin said was to provide justification for six Parti Sosialis Rakyat (PSM) members who were pro-Bersih 2.0 to be detained under the Emergency Ordinance (EO), on suspicion of being involved with “foreign elements” and having “subversive tendencies”.

One of them is Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj. If you knew him for the soft-spoken, humble and dedicated helper of the poor that he is, you would laugh in Muhyiddin’s face. Jeyakumar would not be so stupid as to align himself with foreign elements to subvert the state.

Let’s turn now to Information, Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim, who disparaged “desperate parties” for making use of Communism to drum up support for the Bersih 2.0 rally.
“They see this as an opportunity to stir up dissent and seize power,” he said. “Spreading Communism is against the law. It is evil and illegal.”

What wild words would these ministers not use against a rally that was aimed at nothing more sinister than asking for electoral reform, for the good of democracy? Do they not realise we can gauge from their words the level of their intellect?

How did Rais get his PhD?

PM’s undignified talk

Malacca Chief Minister Ali Rustam called on the government to strip Bersih 2.0 chairperson S Ambiga of her citizenship. “If she thinks that we should have democracy by going on demonstrations like the way other countries do, then let her be the citizen of another country,” he said.

He also said she was against the tenets of Islam for previously defending Lina Joy in her apostasy case.
Alamak! What has the Lina Joy case got to do with the Bersih 2.0 rally? But then, that’s the Umno-BN dirty tactic, isn’t it? Turn a non-religious issue into a religious one. Never mind if it’s irrelevant. Never mind if it’s divisive.

Najib was worse in making a similar personal attack: “We know who this Ambiga is. She is the one who threatened the position of Islam.”

He must have known it was totally uncalled-for and outrageously irresponsible, but his audience was in Kelantan, comprising mostly Muslims, reportedly about 20,000 of them there.

When Ali Rustam said that sort of thing, it was inexcusable. But when Najib, the advocate of so-called 1Malaysia, said it, it was unforgivable.

More than that, he warned, “Ambiga should not think herself so strong. We will not bow down to her at all, we will fight for the truth. We will simpan kuku kita.” This is menacing; the threat is in “simpan kuku kita”, implying Najib and his supporters will hide their claws for now and use them when the time comes.
This is undignified talk unbecoming of a prime minister. He sounds like a street brawler.

Let’s save the best for last. And who else might that be but the Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, already famous for the numerous bloopers he has made in the past?

When the police started arresting people for wearing the Bersih T-shirts, without any apparent law to back them up, Hishammuddin justified it thus: “If the Bersih T-shirt is related to an illegal activity, then whatever they are wearing is illegal.”

But the rally had not happened yet, so how could it have been an illegal activity? By the same logic, how then could the Bersih T-shirts be related to an illegal activity?

Caught in a corner, Hishammuddin then resorted to declaring Bersih 2.0 illegal. One of the reasons cited was that Bersih 2.0 had been spreading propaganda with the aim of toppling the government.
What propaganda? Its eight demands for electoral reform constitute government-toppling material? Which school did this minister go to?

And now that the King has met with Bersih 2.0 and the coalition has agreed to hold its rally in a stadium provided by the government, Hishammuddin is still clamouring: “They are banned. They are still banned… just because Tuanku met them doesn’t mean they are no longer illegal.”

One would have thought that the King, in showing respect to Bersih 2.0 in granting it an audience, would have legitimised the coalition, but Hishammuddin seems to have a different view. He must have felt the egg all over his face when the King granted the audience.

His reaction is therefore understandably defensive. He has screwed up big-time, but he won’t admit his mistakes. If he has been doing his job like he should have, he would not be vilifying Bersih 2.0; he would be going after Perkasa instead.

The real troublemaker

No matter how you look at it, there’s no denying that the real trouble-maker is Perkasa. It never had a real cause to rally for on July 9 except to disrupt Bersih 2.0’s serious purpose.

And now it wants to create further trouble by applying for the same stadium that Bersih 2.0 is applying for and hold its own rally there. And the reason for it? Merely to show that “there are others who feel differently”.

Perkasa is obviously envious that the King acknowledged Bersih 2.0 by granting it an audience, so it too is applying for an audience with His Majesty. Perkasa is nothing but an envious bulldog that won’t let go until it gets to spite Bersih 2.0. And all for what? Do its members even know?

If there were one organisation Hishammuddin should act on, it would have to be Perkasa. And yet for all its antics and for all the veiled threats of violence its president, Ibrahim Ali, has been issuing since the whole episode started, the minister has said or done nothing.

Hishammuddin is plainly inept in his handling of the entire mess. And for that, he should resign or be kicked out of the Cabinet by his cousin, Najib.

In fact, both of them have clearly shown in the past two weeks that the government has two laws for Malaysians – one for itself and those it favours, and one for the rest of the people. You can guess for yourself which side is the worse off for it.

But not to worry. What we the rakyat have learned, we can use to good effect. Taking the wisdom from Najib, we can simpan our kuku for now and reveal them when the time is right.

Dramatist and journalist Kee Thuan Chye is the author of ‘March 8: Time for Real Change‘. He is a contributor to FMT.

Cops prepare for possible demos by splinter groups although street rally is called off

(The Star) - KUALA LUMPUR: Police are gearing up to face possible street demonstrations by splinter groups on Saturday although Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk S. Ambiga has called off the street rally.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Khalid Abu Bakar said police were not taking any chances although Bersih had agreed to hold its rally inside a stadium.

“But we will ensure our preventive actions including roadblocks and redirecting traffic will not cause much inconvenience to motorists.

“I have instructed all the state police chiefs and district police chiefs to review their roadblock checks. They will only be carried out if totally necessary.

  ure public order and the safety of every member of the public,” he said yesterday.
Khalid hoped the public would understand why the police needed to remain vigilant in the light of the discovery of Molotov cocktails and machetes in several locations in Gombak and the city centre two days ago.

