Malaysia

Government gives go-ahead to Bersih 3.0

File photo of Bersih leaders in Kuala Lumpur on April 4, 2012 when they announced plans for the sit-in rally. — Picture by Jack OoiFile photo of Bersih leaders in Kuala Lumpur on April 4, 2012 when they announced plans for the sit-in rally. — Picture by Jack OoiKUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — The Najib administration has given the green light to Bersih 3.0 but want its organisers to negotiate with the police on a suitable location.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein told a press conference in Parliament that the “sit-in” rally for free and fair elections, scheduled for this April 28 at Dataran Merdeka here, is not considered a “security issue”.

“The government does not see plans for Bersih 3.0 as a security issue and we are allowing them to have it,” he said.

But he stressed that in accordance with the spirit of the just-passed Peaceful Assembly Act 2011, street protests are still considered outlawed.

The Act, passed last year after Bersih's July 9 rally, states that the Home Minister may gazette “designated places of assembly” where organisers need not notify authorities in advance of a planned rally.

According to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz last week, Dataran Merdeka has not been gazetted as an area for peaceful gatherings.

“That is why I hope all those involved can gather without disrupting public peace and causing disturbances to others.

“I suggest that the organisers cooperate with the police to identify a suitable venue ... we want to give the freedom to assemble but do not disrupt public peace,” said Hishammuddin.

He pointed out that if the rally organisers were sincere in wanting to gather peacefully, they should then be “realistic” and cooperate with the authorities.

On anti-Lynas group Himpunan Hijau's plan to march to the venue from KLCC, Hishammuddin repeated that street protests are prohibited under the Peaceful Assembly Act.

Election watchdog Bersih announced last week its plan to hold a third rally for free and fair elections this April 28, complaining against lagging reforms mooted in the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) for electoral reforms.

The group's rally last July 9 turned chaotic following a widespread crackdown by the authorities who deployed large teams of riot police to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse protestors.

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