Archive for April, 2012

Bersih 3.0: My side of the story

By Adam Tan
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 30, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — Before telling my story, I would first like to clarify where I stand. I stand as a Malaysian, I stand as an individual who believes that Malaysia is a beautiful place, and deserves good governance.

I joined the Bersih 3.0 rall, not only to champion for free and fair elections. I joined the rally to lend support to many fellow countrymen who believe Malaysia deserves good governance. I joined the rally because I believe that, as an individual, I can make a difference. I joined the rally because I am Malaysian.

There, I joined the rally. Should any of you find it offensive, go read something else.

By now, you should have already read the news and will most likely be talking about it over the coming weeks, and have your stories to tell. Glad to have walked with you along Jalan Tun Perak, and glad to have ran with you along Jalan Raja Laut.

This is my story. Read the rest of this entry »


Post-Bersih 3 Reflections for Free and Fair Elections

by Proham
30th April 2012

Proham observes that the Bersih3 gathering on April 28, 2012 has ushered in an unstoppable move towards greater democratic freedoms in Malaysia. It is clear from the rally that the climate offear which once dominated citizens’ action in the past has been lifting.

Proham recognises that ordinary citizens are now demanding for greater public space for expressions of discontentment and exercising their human rights as citizens of Malaysia. The unprecedented size of the crowds who flocked into the city, defying authority’sban and restrictions reveal this new growing trend.

Proham’s analysis reveals that on the whole , the citizens on the streets came in peace and conducted themselvesin a peaceful way even extending peace flowers to enforcement officials. Proham also notes that the Police on the whole exercised much restraint and the enforcementofficials must be commended for this. Read the rest of this entry »


What’s next for ‘bangkit rakyat’?

— Clarence Sim
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 30, 2012

APRIL 30 — Catch-22 was one of the books I read when I was in secondary school. It was tough to make any association to my life or surroundings back then, but the plot seems much more apparent these days.

I was caught off guard by the tear gas canisters being fired, round after round, at Masjid Jamek area. I kept asking my friends, “Did you hear any warning siren?” And all I got was a shake of the head.

Tear gas was first used in 1914 and largely during World War I. Although the substance then was much more hazardous than what we experienced on Saturday, it is still questionable as humane technique to disperse a crowd.

The substance can remain air-borne for some time and can travel depending on wind direction. The common effects include extreme irritation to the eyes, itching sensation in the mouth and nostrils, burning sensation in lungs and skin, and difficulty in breathing.

Yes, some protesters broke through the barricades and headed towards Dataran Merdeka. No, it still does not warrant the police or the Federal Reserve Unit firing tear gas canisters or water cannons at them.

There should be a less confrontational approach to handling a handful of rowdy protesters. More so amid innocent protesters and media personnel. Read the rest of this entry »


Witnessing the death of democracy

By Shazuan Ali
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 30, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — Unlike Bersih 2.0, I would call myself a coward back then. I am very supportive and committed towards free and fair election but watched live streams at home, like a coward in front of my laptop.

Only after I read the #bersihstories, did I tell myself I should’ve been there! I should be there with my fellow Malaysian friends. It is not fair for them to fight to better my future while I sit at home in comfort.

So I made a promise to myself, if Bersih 3.0 is necessary, I will be there!

Bersih 3.0 spread fast. I started to cancel my plans for vacation and find anyone who was going to join the sit-in protest.

I was lucky as one of my colleagues was going. On the eve of the fateful day, I browse for updates of the protest and found out thousands of people already in the city. I was pumped up by the news.

The next morning, I woke up as early as 5am. I didn’t want to be stuck in any situation that could stop me from being at Bersih 3.0. Read the rest of this entry »


Bouquet of barbed wire for Dataran

Mariam Mokhtar | Apr 30, 2012


The irony of the Bersih 3.0 rally was that it was Ambiga Sreenevasan and not premier Najib Abdul Razak, who managed to unite the rakyat and give true meaning to his favourite slogan, ‘1Malaysia’.

Ambiga united all Malaysians. They had one goal. How it must have hurt Najib that she had more magnetism than he does.

If democracy in Malaysia is like a dead man, then Bersih 3.0 successfully resurrected him. It just remains for the rakyat to nurse the dying democracy back to good health.