Khalid also promised to expedite any permit application for the Bersih rally and warned that failure by the organisers to do so might result in stern police action against both the organisers and participants.

He also reminded those who planned to take part in the rally not to wear or have on them any paraphernalia related to Bersih.

He said to date, 3,256 police reports had been lodged nationwide against Bersih, 235 people have been arrested over various offences related to the rally and 29 charged in court.

Meanwhile, police recovered a bag containing four home-made shotguns in Petaling Jaya.

Police said the bag was found by a gym manager outside a shophouse in Taman Seri Manja yesterday.
Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Arjunaidi Mohamed said the shotguns were found in the bag, which was wrapped in a yellow canvas material.

Bersih insists on holding rally at Stadium Merdeka

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The organisers of the Bersih 2.0 rally have maintained that they want Stadium Merdeka as the venue for their event on Saturday despite the stadium management rejecting their application. They said they would not be swayed from their decision to gather there peacefully.

Bersih steering committee chairman Datuk S. Ambiga said they had yet to obtain a permit to use the venue.

She added that the rally would be held from 2pm to 4pm.

“We have chosen the stadium for its convenient location. There will be no rallies outside the stadium,” she told a press conference yesterday.

Ambiga also said about 10 Bersih steering committee members would proceed to Istana Negara after the rally to hand over a memorandum to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin.

She added that the group also hoped to meet Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak soon.

The group said it would deploy 5,000 marshals to assist in security matters during the rally. It also wanted the authorities to allow the people to don yellow-coloured attire without fear of arrest.

Pakatan Rakyat parties said they would not go to the streets on Saturday.

PKR vice-president Tian Chua said the party supported the decision to hold the rally in a stadium.

PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali said the party would not march in the streets to avoid possible confrontation.

Meanwhile, Perkasa which is going ahead with its proposed rally is planning to have an audience with the King while Umno Youth and Kelab Putra 1Malaysia had decided to cancel their planned Patriot Rally as a mark of respect to the King who said street demonstrations will bring more bad than good.

In a related development, the National Council of Justices of Peace Malaysia said it did not endorse its secretary-general’s involvement in a recent press conference with Ambiga.

The council’s president, Datuk Seri Clarence Malakun, said Datuk M. Ramalingam’s involvement and presence at the press conference was strictly in his own capacity.

Pakatan backs Stadium Merdeka proposal

Pakistan's Christian 'Sex-Slaves': A Case Study

by Raymond Ibrahim

Earlier we saw Egyptian preacher Huwaini and Kuwaiti political activist Mutairi call for the reinstitution of sex-slavery. Before dismissing their position as aberrant, that is "radical," for the record, here are respected Muslim scholar Majid Khadduri's thoughts on the matter:
The term spoil (ghanima) is applied specifically to property acquired by force from non-Muslims. It includes, however, not only property (movable and immovable) but also persons, whether in the capacity of asra (prisoners of war) or sabi (women and children). … If the slave were a woman, the master was permitted to have sexual connection with her as a concubine.
Still, some may seek to dismiss the notion of sex-slavery in Islam as theory, not actual practice, arguing that even if Sharia permits the sexual enslavement of infidel women, neither Egypt nor Kuwait formally permits it.

Let us therefore make an important distinction: While few Muslim governments would formally institute sex-slavery—thereby egregiously undermining their ongoing and very successful efforts at duping the West—the sort of supremacist culture Sharia breeds, wherein seizing anything from the infidel, including his women and children, is an everyday fact of life.

Thus in Huwaini's Egypt, the increasingly Islamist-leaning government does not have an institution to buy and sell infidel women; yet Egypt's Christian girls are constantly being abducted and, as one recent report puts it, "kept as virtual slaves." Likewise, in Gulf countries: while sex-slavery may not be formally recognized, the dirty little secret there is that impoverished and desperate women from places like the Philippines are often hired as "servants," effectively performing the functions of sex-slaves.

To better demonstrate that this Sharia-induced worldview permeates the Muslim world—that infidel women are seen as little better than sex-objects for Muslim men—let us briefly focus on one Muslim nation: distant Pakistan, where Christians make a tiny minority of less than 2%, and where at least 700 Christian girls are abducted annually.

Consider the following stories that never make it to the MSM—a sampling limited to just last month's grab-bag of atrocities committed against Pakistan's Christians (since anymore than that would be too immense to list):
  • A 9-year-old Christian girl was abducted, gang-raped, and murdered by repeated blows to her head, and then dumped into a canal.
  • A 24-year-old Christian woman who was kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and forced to marry a Muslim, is now reportedly on the verge of being "sold abroad."
  • At the same time that Muslims were desecrating a Christian cemetery, a Christian mother was abducted, drugged, and gang-raped all night long.
  • After brutally attacking a priest and his family, another young Christian woman was abducted and raped over several days by a man claiming to be a police officer.
  • Yet another Christian girl was raped by a Pakistani army major at gunpoint and then dumped off.
  • A powerful Muslim businessman had two Christian sisters kidnapped, forced them to convert to Islam, and marry him.
One may argue that rape is a phenomenon that affects every society, yet the fact that most women raped in Pakistan come from the mere 2% Christian minority speaks for itself.

Moreover, if you go to the links of these anecdotes, you will find that in every single case the Pakistani police either did nothing to apprehend the culprits or, more often, actually helped them while turning against the victims.

After all, even though Pakistan is not a full-blown Sharia state—you know, to save face in front of the international infidel—Sharia has nonetheless conditioned even the police to see infidel Christian women as little better than violable objects of pleasure, and to always side with fellow Muslims, according to the doctrine of wala wa bara, which commands Muslims to always be loyal to fellow Muslims against non-Muslims.

