Ambiga: Recent protests will not affect decision on Bersih 4.0
KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — The two recent protests in front of Bersih co-chaiman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan’s house will not affect the electoral reforms movement’s decision on whether to hold a fourth rally for free and fair elections.
However, Ambiga reiterated that it has no current plans to organise a Bersih 4.0 rally despite calls from its supporters to do so.
“For the moment we have made no decision to organise a fourth rally,” she told The Malaysian Insider today.
“However, it certainly isn’t because of Ikhlas,” she added, referring to traders from the the Malaysia Small and Medium Entrepreneurs Alliance responsible for the “burger protest” outside her house on May 10.
Ambiga (picture) said Bersih “cannot make the decision at this point of time” as “there are issues that need to be resolved”.
“There is unfinished business from Bersih 3.0. The priority is to get back to the agenda to call for free and fair elections,” she said referring to the April 28 demonstration which spiralled into chaos after police clashed with protestors.
During last weeks’ protest, about 10 traders from Ikhlas prepared about 200 chicken and beef burgers outside Ambiga’s house and offered some to Ambiga, who is vegetarian and a Hindu.
It also promised a larger protest with 500 traders but later cancelled the May 24 event saying they had taught Ambiga a lesson after Bersih said there were no plans for another rally.
Earlier this week, a second protest took place in the form of ”bum exercise” by army veterans and there was an alleged attempted break-in at the former Bar Council president’s office yesterday.
Bersih supporters, including opposition leaders and lawyers, have been mooting “Bersih 4.0” in the days following the planned April 28 sit-in, claiming this would be the only way to motivate the government into implementing further electoral reforms.
PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu said in a news report on Monday that at least one million people would join “Bersih 4.0” if Putrajaya fails to clean up the polls process as demanded.
He had also pledged his party’s commitment to organising the next Bersih rally, saying it would be necessary if the government did not initiate proper polls reforms before the next general election.
PAS spiritual advisor Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat had also recently said that the Islamist party would organise and facilitate Bersih’s next gathering.
But the support from the political leaders has also attracted accusations from Bersih detractors that the movement has been co-opted by the opposition.
A website also appeared days after the April 28 sit-in, demanding an end to the alleged hijack.
“Dear Ambiga” (www.dearambiga.com), which professes to be pro-Bersih, accuses Pakatan Rakyat (PR) of hijacking the electoral reform group’s cause for their own “political interests and benefit.”
In response, Ambiga had said that she would be happy to meet those behind the “Dear Ambiga” website and reassured the public that Bersih’s cause has not been ‘hijacked’.
The title of the “Dear Ambiga” website’s solitary page reads “Time to stop Pakatan Rakyat hijacking our movement” and features a picture of Ambiga together with Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wearing Bersih 3.0 t-shirts.
The website features an automated email function that allows visitors to “email Datuk Ambiga if you want the hijacking to stop.”
Bersih 3.0, which had begun peacefully, ended just as Bersih 2.0 did last July 9, with riot police seen chasing citizens down the streets of the capital amid the chaos of tear gas, jets of chemical-laced water and warning bells from police trucks.
The electoral reforms movement remains critical of efforts to improve the voting system by the administration, including the recently-concluded PSC, saying that these were inadequate to guarantee free and fair elections in the country.
It also wants the government to delay the next general election until all of its demanded reforms are implemented.
Bersih’s eight demands are a clean electoral roll, reforming postal voting, the use of indelible ink, a minimum campaign period of 21 days, free access to the media, strengthening public institutions, stopping corruption and ending dirty politics.