Allow peaceful Bersih at Dataran Merdeka, academics, activists tell PM
KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — A group of academics and activists called on Datuk Seri Najib Razak to order the police force and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to ensure the Bersih rally for free and fair elections tomorrow at Dataran Merdeka proceeds peacefully.
“We appeal to the good sense and stewardship of the prime minister — as prime minister of the country, and not just of Barisan Nasional,” said Dr Lim Teck Ghee, one of the signatories of an open letter to Najib.
The Centre for Policy Initiatives director added that “the prime minister has the authority to overrule DBKL and the police. He can make a phone call and allow Bersih to go on at Dataran Merdeka.”
The group said the constitutional right to assembly is only limited by “a threat to national security or public order” and Bersih does not pose such a threat.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had also said last week that he did not see the Bersih protest for electoral reforms as a security threat.
But Kuala Lumpur Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail said today that the sit-in was now a “security issue”, adding that the police must help DBKL to uphold the law.
“Dataran Merdeka is a public space and it is within the rights of citizens to assemble. All excuses made by DBKL do not fit within the limitation,” said another signatory, Dr Azmi Sharom, a Universiti Malaya associate law professor.
“It’s not up to the government to offer alternative venues, but to respect the right to assembly. The issue is not alternative venues, but the right to assembly,” he added.
The group also said that because of his powers, the prime minister will be held responsible if “any untoward incident” happens tomorrow.
The group of non-governmental organisations (NGO) leaders, academics, arts practitioners stressed that they were speaking in their personal capacity as concerned citizens.
The other signatories are A. Bakar Sulaiman, Ahmad Farouk Musa, Datin Marion D’Cruz, Datuk Thasleem Ibrahim, Dr K.J. John, Kee Thuan Chye, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and Prof Zaharom Nain.