Nor are such atrocities confined to Pakistan; even in Europe, a Pakistani man recently raped a Norwegian woman, informing her that "he had the right to do exactly as he wanted to a woman."

Focusing on Pakistan has the added bonus of demonstrating one more thing: that Pakistan is a non-Arab country dispels the notion that seeing women as sex-objects is an "Arab" phenomenon; that Pakistanis do not know Arabic dispels the notion that they are being "radicalized" by the likes of Huwaini or Mutairi.
What, then, does Pakistan share with these other Arab nations that advocate the institution of sex-slavery and are in the habit of abducting and raping Christian women? Islam.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

P. Uthayakumar’s false imprisonment : Court of Appeal Indian mandore Judge & 2 UMNO Judges dismiss RM 145,000.00 award by rare High Court judge.

6/7/11 Proceeding began at 11.35 a.m before Court of Appeal Judges Dato K.N. Segara, Dato Alizatul Khair bt Osman and Dato Aziah binti Ali Senior federal Counsels Lailawathy binti Ali and Zuren Alina bt Mohd Dom appeared for the Attorney General’s Chambers. M. Manoharan appeared for P. Uthayakumar.

This case is the first of the 12 arrest of P.Uthayakumar way back in 2002,the 10th being his ISA arrest.

The matter continued to after lunch time and the Court decided to set aside the RM 145,000.00 award by the brave High Court Judge Y.A Rozilah binti Yop.

This decision once again only proves the tight control the UMNO regime have an the 97% Malay muslim dominated Judiciary to suppress Justice especially against the Indian poor.

With this decision  the record stands that in all the about 30 public interest cases filed by P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, HRP, Hindraf, death in police custody and by police shooting,squatter cases etc against the UMNO government, 100% have been dismissed even with up to RM20,000.00 costs.

Irrespective our struggle continues.

Karunai Nithi @ Compassionate Justice

Bersih to rally in Stadium Merdeka despite Cabinet refusal

KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — Bersih has vowed to gather in Stadium Merdeka for its July 9 rally despite the Cabinet’s refusal to allow them to use any stadium in the capital city, ostensibly because the electoral reform coalition has been outlawed.

Bersih said in a statement last night that it “will not for one moment be swayed from our decision to gather there” to call for free and fair elections.

Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim earlier said Putrajaya would not accept any application from Bersih to hold rallies in Kuala Lumpur while the police said they were still waiting for the movement to apply for a permit.

"Bersih 2.0 is disappointed in the manner in which the Prime Minister and his cabinet has reneged on their offer to provide a stadium for us to hold our peaceful gathering," said the group in a statement signed by all 14 members of its steering committee.

Bersih representatives led by chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan had an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, on Tuesday where they agreed to the constitutional monarch's advice to hold their rally in a stadium rather than in the streets.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak also had an audience with the King and later said he would meet with Bersih on the stadium offer but the prime minister said yesterday his offer for a stadium was on behalf of his government and the final decision lay with the police.

But a Cabinet meeting yesterday rejected the movement's bid to hold the rally in the historic Stadium Merdeka, where Malaya declared independence in 1957.

"If the Prime Minister is a man of his word, he will make the appropriate arrangements for the event to proceed peacefully at Stadium Merdeka.

"Whether or not the government abides by their principles, we the Malaysian people will always uphold ours. Our determination to exercise our constitutional right to gather peacefully for a just and reasonable cause is unwavering," Bersih said in the statement.

The movement made of 62 registered societies also pointed out that  recent statements by Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar indicated that the police would take action against those  who "do anything on July 9th beyond staying at home."

"Whatever happens between now and then, the rakyat will gather peacefully in an orderly fashion to call for clean and fair elections at Stadium Merdeka on the 9th of July at 2pm.
"We are coming, we will be peaceful and together, we will build a better Malaysia," the Bersih statement said.
Rais had said the decision to bar Bersih from rallying in the city stadiums was due to the fact that the movement was not registered with the Registrar of Societies (RoS) and safety concerns.

He added that Bersih should seek out other stadiums or locations such as Kelantan or Selangor to hold its rally this Saturday.

Dr M ‘sad’ when Malays talk about Ketuanan Melayu

Dr M said today that certain aspects of the NEP should be phased out. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he is saddened when he hears Malays talk about Ketuanan Melayu as he wanted the race to depend on its capabilities and not privileges.

The former prime minister also appeared to suggest that he had some reservations about linking the NEP with Article 153 of the Constitution and said that certain aspects of the NEP should be phased out, when responding to a question on Article 153 following his speech at the National Professors’ Congress here today.

“With regard to 153, if it’s related to Bahasa, Agama and all that, it is fine, but we have extended it to include the NEP. And certain aspects of the NEP should be phased out as soon as the people who benefit from the NEP have shown their capabilities,” he said.

“I feel very sad when I hear Malays talk about Ketuanan Melayu,” he added. “Apparently, there is Malay reserve land because we are Tuan. But to have to live in a Malay reserve is an insult because that means I’m so weak that I’m to be protected in my own country. It is not something to be proud of.”

Dr Mahathir also said that the Malays should upgrade their capabilities so that they will not have to depend on special privileges.

“Some feel they have privileges because they are superior and Tuan but if you work as a driver for somebody, the man behind you will say ‘Tuan please take me here and there,’” he said.

The topic of race-based privileges and affirmative action has long been a controversial topic in Malaysia with its proponents pointing to Article 153 of the Constitution, which touches on the special position of Malays, and the more recent concept of “Ketuanan Melayu”, or Malay supremacy, to justify economic privileges.

Critics, however, say that the whole system of privileges has been abused, and is driving a wedge between the races — on top of eroding the country’s competitiveness.

Dr Mahathir himself has often appeared to contradict himself by fast-tracking Malay businessmen into big business and tolerating race-based quotas for initiatives like import licenses during his administration but at the same time, criticising Malays for not being more enterprising and hardworking.

