Ambiga: Najib cannot ignore massive Bersih 3.0 turnout
KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan believes that the Najib administration has to look past the violence that marred yesterday’s Bersih 3.0 at Dataran Merdeka and at the large numbers who turned up to demand for free and fair elections instead.
The Bersih co-chair told The Malaysian Insider that the government could ill-afford to turn a blind eye to the tens of thousands who dared to throng the streets in cities nationwide and across the globe to participate in the sit-in. The rally and the ensuing violence could be factors in the coming general elections that must be held by early 2013.
“My view is that if they are sensible, they will not ignore the views expressed by Malaysians not only locally but globally,” she said when contacted yesterday.
“If you cannot read from this crowd that there are a lot of people who are unhappy with the country’s polls process... and if you turn this into a different debate, then it would be really wrong,” she added.
Ambiga, however, admitted that Bersih may have to face negative repercussions over the unruly behaviour of some protesters who used the rally yesterday to stage attacks against the police.
She noted that some may even feel that Bersih 3.0 “had gone wrong”.
“But speaking from the government’s point of view, they must go further than that and ask themselves — why would the people be so prepared to put themselves in such a situation to demand for electoral reforms?” she said.
Tens of thousands of Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur, cities nationwide and across the globe participated in simultaneous Bersih 3.0 rallies yesterday to demand for free and fair elections.
The event had kicked off peacefully in the capital city but turned violent shortly after Bersih leaders declared the event was over when protesters broke past the barricades surrounding Dataran Merdeka, that was cordoned off due to a court order.
Riot police began making arbitrary arrests nearly four hours after the Bersih 3.0 rally was officially concluded by its leaders when remaining protesters, numbering at least 1,000, refused to leave the streets of the capital.
In the ensuring melee, pockets of demonstrators continued to challenge and even mock the police despite receiving repeated warnings to disperse.
Things took a violent turn when a police officer was seen dragging a man across Jalan Tun Perak, which resulted in Bersih supporters attacking the police with broken bottles, mineral water bottles and broken concrete slabs.
Amid the chaos, rumours spread that at least four protesters had died in the melee, with claims that one was even shot dead, further fuelling the crowd’s anger.
It was also reported that a convoy of police vehicles ferrying KL Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail in one of its cars was forced to make a U-turn near Masjid Jamek when met with a hostile reception from protestors.
They threw shoes and broken concrete slabs at them, smashing the windows of two cars in the process.
A Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmaker has also privately admitted that the violence was a far cry from last year’s rally, and that attempts at “crowd control” were dismal at best.
“The order to disperse and go home has been given, please do so.
“The Pakatan leadership has said it is over. If you all still do this you suffer your own consequences,” a PAS Unit Amal officer was heard chastising some Bersih rally participants.