Malaysia

Ambiga asks politicians to join Bersih rally

Riot police fear tear gas canisters at protesters during the 2007 Bersih rally. — Reuters picRiot police fear tear gas canisters at protesters during the 2007 Bersih rally. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, June 12 — Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan today urged leaders from both sides of the political divide to attend next month’s rally seeking for free and fair elections

“We need them to hear our grievances,” said Ambiga at a ceramah in Brickfields here today.

“It is the Sarawak election that has caused Bersih to call this rally on July 9. We’ve been engaging with the Election Commission (EC), but we’re not going anywhere... there is no real meaningful change,” added the former Bar Council president.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has warned against the rally, saying it will turn chaotic should opposing supporters clash.

 

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties and activists are gearing up to march next month in the second such rally by Bersih, the first being in 2007 where up to 50,000 were reported to have gathered in the capital, with many being dispersed by water cannons and tear gas launched by the police.

The 2007 rally was said to play a big role in bringing record gains for the opposition electoral pact in Election 2008, where it swept five state governments and won 82 parliamentary seats.

Ambiga said election malpractices had marred the recent Sarawak state election, citing vote-buying and abuse of government machinery.

“There was a video on Malaysiakini that showed blatant vote-buying. It showed a longhouse with piles of money,” she said.

“(But) the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) says we can’t investigate because video evidence is not reliable,” added the prominent lawyer.

The winning Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate, Joseph Mauh Ikeh, in the Tamin state seat, reportedly said the cash payments were “travel allowances” for voters. 

Ambiga also slammed BN for barring her from entering Sarawak prior to the state election last April.

“They’re not afraid of me at all. It’s a show of arrogance of power,” she said.

She added, however, that the EC had assured her that it would persuade government-controlled media to be fair in their coverage of election candidates.

Ambiga listed Bersih 2.0’s demands in its upcoming rally: clean up the electoral roll, reform postal voting, use indelible ink, introduce a minimum 21-day campaign period, allow free access to media, strengthen institutions, and end dirty politics.

“Putrajaya doesn’t belong to anyone else except the rakyat. We will decide who goes there,” she said to rousing applause.

 

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