Dr M: Voters may turn against BN

The former prime minister said that the government may have problems with voters because of its Bersih crackdown.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government’s heavy-handed crackdown on Bersih 2.0 (Coalition for Free and Fair Elections) may affect its chances in the next general election, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

He added that voters were likely to turn against the Barisan Nasional if they felt that the government was riding over their rights.

“Whatever the government does, will be reflected during the election. If they (voters) feel that this government is oppressive, maybe the government will lose votes,” he said at a press conference at the Putra World Trade Centre here today.

“But there are some people who think that the government is too soft… for example, (people have asked) ‘Why should they allow the demonstration inside a hall?’”

Mahathir was, however, evasive on whether the government had overreacted in its crackdown on Bersih, calling it “a matter of opinion”.

“I think the government thinks it should crack down, some people think it should not crack down. Even within the government, there are some for, and some against; this is normal,” he said.

In recent weeks, the government has come down hard on Bersih activists and supporters.

Adopting a hardliner stance, the police have nabbed many for merely wearing Bersih T-shirts. Bersih’s Petaling Jaya office was raided without a warrant, with several of the group’s organisers called in for questioning.

Thirty Parti Socialis of Malaysia (PSM) activists, including Sungai Siput MP Dr D Jeyakumar, were arrested for possessing T-shirts, with the faces of communist leader on them. Six of them have been re-arrested under the Emergency Ordinance (EO).

The home ministry has also been unrelenting in its treatment of Bersih, continuing to regard it as illegal, despite the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin’s acknowledgement of the NGO.

Detrimental effect

On demonstrations, Mahathir said that they could only be allowed if there was no other recourse available.
“If you want to have a demonstration, do it when there is no other means of getting your views across,” he said, adding that Bersih’s electoral demands could have been settled “in other ways”.

He also said that the right to demonstrate was a freedom permitted in a democracy.

However, using Egypt as an example, he warned that continuous rallies could have a detrimental effect on a country.

“You have to be careful whenever you do this kind of things. I just returned from Egypt… they had a big demonstration to overthrow the government. But after that, they are still having demonstrations,” he said.
Mahathir added that as a result of the constant demonstrations there, the country had experienced an economic decline.

He also said that he clamped down on demonstrations on both sides of the political divide when he was in power.

“During 1986, when Umno wanted to have a show of strength, they wanted to bring in 500,000 people to Kuala Lumpur. We stopped it. Not only the opposition, we also stopped the government party as well,” he said.

On his daughter Marina Mahathir’s scathing comments against the government’s treatment of Bersih, he was evasive.

“I don’t often agree with my daughter, but that is her right. I give the freedom of democracy to her. I don’t have an opinion (about her),” he said to laughter.

Marina had previously condemned the government as a “third-world country”, and attacked certain parties for their personal attacks against Bersih chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan.

‘Meeting king doesn’t make rally legal’

Despite Ambiga’s meeting with the Agong, the home minister stands firm on the Bersih ban

PUTRAJAYA: Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said today that the July 9 Bersih rally is still illegal despite a compromise reached to hold it in a stadium rather than on the streets.

“Just because Tuanku (Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Abidin) met them (Bersih organisers) doesn’t mean the rally is no longer illegal,” he told a press conference here.

Hishammuddin said that the organisers did not have to apply for a police permit under the Bersih banner as there were other avenues to do so.

Bersih, a coalition of 62 NGOs, was declared illegal by the Registrar of Societies based on the Attorney-General’s advice.

“We are all governed by the laws of the land,” said Hishammuddin, adding that Bersih should apply for a permit as soon as possible so it could be processed swiftly.

He also said that Bersih chairman S Ambiga had agreed to move the rally from the streets to the stadium before she met the King, as one of the conditions of the meeting.

“Nobody can just walk into the palace,” Hishammuddin said.

‘Rally will go on’

When asked about the situation of those arrested, he said it was for the law to decide, and that his main concern was the safety of the majority of the people.

“Bersih can have an assembly and meet, shout and scream as long as other people are not affected.
“This is an avenue for them to voice their concerns in a safe and orderly manner. They will be responsible if anything untoward happens,” said Hishammuddin.

Calling the compromise “a move forward”, he promised that if Bersih received a permit, the authorities would not stop the gathering.

Bersih agreed yesterday to move its street protest calling for clean and fair elections into a stadium, preferably the 50,000-seater Stadium Merdeka.

However, Ambiga clarified that these demands would be an ongoing process but the “rally on July 9 will go on no matter what”.

The police have also arrested more than 100 people in connection with the rally, mostly for wearing yellow Bersih T-shirts.

The King intervened on Sunday and advised the government and Bersih to negotiate the issue of free and fair elections.

July 9 rally: Stalemate over stadium

Bersih wants Stadium Merdeka, but the stadium says it has other events planned for that day. Now the ball is in the PM's court.

PETALING JAYA: Another stalemate is in the making over the controversial Bersih 2.0 rally scheduled for July 9 – this time over Stadium Merdeka.

This morning, Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan said the coalition decided to hold its rally in the iconic stadium, where the nation’s independence was proclaimed more than five decades ago.

However, the stadium’s booking officer has rejected the request.

In an earlier press conference, Ambiga said she is confident that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will agree to the rally being held in Stadium Merdeka.

“We decided it will be in Stadium Merdeka from 2pm-4pm. A delegation of not more than 10 members of the Bersih 2.0 steering committee will then go to Istana Negara to hand over a memorandum,” she added.
Asked on Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s offer yesterday for Bersih to use the Shah Alam stadium, committee member Dr P Subramaniam justified the choice (of Stadium Merdeka) based on the easy access to public transport.

Ambiga also told the press that the committee hopes to meet Najib today to obtain a green light for the event on Saturday.

