KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 — Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and PAS leaders have dismissed opposition towards next month’s Bersih rally and maintained plans to proceed with it.
Umno daily Utusan Malaysia today urged Malaysians to boycott the protest and quoted Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein’s warning that “it will be chaotic when those for and against the street demonstration clash.”
“Opposition is normal. It is a democratic country,” Ambiga (picture) told The Malaysian Insider today.
“My own reading is that a lot of people are very supportive of the demands we are making. There’s unhappiness...like example in the Sarawak (election), unhappiness about corruption, (and) unhappiness about the independence of our institutions,” added the election watchdog chief.
Ambiga, a former Bar Council president, called the protest a “peaceful citizens’ rally”.
When asked how Bersih 2.0 will face a possible police crackdown on the rally, she said: “Our plan is not final yet...we want to urge the authorities to change the way they see rallies.”
PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu said people will support the Bersih rally as the government has yet to fulfill the NGO’s demands during its first protest in 2007.
“When elections are not run fairly, it will be like what happened in the Middle East. I don’t want what’s happening in the Middle East to happen here,” Mohamad told The Malaysian Insider.
Popular uprisings throughout the Middle East have recently toppled autocratic governments in Egypt and Tunisia that were accused of widespread corruption.
Mohamad pointed out that other countries like Singapore had acceded to people’s demands for fair election practices.
“Change happened in Singapore...they (the opposition) got access to media,” said Mohamad, referring to the recent Singapore election.
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.
Mohamad said PAS will bring hundreds of thousands of protestors this year, ahead of speculation that a general election will be called within a year.
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.
PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa said Utusan’s front-page treatment of the Bersih rally today was “good coverage”, pointing out that more people will now support the protest.