Malaysia

Bersih activists flood Merdeka Square, join thousands of others

By Mohd Farhan Darwis
August 30, 2012

People gathering for the Gabungan Janji rally at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur on August 30, 2012. — Picture by Saw Siow FengPeople gathering for the Gabungan Janji rally at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur on August 30, 2012. — Picture by Saw Siow FengKUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — Thousands, mainly dressed in yellow T-shirts in a show of support for the Bersih movement, flooded Merdeka Square tonight with others celebrating the eve of Merdeka Day.

Blowing vuvuzelas, they came hours ahead of the 11pm start for the countdown to Merdeka in the historic square where Independence Day was declared 55 years ago.

At 11.05pm, hundreds of supporters greeted the arrival of PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu as a police cordon looked on. Others there include PKR lawmakers Tian Chua and Fuziah Salleh.

Witnesses estimated more than 5,000 people in yellow T-shirts have gathered under the Gabungan Janji banner, showing their support for clean and fair elections.

They also distributed yellow flowers to the others congregating for the countdown.

Police are directing traffic around the square, which will be the venue for the annual Merdeka Day parade in the morning.

The authorities have closed down the Merdeka Square area to prevent unauthorised gatherings, forcing Mohamad Sabu and other lawmakers to gather around the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) headquarters across the field.  

The organisers for the gathering also distributed song sheets mocking the song chosen by the government for this year's theme "Janji Ditepati" (Promises Fulfilled).  

At 11.30pm,  members from 47 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) gathered there with National Laureate Datuk A. Samad Said who recited "Janji Demokrasi" which was composed for this year's independence day celebrations. The poet, who is also co-chairman of Bersih, was seen wiping away his tears during the recital. 

The protesters also chanted and later joined others to shout "Merdeka" at the stroke of midnight.

There was some tension later when a number of motorcyclists, known as Mat Rempits for their rough behaviour, made noise during the countdown as they tried to make their way through the crowd thronging the roads around the square. But the situation turned back to normal when they left the area.

A 10-minute firework display lit up the sky after midnight and political leaders there finished with their celebrations.