The former Bar Council president also extended her invitation to Umno Youth to join the rally.
“We are inviting all to join, including Umno Youth. We are willing to discuss with the wing,” said Ambiga in response to a question on Umno Youth Khairy Jamaluddin’s offer to discuss the issue.

‘Perkasa also welcome’

Asked about Perkasa which is against Bersih, she said: “If Perkasa supports Bersih, they are most welcome.”

Bersih 2.0 also called for the release of all those detained in connection with the rally, and demanded that a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) be set up to look into electoral reforms.

“The RCI was raised during our meeting with the King (yesterday),” Ambiga said, adding that the RCI should be made up of individuals of high calibre representing all the stakeholders.

On the detention of the six Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) activists under the Emergency Ordinance, Ambiga urged the authorities to “charge them in court or release them immediately”.

“Stop the harassment and pressure,” she said in reference to the arrests made by the police on Bersih supporters.

Bersih also demanded that all eight demands for free and fair elections be fulfilled before the 13th general election.

The demands include electoral roll clean-up, postal vote reforms, and minimum 21-day campaign period.
“All these are doable. We also have long-term reform plans,” said Ambiga without elaborating.

Stadium says no

In a statement issued later, the steering committee said it is disappointed that the stadium’s booking officer cited “unclear reasons” to turn down the coalition’s application.

“We are disappointed that the booking officer in question began providing a number of excuses as to why the booking cannot be made.

“Among the reasons provided were ‘internal management sports event’ and ‘renovations’ – these despite that until very recently, there were plans to hold the ‘Konsert Raksasa 2′ on July 9.”

However, the committee said that it will not back down.

“We have decided that Stadium Merdeka is the only location that appropriately meets these criteria and take the firm position that to demonstrate his sincerity and good faith, the prime minister must as a matter of honour make good on his offer to let us use an appropriate stadium immediately.”

Calling it an unacceptable effort to frustrate Bersih 2.0, the coalition however is optimistic that Najib’s administration will give it the go ahead.

“We have no doubt that the strong leadership by the top executive will not tolerate any procedural obstacles to a speedy approval.”

In a related development, Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan was reported as objecting to Bersih 2.0 using Stadium Merdeka.

After an audience with the King yesterday, Bersih 2.0 announced that it would hold its rally indoors and not take it to the streets.

Pakatan tetap sokong Bersih walaupun Menteri kata haram

Hishammuddin bersikap keterlaluan apabila mengenepika semangat rundingan yang dibuat bersama Yang Dipertuan Agong, kata Anwar Ibrahim.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Rakyat mengulangi pendirian menyokong sepenuhnya bperhimpunan Bersih pada 9 Julai ini di Stadium Merdeka walaupun Menteri Dalam Negeri Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, menyifatkan himpunan itu sebagai haram.
Ketua Pembangkang Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim berkata, Hishammuddin bersikap keterlaluan apabila mengenepikan semangat rundingan yang dibuat bersama Yang Dipertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin dengan memberi pelbagai alasan agar perhimpunan tidak diadakan di stadium.

Anwar turut membuat gesaan ke atas Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) agar mengambil semangat rundingan bersama Agong supaya tidak mengeruh keadaan lagi.

“Kami Pakatan Rakyat sokong sepenuhnya perhimpunan Bersih di Stadium Merdeka dan kerah 300,000 rakyat untuk berhimpun.

Setelah dengar nasihat Agong masih ada gerombolan KDN (Kementerian Dalam Negeri) yang cuba sabotaj persefahaman yang tercapai.

“Kami kesal dengan kenyataan dan sikap keterlaluan Menteri KDN yang menyimpang dari semangat rundingan dan seolah-olah tidak mempedulikan rundingan dengan Seri Paduka dan mahu semangat itu diketepikan begitu saja.

“Saya turut menggesa PDRM ambil kira semangat ini dan jangan keruhkan keadaan dengan buat tangkapan ke atas ahli Pakatan. Ahli PAS-DAP-PKR ditangkap kerana pakai baju kuning.

“Hari ini saya pakai kuning…..tapi masih belum kena tangkap,” katanya dalam sidang media selepas mesyuarat Majlis Pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat di ibu negara hari ini.

Perhimpunan dapat perkenan Agong

Ketika ditanya pemberita mengenai permit, Anwar berkata pihak perkara itu sudah mendapat perkenan Agong dan pihak polis juga sedia maklum mengenai perhimpunan tersebut.

Menyentuh mengenai insiden terbaru apabila pihak polis menemui beberapa bilah parang dan bom petrol semalam, Anwar berkata Pakatan sentiasa menerima tempias tersebut.

“Kami sudah biasa dengan taktik ini. Tiap kali tuntutan……keris, pisau dikeluarkan. Warna cukup teratur dan warna sama sahaja. Lihat sahaja insiden 1974 dan 1998 ada ejen provokator. Ada yang bakar tayar…..lepas tu salahkan Pakatan,” katanya.

Sementara itu Timbalan Presiden PAS Mohamad Sabu berkata perhimpunan bukan perkara baru di negara ini, namun Bersih menampakkan kelainan.

“Pegawai tinggi PDRM kata ada pertumpuhan darah dan tidak benar perhimpunan yang mencemarkan negara. Tapi lihat seperti di Pulau Pinang ada kumpulan bawa itik, pukul wartawan. Tapi masih tiada kenyataan daripada pegawai tertinggi polis dan KDN,” katanya.

Mat Sabu yang merupakan Timbalan Pengerusi Bersih menjelaskan perhimpunan hanya akan diadakan di Stadium tanpa sebarang gerakan jalanan seperti  yang diuar-uarkan sebelum ini.

Bagi Penasihat DAP Lim Kit Siang, beliau berharap selepas pertemuan dengan PDRM semalam pihak berkuasa terbabit dapat menjalankan tugas dengan baik.

