Malaysia

Court bars Bersih, public from Dataran Merdeka

KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — The magistrate’s court here has issued a court order barring Bersih 3.0 rally participants and members of the public from Dataran Merdeka and the roads surrounding the historic square starting tomorrow morning.

Magistrate Zaki Asyraf Zubir granted the order requested by the police and served it to Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan as well the rally organisers at 12.08pm today.

Barriers placed around Dataran Merdeka early in the morning on April 27, 2012. — Picture by Choo Choy MayBarriers placed around Dataran Merdeka early in the morning on April 27, 2012. — Picture by Choo Choy MayThe application for the court order was made by the Dang Wangi district police and Ambiga was named as one of the respondents.

“This court has found that Bersih 3.0 will carry on its rally even without approval from KL City Hall (DBKL) or informing it to the Dangi Wangi district police chief.

“The court finds that an immediate form of action is necessary to avoid an act which will threaten the public peace or endanger lives or (cause) riots or fights if this rally proceeds,” said Zaki in the court order made available to The Malaysian Insider.

Zaki said the order was therefore necessary and needed to be issued immediately as the rally is scheduled to be held tomorrow.

“Therefore, any gathering at Dataran Merdeka, that is all the land surface bordering Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Jalan Raja and Jalan Kelab except the area occupied by the Selangor Royal Club... is now banned, and the public are warned against attending or taking part in any gathering from April 28, 2012 to May 1, 2012,” Zaki wrote.

Dataran Merdeka will be closed to the public for the next 48 hours from 6am tomorrow as the authorities move to prevent the Bersih 3.0 sit-in in the historic square tomorrow.

Earlier, DBKL closed the area after unconfirmed reports said that the police have obtained a court order today preventing the use of Dataran Merdeka for the rally.

The move against electoral reform movement Bersih is seen as a sign that the hawks in Putrajaya have won the day despite their confidence that the rally has no traction.

KL Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail said in a statement that the restriction will be enforced based on Local Government (Dataran Merdeka) (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) By-Laws 1992 and section 65 of the Local Government Act 1976.

He said the restriction will be lifted at 6am on Sunday morning.

DBKL has already barricaded the historic square in the capital city but the electoral reform group has said it will gather there tomorrow as time was too short to consider other venues.

Putrajaya and DBKL have offered several stadiums, including Stadium Merdeka which was ironically cordoned off during last July’s Bersih 2.0 rally.

The police have taken a hands-off approach towards the latest rally with DBKL taking the lead role as it runs the square. The city authorities have just evicted a group of activists calling themselves Occupy Dataran this week, two weeks after they set up a daily camp there.

A similar order last July galvanised a larger turnout in the capital city, with organisers saying nearly 50,000 gathered to walk past roadblocks and policemen who shut down the city. But police said only 6,000 took part in the rally and nearly 1,700 were arrested.

Another such order this weekend could push more support for Bersih, which launched the protest as some of their demands were not met when a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) made 22 recommendations to reform the electoral process.

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

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

Bersih’s eight demands are: a clean electoral roll, reform to postal voting, the use of indelible ink, a minimum campaign period of 21 days, fair access to the media, the strengthening of public institutions, a stop to corruption, and an end to dirty politics.

Pakatan Rakyat has pledged its full support for tomorrow’s rally, promising to mobilise thousands of supporters to attend the event.

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