Malaysia

Court order won’t stop rally, says Bersih

Authorities put Dataran Merdeka under a 48-hour lockdown beginning yesterday. — Picture by Choo Choy MayAuthorities put Dataran Merdeka under a 48-hour lockdown beginning yesterday. — Picture by Choo Choy MayKUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — Tomorrow’s sit-in protest at Dataran Merdeka will proceed as planned despite a court order declaring the iconic square as off-limits, Bersih 3.0 has said.

“The court order only covers Dataran. Bersih won’t break the order or the barriers...we will go as close as we can to Dataran,” Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan told reporters here.

“But we hope that the authorities will show us good faith and let us through, they can still do that,”

“Whatever happens, at 2pm, no matter where we are, the sit-down begins, with the singing of the national anthem, Negaraku,” she said to the applause of her fellow Bersih steering committee members.

She said approximately 6,000 Bersih volunteers will be deployed around Dataran Merdeka tomorrow to ensure the rally goes smoothly.

“They are from PAS’s Unit Amal, DAPSY (DAP Socialist Youth), SAMM (Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia) and AMK (PKR Youth),” said Hishamuddin Rais, another Bersih steering committee member.

“We (will) co-operate with the police. We will not allow any trouble during the rally,” Ambiga pledged.

Dataran Merdeka is closed to the public for 48 hours beginning 6am today, as the authorities move to prevent the Bersih 3.0 sit-in in the historic square tomorrow.

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.

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.

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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