It is doubtful that the PM or any other Umno politician, could have attracted the size of crowd that filtered into Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. It is inconceivable that they could have united Malaysians on a national and global scale. Umno just manages to divide the races. If Umno cannot see this, then it is either too obtuse or in denial. Read the rest of this entry »


Bersih 3.0: BN accountable for police brutality

— Tommy Thomas
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 30, 2012

APRIL 30 — When a government uses the police to tear gas, fire water cannons and physically intimidate large numbers of its people, it loses its moral legitimacy to continue governing. A repressive government does not deserve to rule. Barisan National’s brutal handling of Bersih 3.0’s proposed sit-in on Saturday, April 28 crossed the tipping point of acceptable behaviour, and the people of Malaysia must, by a large majority, punish it at the next general election. The Najib administration has forfeited any moral right to govern Malaysia!

The barricading of Dataran Merdeka

Is it not an irony of the highest degree that a place in central Kuala Lumpur that bears the name “Merdeka” is closed to its people? Much of the disinformation that emanates from our highly controlled mass media stated that the government had offered Stadium Merdeka and other stadiums to Bersih, which “unreasonably” turned them down, and “stubbornly” insisted on Dataran Merdeka. From the civil liberties perspective, such government propaganda misses the whole point. Freedom of assembly, association and expression belong to the people. They decide to exercise such freedoms at places and times of their choosing. In all the places in Malaysia outside Kuala Lumpur, venues chosen by Bersih were accepted by the authorities — all these rallies occurred without incident. Likewise, in the 80 cities across the globe, events organised by Global Bersih were held at venues chosen by the organisers, and were also held peacefully.

Why should an unelected, unaccountable civil servant called the Datuk Bandar order thousands of Malaysians not to congregate at the Padang where Merdeka was proclaimed some 55 years ago. Who is he to deny us our fundamental freedom entrenched in the Constitution? The best argument for the return of local government elections is the wholly unacceptable behaviour of the Datuk Bandar last week.

Further, what gave the police the right to put up barbed-wire barricades around the Dataran? Read the rest of this entry »


The inconvenience of standing up to be counted

by Farah Fahmy
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 29, 2012

APRIL 29 — I read the news with a feeling of déjà vu. Here we are, in April 2012, yet the news feels very much like it was July 2011.

Another Bersih demonstration ends in chaos. Tear gas. Water cannons. Allegations of police brutality. Allegations of the mob descending into violence. Rumours of people dying.

In the aftermath of July’s Bersih demonstration, I wrote an open letter to our prime minister. Although I was half-expecting what happened to happen, what fills me with dismay is that I could write virtually the same letter again after Saturday’s events, and it would still be valid.

The reaction of so many Malaysians towards Saturday’s events is also disheartening. I don’t expect everyone to support Bersih. Any person or organisation that dares to take a stand over something is bound to attract both supporters and detractors; that’s just normal. Read the rest of this entry »


Yes, Prime Minister, we need answers!

by Dr Hsu Dar Ren
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 30, 2012

APRIL 30 — Two days after Bersih 3.0, and after viewing many videos and photos on the Internet, I would like to pose a few questions to the authorities, specifically the prime minister, who missed a golden chance to walk his talk (and claim to be a reformist).

1. When was the decision to fire tear gas made? Was it a spur-of-the-moment decision or was it made much earlier?

2. Why was the phone scrambler being used at about 2pm (around which time, all of us at Masjid Jamek area were unable to send out messages and make calls) when the whole rally was still peaceful and looked more like a carnival?

Did the authorities already know by then that there would be violence and the use of the phone scrambler was to prevent any pictures and videos being sent out?

Was the failure on the part of the crowd to disperse due to the fact that Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan’s call to disperse not reaching those who were in other parts of the rally and who could not receive messages/calls on their phones?

3. Who were those who broke through the barrier at Dataran Merdeka? I was at the barrier area earlier and saw many lines of police standing right in front of the barrier. How could people break through the barrier if that was so? Many accounts told of the police suddenly leaving the barrier, and that led to some from the crowd (provocateurs) breaking through the barrier. Was that what led to the firing of tear gas?

4. Why the need to fire deep into the crowd when just some of them went over the barrier? Wouldn’t it be possible for the police to arrest those few that went over instead of firing tear gas and beating up many innocent people, including the media who were there to perform their duty? Read the rest of this entry »


I fear for my country

— Michelle Chan
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 30, 2012

APRIL 30 — I was having tea yesterday with a few others who were at the first Bersih press conference post-Bersih 3.0. Everyone was sharing personal accounts of their day. Amongst us were those who were severely assaulted and detained up till the dawn of the following day.