“Harap PDRM dapat menjaga keselamatan sepanjang perhimpunan dengan baik. Polis sepatutnya menghormati semangat rundingan Agong dan menjaga keamanan perhimpunan pada Sabtu ini,” katanya.

Q & A with Ibrahim Ali

Bersih 2.0 will happen at Stadium Merdeka on July 9th

Bersih 2.0 is disappointed in the manner in which the Prime Minister and his cabinet has reneged on their offer to provide a stadium for us to hold our peaceful gathering.

As members of civil society that are committed to principles of integrity, we fully intend to abide by the advice of Tuanku DYMM SPB YDP Agong and hold our gathering in a stadium to state our demand for clean and fair elections.

We have chosen Stadium Merdeka as the best venue for this event, due to its symbolic nature and central location, and we will not for one moment be swayed from our decision to gather there peacefully.

If the Prime Minister is a man of his word, he will make the appropriate arrangements for the event to proceed peacefully at Stadium Merdeka.

Whether or not the government abides by their principles, we the Malaysian people will always uphold ours. Our determination to exercise our constitutional right to gather peacefully for a just and reasonable cause is unwavering.

Recent statements by the Deputy IGP seem to indicate that the police fully intend to take action against us if we do anything on July 9th beyond staying at home.

However, patriotic Malaysians who want nothing but the ability to choose our leaders through genuinely democratic means will never be cowered by the unjust and immoral exercise of power. Our first and foremost responsibility is to our future and our children, and we have resolved that they shall inherit a nation ruled by not by fear, but by the principles of justice.

Whatever happens between now and then, the rakyat will gather peacefully in an orderly fashion to call for clean and fair elections at Stadium Merdeka on the 9th of July at 2pm. We are coming, we will be peaceful and together, we will build a better Malaysia.

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

The members of the BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee are:
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Chair), 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.

Malaysian Governance 101: How to Deal with an Impending Street Demonstration for Electoral Reform

Author: Soo Tian Lee
Photo from 2007 Bersih RallyIn memory of the late Peter Falk, this article shall loosely mimic the format of the detective TV series Columbo. The answer is revealed from the beginning, and the issue to be dealt with is how do we get from not knowing much at all to knowing enough to come to a possible conclusion at the end. In this case, the factually correct (but not necessarily tactically sound) answer to the problem of a planned street demonstration on electoral reform in Malaysia is: Arrest the socialists, ban a colour and a word, then get the masses off the streets and into a stadium.

Much ink has been spilled — both virtual and material — by the Malaysian press and blogging community in the last couple of weeks on the subject of a street demonstration that was to be held this Saturday, 9 July 2011, in Kuala Lumpur to push for reforms to the electoral system. The protest was called by a coalition of around 62 NGOs and civil society initiatives known as Bersih 2.0. The word ‘bersih’ simply means ‘clean’ in Malay(sian), and the version number indicates that it is the successor organisation of the group that organised a similar demonstration on 10 November 2007 on the very same issue.

The coalition’s 8 demands are simple and in principle almost impossible to argue against, from putting the electoral roll in order to granting ‘free and fair access to [the] media.’ Some may have been surprised, then, at the hostile response from the Malaysian government. 30 members of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) were arrested on 25 June ostensibly for Bersih-related activities (whereas they were actually on a ‘road trip’ campaign only peripherally related to the Bersih rally although with a certainly more subversive — and in my view more laudable — main demand, namely for the ‘retirement’ of the present regime). The police found in the bus they were travelling in t-shirts with images of former Malaysian communist guerrillas. This was deemed by the authorities as potential evidence that the PSM activists were attempting to ‘revive the communist ideology’ and they were thus remanded to investigate a potential charge of ‘waging war against the king’ under s.122 of the Penal Code. Just as some may have concluded that it was 21st century McCarthyism that was the reason behind these arrests and not the Bersih rally, the entire coalition was accused of supporting communism. On 2 July, six of the 30 detained were released, but were then promptly rearrested under the Emergency Ordinance, which allows for indefinite detention without trial, thanks to the four states of emergency which have not been lifted since (in the case of the earliest) 1964. This quadruple state of exception is a clear illustration of Agamben’s insight on the normalisation and permanency in today’s world of what should in theory be a provisional state of affairs.

One might hazard a few guesses as to why the powers that be chose to target in particular a small socialist party rather than members of the three large opposition parties which make up the People’s Pact (Pakatan Rakyat). The motive for the crackdown was certainly to strike fear into the general populace. The Socialist Party, although being a tight-knit group made up of very dedicated activists, does not command the influence among most Malaysians that the three big opposition parties do. Also, anti-communist sentiments are still present among the general population due to the hegemonic viewpoint arising from the defeat of the guerrillas. Hence, it was a tactical move to discredit Bersih by attempting to link it to communism. Yet another dubious claim was that overseas Christians were manipulating the coalition due to donations Bersih received from some Western non-governmental organisations. In a country where the dominant contradiction within its political system is that of race and religion rather than the left/right ideological divide, the allegation of outside interference by foreign Christians was meant to push the panic button among the Malay Muslim majority, due to the rather delicate situation between Muslims and the Christian minority as a result of recent controversies, the most infamous being one triggered by the use of the word ‘Allah’ in Bibles. Even before this claim was made, two right-wing groups — UMNO Youth, the zealous youth wing of the dominant party in the government coalition and Perkasa, a National Front-like organisation founded to defend ‘Malay rights’ — had pledged to hold counter-demonstrations.

