US voices concern over Bersih crackdown
KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — The US has expressed concern over the Najib administration’s crackdown of Saturday’s Bersih rally and has said it will “continue to monitor the situation closely”.
Speaking in Washington, DC yesterday, US state department spokesman Mark Toner said that while he was unaware of the latest situation on the ground, there were concerns over “some of the events” last weekend.
“We do have some concerns. Obviously, we stand for... the right for people to freely express their democratic aspirations and express their views freely,” he told reporters at a press briefing.
Toner stressed that the US would stand up for Malaysians’ “universal right” to assemble but stressed that it was the responsibility of protesters here to do so in a non-violent manner.
“These protestors do have the right to peacefully express their aspirations, if you will. And again, I would note that the onus is on them as well... to do so in a peaceful manner,” he said.
Bersih estimates that 50,000 people showed up at Saturday’s rally for free and fair elections while police have said there were only 6,000.
The street demonstration went ahead without police permission, resulting in nearly 1,700 arrests, scores injured and the death of a PKR leader’s husband.
Malaysia has been savaged in the international media for the crackdown, which influential British daily Guardian described as “characteristic heavy-handedness” by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The government has promised to investigate allegations of police brutality, including alleged beatings and the reported firing of tear gas and water cannon into the compound of a maternity hospital.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today also said it will be holding a separate public inquiry into police conduct during the Bersih rally.