KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — Bersih will focus on removing the current Election Commission (EC) leadership, claiming that the government must “listen to the people” after tens of thousands rallied for free and fair elections yesterday.
The electoral reforms movement said today it will “reconsider its position” against holding another rally if the government fails to commit to further electoral reforms, after claiming that yesterday’s sit-in drew a crowd of 250,000 to city streets.
The coalition of 84 civil societies said that once it had dealt with the immediate concern of alleged police brutality, it would pursue the resignation of the Election Commission (EC) chief and his deputy as well as the cleaning of the electoral roll it asserts is rife with fraudulent voters.
“A responsible government would now say we will listen to the people. We will focus on the EC (resignations),” Bersih chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan (picture) said of the duo who recently admitted they were once and possible still are Umno members.
“If there is no action, we will have to reconsider our position,” Bersih chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said less than 24 hours after tens of thousands were dispersed with tear gas and water cannon in chaotic scenes that led to open battle between some rally-goers and riot police.
Its repeated call for EC chief Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof and his deputy, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, to quit gained further momentum recently when PKR claimed that the duo were still members of Umno.
Both individuals admitted they were once members of the senior party in the ruling coalition but insisted they were no longer active, that the memberships were from long ago, and they could not remember if they were still members.
Yesterday’s planned sit-in at Dataran Merdeka was the electoral reforms movement’s third rally in just over four years.
The first came just months before the landmark March 2008 election, which saw Barisan Nasional (BN) cede its customary two-thirds majority of Parliament.
A second rally held on July 9 last year saw over 10,000 flood into the streets of the capital before police dispersed them with tear gas and water cannon and arrested over 1,500 demonstrators.
The clampdown saw widespread condemnation from the foreign media, forcing Datuk Seri Najib Razak to announce a raft of reforms including a parliamentary select committee into electoral improvements.
But Bersih declared the findings of the bipartisan panel “disappointing” early this month and announced yesterday’s sit-in at Dataran Merdeka to call for a greater commitment from the administration to free and fair elections.
Demonstrators were dispersed by police with water cannon and tear gas yesterday after some rally-goers pushed through a barricade in front of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and tried to rush into Dataran Merdeka.
Some of the 15,000-strong group sandwiched between police and DBKL broke down the barriers and moved towards the historic square, leading to police firing chemical-laced water and tear gas canisters.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali had 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.
Despite most of the crowd dispersing, a pocket of 1,000 demonstrators then engaged in open battle with riot police near Masjid Jamek.
A police officer was seen dragging a man across the road, which resulted in Bersih supporters attacking the police with broken bottles, mineral water bottles and broken concrete slabs.
A convoy of police vehicles ferrying Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail in one of its cars was forced to make a U-turn near Masjid Jamek when met with a hostile reception from protestors who threw shoes and broken concrete slabs at them, smashing the windows of two cars.