Another step that was taken by the Malaysian authorities to combat Bersih was to effectively ban anything with the colour yellow and the word Bersih from being worn in public. Yellow was the colour the first manifestation of Bersih chose for its official symbol. The symbolism was and is, in a sense, potentially reactionary as it was chosen due to it being the royal colour. The rhetoric surrounding the first demo in 2007 was that Malaysians were petitioning the King to intervene and push for electoral reform, hence the wearing of yellow (some parallels can obviously be drawn with the Yellow Shirt movement in Thailand). This time the appeal to royal power appears to be less emphasised, but the plan was still to march to the royal palace and deliver a memorandum to the monarch. You know that a country is in a bad situation when citizens have to beseech a feudal institution with only residual power to take action and influence the ‘democratically-elected’ government of the day (or, in the case of Malaysia, the government of 54 years running, that is, from independence). But in the case of Bersih 2.0, the arrests of more than a hundred people for simply wearing a t-shirt shows once again the absurdity of the UMNO/BN regime.

Three days ago, however, the King himself issued a statement on the matter, which took some by surprise due to the normally highly restrained attitude of the palace in public affairs. He called for Bersih and the government to hold talks on the issue of electoral reform in order to avoid the impending street demonstration, cautioning ‘the people’ against “creat[ing] problems that will cause the country to lag behind.” The chairperson of Bersih, Datuk S. Amiga, stated in an interview that should the King request that the demonstration be called off, Bersih would heed his advice. On the same day, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said that the government would not object to the rally taking place in a stadium. Early in the afternoon yesterday the news broke: the organisers had met with the King and had agreed to holding a rally in a stadium rather than a march in the streets. As of the time of writing, talks to confirm this option are imminent, but have yet to take place.

The Malaysian Insider ran an editorial yesterday analysing the ‘winners and losers’ of the stadium compromise. Their conclusion appeared to be that the Bersih 2.0 organisers, the King and the ordinary Malaysian on the street have come out on top, whereas various government officials including the police, as well as the leader of Perkasa, have emerged as the ‘losers’. The subtext appeared to be that the stadium option has allowed the campaign to become even more mainstream, and other comments made by various quarters in blog comments and listservs seem to indicate a belief that a stadium rally would allow for more people to participate as some would be worried about, for example, bringing their children to an outlawed street demonstration.

Those of us who have been involved in protests in London, however, may see a parallel in this case with the pens opposite Downing Street on Whitehall. For the information of those who have not taken part in a Downing Street demonstration, these pens (made up of metal barricades) are the official ‘protest spot’ where people are moved to by the police in order to not block, among other things, the camera-trigger-happy tourists who come to pay tribute to Yes, Minister. The danger in conforming to restricting one’s site of protest is simple: one has lost the battle in what some have termed ‘locational conflict’. Don Mitchell in his article ‘From Free Speech to People’s Park’ discusses this concept with reference to the Free Speech Movement and the People’s Park struggles which took place in the 1960s in Berkeley, California. In the first case, which is the one more relevant to the situation with Bersih 2.0, students of UC Berkeley battled for the right to set up stalls and disseminate political literature in a strategic place they valued, rather than a new, and inferior, location prescribed by the university authorities and which was deemed a form of indirect censorship. In the case of the Bersih rally, by acquiescing to governmental pressure (both from the Executive and from the King) to shift locations, the organisers have surrendered the streets, a key site of struggle since urbanism has concentrated people and power in cities. Alas, there will be no cry this Saturday on the streets of Kuala Lumpur akin to the famous “Whose Streets? Our streets!” One also is reminded of the rally against the hikes in petrol prices which took place a couple of years ago in a stadium. Billed in a sense as a family-friendly event, it ultimately was a non-event, drawing a far smaller crowd than hoped for. The Bersih 2.0 rally is different, no doubt. It is far less outwardly partisan and based on a burning issue that goes beyond a simple, immediate grievance. We will have to see how Saturday plays out.

The most ridiculous allegation made by the apologists against the Bersih 2.0 rally, however, came from a former opposition politician, Dr Chandra Muzaffar. In a statement published in the Malaysian Star, Muzaffar alleged that there was an allegation that if the Bersih rally takes place in a stadium “certain elements in Bersih would [potentially turn] the stadium to a Tahrir Square, with demonstrators camping there day and night for weeks on end.” What this ostensibly astute political pundit failed to recognise is that the symbolic power of the recent square demonstrations around the world comes from their strategic public location and visibility. Who cares about a rally in a bloody stadium walled off from the rest of the world? Certainly not the governmental authorities. If Malaysians want to occupy a square it should be Dataran Merdeka, the site of the proclamation of independence.

Hishamuddin Rais, a Malaysian writer, film-maker and activist who lived as an exile in the West for 20 years after escaping detention without trial in the 1970s due to his involvement in the Baling peasant protests as a student agitator, had a collection of his writings published in 2002 titled Pilihanraya atau Pilihan Jalan Raya. The clever title translates literally as ‘Elections or the Street Option’. It is clear from the most recent developments that the Bersih 2.0 coalition and those happy with the planned move to the stadium have an obsession with the former as their driving force. Although the campaign was always a liberal election-centric initiative, it would have been interesting if these two opposing strategies for change in the Malaysian context were united once again in a street demonstration for fairer elections, which for Malaysian radicals would be a part of a minimum programme. If the 2007 Bersih rally — deemed by many as a pivotal event leading up to the March 2008 ‘political tsunami’ where the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time since 1969 — had been confined to a stadium, free from chanting protesters, water cannons and the brutal Federal Reserve Unit, such sanitisation would arguably have resulted in a loud but ultimately empty display of rhetoric. Yes, Bersih 2.0 have in a sense won out against the government and the right-wingers, but only time will tell whether it was a pyrrhic victory, and all for a cause that at the end of the day will simply allow the smoke and mirrors of representative democracy to persist — a tale that has always been full of sound and fury, but signifying almost nothing if one cares about the creation of a society not dominated by capital and hierarchy.

PERKASA mahu berhimpun, pohon mengadap Agong

Gov't briefing on Bersih threat comes unstuck

(Malaysiakini) A briefing yesterday by the police and the Election Commission meant to give credence to government claims that the planned Bersih march was fraught with the threat of violence came unstuck when it ran into a thicket of sceptical questions from those being briefed.