Upon seeing Fazwan’s swollen left eye and bruised right face, I recalled the feeling of crying out in pain and force after being hit by the tear gas unexpectedly. Later, I saw Nunu’s injured lower spine and felt that same helplessness I was stirred into when sitting on the curb of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, recovering from the tear gas. Both Fazwan and Nunu were attacked by groups of policemen, no less than half a dozen. My heart sunk knowing that authorities attacked farther after demonstrators were dispersing already.

Later, I returned to Masjid Jamek for a Sunday free-food distribution for the homeless and destitute. Walking these streets again felt like meeting an old friend. These walls have endured so much yesterday, I thought.

I was told that a local homeless person was hospitalised after a session of heavy assault by a group of eight policemen. He wore a T-shirt which he picked up in a back alley, which just happened to be a Bersih T-shirt, which people changed out of after the policemen went ape at arresting everyone and anyone in yellow.

“They would only do this because they know it won’t make it to the newspapers,” said a foreigner who helped at the distribution. It is true. Read the rest of this entry »


When will we stop being a police state?

— Rama Ramanathan
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 30, 2012

APRIL 30 — It’s 3am on Monday morning. It’s nearly 48 hours since I woke up on Saturday to get ready to join the Bersih sitdown in Kuala Lumpur. It’s time to write some thoughts about that day which my mind refuses to categorise in simple black-and-white terms.

I awoke thinking of what Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Radio 4 in the UK about 30 years ago. He spoke of walking up to white policemen in London and asking for directions even when he didn’t need to. He just wanted to enjoy the fact that he, a black man, would be helped and would be treated with respect by white policemen, who would even address him as “Sir”.

I’m thinking about Desmond Tutu, the black bishop whom all South African policemen had been directed to treat as an enemy. I’m thinking about ordinary Malaysians whom all Malaysian policemen in Kuala Lumpur had been directed to treat as enemies.

I’m in my fifties. I was born and brought up in a small town in Johor. My father was an interpreter in the magistrate’s court. We lived in government quarters, behind the police station. Many of our family’s friends worked for the police.

We treated policemen with honour. We knew some had died or been seriously injured and at times maimed for life in the line of duty: arresting burglars, busting up gambling dens, breaking up drug cartels, defeating communist insurgents. We knew some who were corrupt, some who roughed up people, some who were lazy; but we did not consider the whole force to be of questionable character. Read the rest of this entry »


Najib the biggest loser from Bersih 3.0

by Koon Yew Yin

The Bersih 3.0 rally at Dataran Merdeka has thankfully passed without any major outbreaks of violence but there are recorded scenes which show how it could have so easily gone the other way.

A report by Aljazeera showed bloodied demonstrators and the unwarranted use of teargas and water cannons on sections of the crowd.

According to Harry Fawcett, the Aljazeera correspondent covering the event, the police were extremely heavy handed, kneeing and slapping some of the demonstrators who had broken through the barricades.

The police also busted the station’s television camera in an attempt to prevent their violent and unlawful acts from being filmed. The police also had the temerity to threaten and act harshly towards the reporters.

Forced to improvise by using Skype, Fawcett was still able to show ugly images of the country’s police and authorities which have been broadcast all over the world as well as uploaded on You Tube.

In an analysis of the aftermath, our respect and congratulations must go to the Bersih participants that congregated in Kuala Lumpur as well as in other major cities. The estimated 100,000 crowd were remarkably well behaved and acted with decorum and good sense.

It is a tribute to the political maturity of the enormous crowd converging on Dataran Merdeka from all over the country and of their commitment to peaceful political reform that they did not allow themselves to be provoked. Read the rest of this entry »


The seed of hope

Jun Watanabe
April 29, 2012

I was at the head of the sit-in protest on Leboh Pasar Besar when the police started mobilizing the armored tanker-trucks to the front of the police line and without warning started spraying chemically laced water onto us. From later accounts after I got home it seemed that some protestors got violent and broke through the barricades in another location, but from where we were we had no intention or at least urgency in crossing the line. I found out also later that the bell that rang was a warning that they would start spraying, but at that time I suppose we were not familiar with riot procedures.

