KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 — Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) today stood firm by its decision to prohibit Bersih from using Dataran Merdeka for its rally on April 28, threatening action against the election reform movement if it insists on proceeding.
“We will wait until April 28 for further action if Bersih insists on holding its gathering at Dataran Merdeka.
“A red light, if they insist on jumping it, carry on... we will await action from DBKL,” KL mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail warned at a press conference today.
He said he could not understand Bersih’s “defiance” in the matter, pointing out that permission has already been given for the group to use other venues for the event, such as the Cheras football stadium or Stadium Titiwangsa.
Ahmad Fuad noted that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had similarly offered alternative venues for the rally, such as the Bukit Jalil National Stadium or Stadium Merdeka.
Stadium Merdeka was the chosen venue for Bersih’s last rally for free and fair elections on July 9, 2011.
At the time, the event was outlawed by the government and protestors found themselves bombarded with tear gas and chemical-laced water by riot police determined on dispersing the crowd of thousands.
Ahmad Fuad said the only events allowed at the iconic Dataran Merdeka are national sporting events or those that are cultural in nature such as National Day celebrations, New Year’s Eve and other gatherings that foster national unity.
“There are two components, one on sports, such as walkathon events, marathons and jogathons, which to us (DBKL) are for sports and are not protest gatherings.
“The other component is culture,” he said.
As an acceptable function, Ahmad Fuad cited the example of Nestle’s 100the anniversary celebration last month, which the Selangor Sultan had attended.
“The company has invested a lot in this country... and at the same time their special guest was the Selangor Sultan,” he said.
The mayor said DBKL would grant permission for these kinds of events instead of functions that are infused with political elements.
“When there are gatherings like these, they cause worry and fear to the public and difficulties to traders,” he said.
DBKL recently rejected Bersih’s request to hold the rally at the historic square on April 28, saying that the venue was only for “national-level events.”
Hishammuddin subsequently said yesterday that DBKL should offer alternative venues for Bersih 3.0 if it does not want the rally to be held at Dataran Merdeka, and suggested Stadium Merdeka as an option.
He stressed that the electoral reform group should be allowed to have a “peaceful assembly”, and previously said that the government does not see the rally as a “security threat” — a far cry from Putrajaya’s attitude in locking down the capital city at the last rally.
But Bersih steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah was a little more tentative, saying that the various NGOs under the Bersih umbrella would have to meet before deciding on their next move.
“We will meet tomorrow night to discuss and make an announcement on Tuesday,” she told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
She said Bersih would also be meeting the police tomorrow at 3pm to discuss traffic logistics for the protest.