Present at the briefing which was held in a leading hotel in Kuala Lumpur even as Bersih's top leaders were being granted an audience by the king at Istana Negara, were some 30 members comprising leaders of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Suhakam, and a couple of NGOs.

Arranged by the Prime Minister's Department, the briefing was supposed to have been headed by the inspector-general of police, but he was not able to make it.

In the event, senior officials from the Special Branch deputised for him. But neither they nor the Election Commission chief, who led off the briefing, succeeded in parrying the sceptical thrust of the questions they drew from the briefed.

Sources who attended say by the time the wobbly affair ended four-and-a-half hours after its start at 2.30pm, the government side was left wondering if they had severely overestimated the credulity of the attendees.

The briefing, moderated by Minister in the PM's Department Koh Tsu Koon, was prompted by a statement from the MCCBCHST issued days earlier that affirmed Bersih's right to engage in a peaceful demonstration of their concerns, which were for more integrity and transparency to the electoral process.

NONEIn an apparent attempt to dispel doubts about the integrity of the electoral process generated by Bersih's much publicised qualms, Aziz Yusof, the EC chair, began yesterday's briefing by holding forth on the authenticity of measures instituted by the EC.

But when he suddenly and over a lengthy span engaged moderator Koh in a private tete-a-tete, seemingly oblivious of his audience, an irate attendee chided him and said the episode was emblematic of the EC's lack of independence and undue deference to the powers-that-be.

“You are more interested in pleasing the government than in clearing our doubts,” the EC chair was chastised.

Stung and chagrined, Aziz's brief careened to a halt.

Why Jeyakumar, not Ibrahim Ali?

But top-notch personnel from the Special Branch who followed in Aziz's wake did not fare better.

Senior Assistant Commissioner Soffian Mohd Makinuddin, chief assistant director, Department of Extremist Threats, painted a picture of explosive peril lurking in the Bersih march if it were permitted to be held.

He told the audience investigations and arrests thus far had led police to believe that it was hazardous to national security to allow the Bersih march to take place.

His spiel unravelled the minute he was queried as to why - if all he had depicted of the Bersih threat were true - a rabble-rousing Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa was allowed to be free to vent his inflammatory spleen in a supposedly fraught public arena.

Soffian clamped up at the query and became more taciturn when the same questioner followed up by arguing that the detention of Parti Sosialis Malaysia MP for Sungai Siput, Dr Jeyakumar Deveraj, under the Emergency Ordinance 1969 was an abomination given Ibrahim's freedom to disport in incendiary fashion.

With both the EC chair and the Special Branch luminary down for the count, the leaders from MCCBCHST and the other NGOs stepped up to the plate and drove home the point that the problem with the country was the lack of institutional independence and integrity.

Sans public confidence in institutions like the police force and the EC, they held, questions would always recur about the integrity of an exercise to establish justice and assure the credibility of the elected.

At this point what began as a briefing to bolster the government's credibility turned out to be an affair where the reasons for its lack thereof were aired.

The supposedly transformed, from the famed Government Transformation Programme, ironically became aware of the need for self-transformation.

Police To Decide On Use Of Merdeka Stadium For July 9 Rally, Says Najib

KLANG, July 6 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Wednesday the decision to allow the July 9 rally at the Merdeka Stadium rested with the police.

"We have left it to the authorities, particularly the police, to decide in terms of security and so on," he told a news conference after launching the Malaysian Chinese Women Entrepreneurs Foundation, here.

He said any official application from the organiser to hold the rally must fulfil conditions, one of which was that the organisation must be a registered one.

The organiser should also adhere to the conditions pertaining to security imposed by the police, he added.

Replying to a question, Najib said: "Bersih is illegal. It has never been registered." Bersih 2.0 is a group asking for changes to the electoral system.

Asked when he was meeting Datuk S. Ambiga, the chairman of Bersih 2.0, the prime minister said: "I didn't say I will be meeting Ambiga. The government can mean anyone; government doesn't mean me specifically."

Asked whether he had received any request from Bersih 2.0 for a meeting with him, Najib said there was none.

In KUALA LUMPUR, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim suggested that the organiser of the July 9 rally hold the gathering in a stadium in one of the states administered by the opposition.

They could hold the gathering in Penang, Kelantan, Kedah or Selangor, he said, adding that stadiums in states administered by the Barisan Nasional (BN) should only be considered as an alternative.

Dr Rais spoke to reporters after chairing a weekly meeting of the communications brigade at his office. The communications brigade comprises agencies engaged in communications operations under the ministry.

The minister said that as Bersih 2.0 was illegal, the application for a permit to hold the rally in the Merdeka Stadium, Negara Stadium and the Bukit Jalil Stadium could not be entertained.

He said the application for the rally should be made by an individual or a legal non-governmental organisation.

Dr Rais said the opinion of the people who had made thousands of police reports against the planned rally should also be considered by the authorities.

He also said that the outcome of the audience granted to Ambiga by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin at the Istana Negara yesterday had been manipulated by way of unhealthy politics which was not good for Malaysia.

Bersih 2.0: Checkmate?

This is something I wrote for Asia Times:

An air of nervousness has hung over Malaysia in sight of a potential confrontation between civil society organizers and pro-government opponents. A ”walk for democracy” planned for July 9 by a coalition of civil society groups known as Bersih 2.0 to campaign for clean and fair elections sparked a government crackdown reminiscent of the country’s old authoritarian ways.
Authorities pre-emptively declared the event illegal and have arrested as many as 200 Bersih supporters, many for simply wearing the coalition’s trademark yellow t-shirts. Police have questioned people speaking in public or distributing leaflets about the planned rally. They also turned up in numbers to thwart a nationwide Bersih roadshow to promote the event, which aims to attract hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. Full article on Asia Times website.