Most of us were visibly stunned, not unlike deers caught in headlights, displayed delayed reaction in view of oncoming water gushing juggernaut. It wasn’t until the pop-pop sound of tear gas canisters being emptied and started falling around us that we turned around and ran for dear life. We took shelter behind buildings and road signs, where some of the more foolhardy amongst us would emerge again into the open and taunt the police. Some petulant ones would rummage for anything to throw at the trucks, but being too far or his chosen projectile too unwieldy, almost always comically failing to hit the mark.

It was then most of us started to feel it. Read the rest of this entry »

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A general over a hesitant army

— Ooi Kee Beng
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 30, 2012

APRIL 30 — And so the third Bersih rally has taken place. It cannot be understood in isolation from the political dynamics of the last few years.

The demonstration itself went well, with tens of thousands of Malaysians taking to the streets, many dressed in the yellow T-shirt that has come to signify the nationwide demand for electoral reforms.

No violence had occurred by the time the organisers, led by former Bar Council chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan, told demonstrators at around 2pm to disperse, having achieved the show of strength the movement had wished for to back its call to Prime Minister Najib Razak to ensure that the coming general election would be free and fair.

Exactly how violence between the riot police and demonstrators began is not clear. Rumours that agent provocateurs were responsible have been spreading.

Whatever the case, the huge April 28 demonstration poses a serious challenge to the Barisan Nasional government, especially since the event received big support from similar rallies held simultaneously throughout the country and by Malaysians in dozens of cities throughout the world. Read the rest of this entry »


Let’s Tell the Main Story of Bersih 3.0

By Kee Thuan Chye
Malaysian Digest
29 April 2012

A FEW hooligans spoiled a successful rally for an important cause. The resulting violence became the fodder of mainstream media spin. It diverted attention from the main story of the day, i.e. that many, many people turned up for Bersih 3.0 in Kuala Lumpur , togged in symbolic yellow, and the rally was a huge success.

What got muted was the message that Malaysians stood up to be counted over the issue of free and fair elections. If the number that showed up was reported, it got buried in the pile of the more dramatic reports about the violence.

What got muted was the message that the Government, the Election Commission and everyone involved in the electoral process must now take heed and institute real electoral reform before the 13th general election is held.

Having been to both Bersih 2.0 and Bersih 3.0, I can confidently say that there were many, many more at Bersih 3.0 than at the preceding rally last July.

Those who were there on April 28 can testify that the rally was peaceful – indeed, the protestors shared a strong sense of camaraderie (everyone there who was a stranger felt like a friend) and the atmosphere was festive – and although the afternoon heat added to the discomfort of bodies pressing against each other as protestors shuffled towards Dataran Merdeka, there was calm, there was tolerance, buoyed by a sense of purpose. Read the rest of this entry »


Bersih 428: A personal perspective

— Dr. Goh Chee Leong
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 29, 2012

APRIL 29 — I am proud to say that I was at Bersih 3.0 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, along with my wife and other family members.

In the face of the media blitz from the Barisan Nasional press and blogs, I feel that as a first hand observer I need to make the following comments and observations:

Whose interest did the violence serve?

Let’s be clear. Think about the public relations side of things and you can conclude that it was in the “political interest” of BN to engineer the violence that occurred at the end of the rally. They knew that the organisers would not be able to control the angry crowds once it was sent helter-skelter by the tear gas and water-cannons — one of the reasons why it did not allow us to use the Dataran Merdeka, which would have been easier to control.

Look at the events in Penang where we were allowed to assemble in a single large open space. No problem at all because crowd control is much easier there. BN was afraid if we could demonstrate that a movement like Bersih can be peaceful, this will destroy their “fear message” to scare the middle classes to vote BN. Read the rest of this entry »


My Bersih 3.0 experience: Behind the barbed-wire barricades

— Marina Mahathir
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 29, 2012

APRIL 29 — It was the barbed wire that did it for me. Up til Friday afternoon I was still unsure about going. My hubby thought I’d already made my point last year. I was annoyed with continually being asked whether I was going or not, more so with the non-story that came out in M’kini which basically said I hadn’t decided yet. I mean, does it matter?

Then I saw the photos of the police rolling out the barbed wire and I saw red. Since when did our police, or whoever is their boss, roll out barbed wire — barbed wire!! — against their own people?? Are we thugs? Terrorists? Thieves?

