KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — The Bersih rally for free and fair elections was “peaceful” and “festive”, international observers said today, adding that those who turned up were “challenging the shadow of fear.”
The international delegates, here to observe the election system, said that the rally was commendable as it showed that Malaysians were determined to uphold democracy despite the hardships faced when attending the rally.
“One crucial element for democracy is freedom from fear and the right to assemble peacefully,” said Mobashar Jawed Akbar, India Times editor and former MP.
“Yesterday, as we watched the procession for five to six hours, it was visible that the people of Malaysia are challenging the shadow of fear.”
He said that demonstrations were the right of citizens in a democratic country, and he was perturbed that some members of government believe Malaysia does not deserve democracy.
Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo from Pakistan added that the rally was an “eye-opener” because those in other countries require transportation to be successful.
“I have never seen such a big and peaceful rally. Youngsters were telling me they walked 20km just to attend.
“I think you will never see anything like that in the world.”
Senator Nick Xenophon from Australia stressed that the demonstration itself was peaceful, and the “unnecessary violence” that occurred was “planned provocation” to provide images for the “officially sanctioned media”.
He slammed mainstream media for its “completely biased and unfair” coverage of the rally.
“The rally, which is one of the biggest events in Malaysian history, received only 30 seconds of airtime.
“I spent more time watching the prime minister having tea and eating banana fritters in Sabah,” he said.
It was reported some 388 protesters had been arrested as of 9pm at the Bersih 3.0 rally for electoral reforms here yesterday.
The number arrested is far fewer than the 1,667 detained in the Bersih 2.0 rally in the city held on July 9 last year.
Yesterday, police fired water cannons and tear gas at demonstrators who pushed through the barricade in front of the DBKL building, resulting in chaos on the streets.
Some of the 15,000-strong crowd broke down the barriers and moved towards the historic square, resulting in police firing chemical-laced water and tear gas canisters.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali tried to negotiate with police, who told the Gombak MP to calm the group down. But despite his advice they still broke through the barricades.
Police fired as far as the DBKL premises, which are across Jalan Parlimen, and the move broke up the crowd at Dataran who fled helter-skelter.
Angry protestors later attacked a police car which then crashed into at least two people while trying to flee.
The angry crowd then surrounded the policemen but volunteers from PKR’s Jingga 13 formed a human shield around the officers, saying “don’t blame them, it’s not their fault.”
After an ambulance took away the injured policemen, the protestors flipped the car over on its side but then fled after tear gas was fired.