Malaysia

Bersih says will call off rally if PM guarantees polls reforms

By Shannon Teoh
April 24, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 — Bersih said today it will consider calling off Saturday’s rally if Datuk Seri Najib Razak can guarantee the electoral reform movement’s demands are met before the next federal polls.

But its co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan (picture) told a press conference “it’s a bit late now” as “the guarantee would’ve come by now if there is any sincerity.”

“We’re rushing, because they’re rushing,” the former Bar Council president said, referring to persistent speculation that the prime minister will call elections by June.

“If they promise to delay the elections and implement the changes that we want, and must have, to have a clean 13th general election, there is no issue and there is no rush. Postponing it (the elections) is not enough. There has to be a guarantee that the demands of Bersih will be met before 13th GE. 

“I’d like to hear that guarantee actually. If there is a guarantee by the government, we will certainly reconsider, yes,” she said.

Bersih announced today it will proceed with its sit-in on Saturday after the 84 civil societies that make up the coalition last night “decided unanimously to proceed with Dataran Merdeka” despite threats of action by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).

City police have also rejected Bersih’s request for help with traffic control, citing security reasons.

The movement said early this month a third rally was necessary to warn Malaysians that the country is about to face its “dirtiest” polls to date.

The coalition said it was disappointed by the recently concluded Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms, saying that despite Putrajaya’s repeated assurances and promises, the panel had failed to introduce meaningful reforms to the election system.

The bipartisan panel was formed following the July 9, 2011 rally for free and fair elections which saw tens of thousands flood into the streets of the capital.

Najib’s administration was widely condemned for a clampdown on the demonstration where police fired water cannons and tear gas into crowds in chaotic scenes which resulted in over 1,500 arrested, scores injured and the death of an ex-soldier.

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.

Ambiga said today that Bersih also wants the Election Commission (EC) to resign and international observers to be present at the next polls.