So I decided to go. I contacted friends and found out their plans on how to get round the roads which were sure to be blocked and the LRT which may be stopped. The same friend who so kindly offered to be my ‘bodyguard’ last year offered himself again. We got into my car, went to collect some other friends and drove to as close to Central Market as we could. Read the rest of this entry »


Was it worth it?

— Tan Zhong Yan
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 29, 2012

APRIL 29 — I was there together with my dad and his friends. We entered Kuala Lumpur the night before the historical day and stayed in a hotel somewhere in Pudu as we were afraid we might not be able to get in into Kuala Lumpur on the day itself.

The next morning, April 28, we went to have breakfast in one of the coffee shops nearby. From there, everything started. It looked like most of the people having breakfast in that coffee shop were going for the sit-in demonstration, just like us.

We started to greet one another, chatting and taking photos like we knew each other. After that, from Pudu, we headed for Jalan Sultan and then towards Dataran Merdeka. The crowd got bigger and bigger as we walked. Slogans were chanted, but not in a tense manner, as slogans were always followed by laughter.

Many of my friends asked why I wanted to go and “waste” my time there, as I’ll be having my exams in less than two weeks’ time, and the fact that the government might not even care and listen to us. There is also a great risk that I might be arrested or fired upon with tear gas and water cannons. Read the rest of this entry »


DAP call for Suhakam public inquiry into indiscriminate firing of police tear gas sparking chain of violence marring Bersih 3.0

Yesterday, I had harboured the thought and hope that Malaysia was maturing as a democracy and can equal that of developed countries, with Kuala Lumpur comparable to London and New York, where peaceful assemblies and gatherings involving thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people, could be held with the full understanding and even co-operation of the police authorities.

This thought came to me when on the way from the Masjid Negara meeting point towards Dataran Merdeka, together with other Pakatan Rakyat leaders Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Datuk Seri Awang Hadi and Mat Sabu, we saw a veritable celebration not only of Malaysian democracy but Malaysian nationhood – with Malaysians transcending race, religion, politics, age or gender, coming together in a common universal cause for clean, free and fair elections for a clean Malaysia.

But this thought and hope that the Bersih 3.0 “sit-in” will be an international badge of honour of a maturing Malaysian democracy proved ephemeral as it was pulverized very shortly after in the disproportionate and indiscriminate firing of police tear gas at peaceful protestors for free and fair elections massed outside Dataran Merdeka.

Clearly, the breach of the Dataran Merdeka barricade, for which commensurate action could be taken, is no justification for the release of the violent events, like the disproportionate and indiscriminate firing of police tear gas, the police mass arrests and attacks on peaceful protestors including those who had dispersed and were on their way home, the “heavy-handed” attack and targeting of journalists as well as incidents where police personnel were targets of attacks. Read the rest of this entry »


Bersih 3.0 in Hong Kong

by Anita Anandarajah
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 29, 2012

APRIL 29 — Tagged “Hong Kong 3.0 Edition”, the Bersih rally here was an exercise in contrasts.

I would not have dared to venture anywhere near Dataran Merdeka had I been home. But there I was with my four-month-old in her baby carrier in the heart of Causeway Bay, Hong Kong’s busy shopping district, an area I would usually avoid because of its thronging crowds.

Why did I decide to go? Because I needed to be a part of the movement that might see my Malaysia come to a turning point. I wanted to experience a civil protest, one where I would not have to fear for my life.

There must have been about 500 supporters gathered in front of the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay at 2pm. Banners and placards calling for clean and fair elections drew the attention of tourists who took the opportunity to have photos taken with the yellow-shirted supporters. Read the rest of this entry »


Police response during BERSIH 3.0 rally disproportionate and excessive – Malaysian Bar

Christopher Leong
Malaysian Bar
29 April 2012

The Malaysian Bar is appalled at the abuse of the legal process and grotesque use of force by the police in connection with the BERSIH 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, 28 April 2012.

The crowds that had gathered for the BERSIH 3.0 rally reflected a broad cross-section of Malaysian society, and were peaceful. The police were initially restrained, although they did try to stop people from reaching various pre-announced meeting points. However, the attitude of the police underwent a sea-change at 3:00 pm that day. The reported breach of police barricades in some areas does not justify the police unleashing the full force of their arsenal upon crowds that were peaceful. The police have shown in this incident that they do not have the maturity, discipline and restraint required of a professional force. In this regard the Malaysian Bar strongly disagrees with the Minister of Home Affairs’ assertion that the police acted professionally. Read the rest of this entry »