Malaysia

Walk with the rakyat, not against us, Bersih tells Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Bersih 2.0 told Datuk Seri Najib Razak today the next two weeks leading to its July 9 rally will define his leadership, saying any further crackdown is a “tragic reflection of the failure” of his government in handling the issue.

The group also said it was disappointed in the prime minister’s declaration that Bersih 2.0 supporters are to be held responsible should chaos ensue during the July 9 rally, noting that it was against any form of violence.

“We once again make an open, sincere and heartfelt call to the prime minister to walk with the rakyat, not against us,” Bersih 2.0 said in a statement issued tonight.

The Bersih rally has come under attack from Umno and its allies, notably Malay rights group Perkasa which has also said it will march if Bersih doesn’t call off its protest. Umno Youth will also march but to defend the Election Commission which Bersih is lobbying to reform the electoral process.

Police have warned against any rallies and promised touch action against the organisers, all of whom have been called in for questioning tomorrow.

They arrested 30 Bersih activists from the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) in Penang yesterday, and have remanded them for a week while investigating charges that they were “waging war against the monarch”. The Home Ministry has also not ruled out using security laws that allow detention without trial.

“We are glad that the prime minister has finally broken his silence regarding the July 9 rally, but are disappointed that instead of fulfilling his government’s role as the protector of the constitutional rights and safety of peace-loving Malaysians, he has chosen instead to misrepresent our intentions and wield the dark sceptre of unwarranted repressive ‘consequences’,” added the group headed by former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.

They said they were disappointed at the accusation that the purpose of Bersih 2.0 was to “wrest back political momentum from the BN.”

“The prime minister must have either failed to read and understand our stated goals, or is deliberately putting Bersih 2.0 in a misleading light.

“As a movement, we have no interest whatsoever in the political momentum of any political party - our goal is to make the electoral system truly free and fair so that all political parties in Malaysia, bar none, can contest on a level playing field, where the rakyat can freely choose whoever they think is best to lead them,” they said, adding they have invited Najib’s Barisan Nasional (BN) to take part in the rally.

They pointed out that the rally was the perfect opportunity for Najib to show the progressive views he has espoused.

“He can conclusively do so simply by allowing the July 9 rally to proceed unhindered and by directing all government agencies to cooperate fully with all involved to ensure that that each and every Malaysian wishing to exercise their constitutional right may do so without any fear of clashes or chaos.

“We feel that this would be the best use of the energies and resources of the police, who have continued to thoroughly perplex observers both locally and abroad by arresting patriotic, peace-loving Bersih 2.0 supporters for ‘waging war against the monarch’.

“Surely this stark and alarming lack of logic and common sense will further tarnish our nation’s image and contradict the values championed by the prime minister and his government,” the group said.

While agreeing with Najib that political power is in the hands of the people, Bersih 2.0 said “until comprehensive reforms are introduced into the electoral system to make it free and fair, political power will remain in the hands of a select few, and not Malaysians at large.”

“Bersih 2.0 is of the view that these two weeks will be a defining moment for the prime minister and his government.

“As the final authority in the government, any crackdown on civil society, refusal to guarantee the safety of Malaysians on July 9, or rhetoric that unfairly demonises patriotic, peace loving citizens will be a tragic reflection of the failure of the prime minister to live up to their promises and the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Malaysian people,” the group added.

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