Nazri holds up water bottles, salt as signs of Bersih coup bid
KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz told Parliament today the “salt and bottles” used by Bersih protesters was evidence that the opposition had tried to use the April 28 rally to topple the government in the style of the Arab Spring protests.
The remarks by minister in the Prime Minister’s Department drew immediate criticisms from Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs who demanded an apology from the government for not providing concrete proof for the assertion that the Bersih rally was an attempted coup. “Don’t underrate salt and bottles. If supported by the public, it can topple governments. The opposition wanted more than 100,000 to attend Bersih to topple the government but they didn’t get that number,” Nazri said today.
To back up the government’s assertion that the April 28 Bersih rally was an attempted coup, Nazri cited Bersih’s refusal to accept an alternative to Dataran Merdeka and, later, the violence and provocation attributed to its supporters.
“The illegal Bersih assembly attempted to overthrow the government by using the same tactics in Tahrir Square, Egypt, Green Square, Libya and November 7 Square, Tunisia by picking Dataran Merdeka, which is also a historic square.
“Even though Stadium Merdeka was offered as an alternative in the interest of public safety, it was rejected without any good reason,” said Nazri.
The Padang Rengas MP added that Bersih supporters were “violent and provoked authorities” to reach “their objective of getting authorities to act and prove to Malaysians and the international community that the government is violent and inhumane.”
“Bersih, which had good intentions, was hijacked by the opposition, who are not confident of winning free and fair elections,” he told Parliament.
This led Lim to immediately criticise the minister for “totally failing to give any proof to back the allegation of an attempted coup.”
“Is the prime minister bold enough to apologise and retract his claim? Can mere salt and mineral water bottles topple the federal government? Is Barisan Nasional (BN) so weak?” he said.
This prompted Nazri to rebut that Egypt, Libya and Tunisia all saw regime changes “using just handphones.”
Putrajaya had also accused Pakatan Rakyat (PR) yesterday of provoking protestors at the April 28 rally for free and fair elections to “be aggressive” and defy a court order barring them from Dataran Merdeka.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had claimed last month Bersih was an attempted coup, while Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said there were elements in the rally that wanted death and bloodshed.
The Home Ministry said during question time in Parliament yesterday it had deployed 9,274 policemen on the day “based on information we gathered that we would face threats from demonstrators.”
“In a countdown event on April 26, the opposition and NGOs incited over 3,000 who attended to be aggressive,” Deputy Home Minister Datuk Abu Seman Yusop said, adding that PR leaders told participants to “take Dataran Merdeka if it is only guarded by police.”
The Masjid Tanah MP said that it had information that volunteers from PAS’s Unit Amal, PKR’s Angkatan Tentera Muda and DAP’s Action Team (DAPAT) were told “whatever happens, they would be in Dataran Merdeka.”
He added that during the rally, protestors hurled bottles, helmets and stones at police as well as insults of “pigs, dogs, animals.”
The planned sit-in at the historic square had ended in chaos as police and protestors clashed for over four hours. The government and rally organisers subsequently blamed each other for the violence.
Umno’s Sri Gading MP Datuk Mohamad Aziz also directly accused Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Monday of planning bloodshed and death at the rally.
Police have made public video recordings showing Anwar, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and the party’s Rembau chief, Badrul Hisham Shaharin, exchanging signals to each other just minutes before the barricade was breached by another PKR grassroots leader.
But Anwar and Azmin have denied ordering protestors to enter Dataran Merdeka, insisting they were only discussing negotiations with police to allow protestors to enter the historic square.
The trio have since been charged with participating and organising an illegal street protest under the Peaceful Assembly Act after being accused by BN and even some Bersih supporters of endangering lives of rally-goers.
The government has set up a panel to investigate the April 28 violence, but the choice of former police chief Tun Hanif Omar as chairman has been widely criticised after he compared the movement to communism and accused the organisers of an attempted coup.
The April 28 rally that saw tens of thousands gather at six different locations before heading to Dataran Merdeka was peaceful until about 2.30pm when Bersih chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan asked the crowd to disperse.
But her announcement was not heard by most of the crowd who persisted to linger around the historic square which the courts had already barred to the public over the weekend.
Just before 3pm, some protestors breached the barricade surrounding the landmark, leading police to disperse the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.
Police then continued to pursue rally-goers down several streets amid chaotic scenes which saw violence from both sides over the next four hours.
Several dozen demonstrators have claimed that they were assaulted by groups of over 10 policemen at a time and visual evidence appears to back their claim but police also point to violence from rally-goers who attacked a police car.
The police car then crashed into a building before some protestors flipped it on its side.