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BERSIH 3.0 : BEHAVIOR OF SOME RALLY MEMBERS…..STRANGELY CONFRONTATIONAL!
May 2, 2012, 1:35 am
Filed under: Rakyat's concerns | Tags: , , , ,

Some BERSIH rally members were strangely confrontational – That was the seemingly perplexed view of many who participated or observed the rally on Saturday.

This contrasts significantly to the previous BERSIH 2.0 rally where members adhered strictly to instructions and kept their composure……..in-spite being ‘picked off’ (read: arrested) by the police.

I recall the police being lambasted for their crude behavior at Bersih 2.0 including ‘shooting’ their water cannons into the compound of a hospital.

Which brings us to the point of the ‘violence’ perpetrated by the rally members that contained folks from the everyday of life……mothers, children, Malays, Indians, Chinese, office workers, factory workers, NGO members, opposition party members etc.

The insinuation coming out of all this is that this time round, the authorities appear to require a catalyst to justify their action for arresting rally members AND at the same time discredit BERSIH…….a serious threat to the very existence of the UMNO led government.

The key aim of BERSIH, as I understand it, is to exercise their constitutional rights in a peaceful manner and at the same time highlight the heinously slanted electoral process of the country.

It is only natural for BERSIH’s adversaries to deny them that.

And following from that………if BERSIH’s adversaries had indeed ‘planted’ provocateurs into the crowd to trigger the violence after the crowd had been instructed to disperse, then this is a new ‘low’ in the political evolution of Malaysia…..a clear sign of digression into possible anarchy.

Let us all pray that it is otherwise.

In any case, Bersih 3.0 has been picked up by most news agencies all round the world and it’s not looking good for Najib.

Not only are foreign journalists on the ground……doing their rounds, but rally members are ever ready to record ‘happenings’ around them including unprovoked assaults committed by the police themselves!!

This has even elicited a written protest by the Managing Editor in Monday’s issue of the Malay Mail about journalists being targetted for police ‘aggression’……and this paper still has that turn-coat, Rocky a.k.a. Ahiruddin Attan working behind the scene.

Click HERE for Aljazeera’s take of the events on 28 April 2012….entitled, “Police Violence Marks Malaysian Reform Rally”.

Read below for another foreign newspaper’s analysis of the situation:-

RALLY FRACAS BODES ILL FOR COMING ELECTION

Police’s forceful handling of protesters and lack of restraint shock many

BT 20120430 PNCOL30 1279617

THE finger-pointing over who is to blame for the fracas that Saturday’s election reform sit-down rally descended into, where more than 400 people were arrested and later released, will continue for a while yet.

Some blame the organisers of Bersih 3.0 – a coalition of NGOs leading the call for election reforms to be implemented before the next general election due by April next year – for their failure to ensure better crowd control, and for not preventing the barriers leading into Merdeka Square to be breached as agreed.

But the ensuing melee and chaos is arguably more damaging for the authorities, whom few thought would risk a repeat of the black eye suffered after the Bersih 2.0 rally last July, which drew local and international condemnation for the indiscriminate use of tear gas and chemical-laced water cannon on peaceful rally-goers.

Near stampede

Whether the police and federal reserve unit (FRU) were unprepared for the mammoth crowd or have little discretion in crowd control, they aided in transforming the peaceful sit-down protest into a near stampede by firing tear gas into participants after a group of disruptive protesters breached the barriers.

Prior to that, the event that home minister Hishammuddin Hussein predicted would have “no traction” with the masses, turned out to be one of the largest in years. Waves of Malaysians decked in the yellow colour of Bersih swarmed the city centre despite the closure of 58 roads leading in.

The numbers – estimated at 80,000 to 100,000 – or about double Bersih 2.0, were telling. Equally telling was the huge attendance by the middle class of all races, and the youth in particular.

Despite the sweltering heat, the atmosphere was carnival-like. Shops that decided to stay open did a roaring trade. The proprietors of two famous beef noodle stalls in nearby Chinatown were run off their feet catering to the hungry masses. Such is the Malaysian penchant for food that some were spotted killing two birds with one stone – taking refuge after being tear-gassed but also having a quick bite!

The continuing debate about whether the authorities ought to have allowed the sit-in at Merdeka Square as the organisers wanted, or if Bersih should have accepted the offer to hold it in a stadium, is now moot.

But the manner in which the rally was dispersed in the presence of many elderly, children and even the wheelchair-bound could rebound on Prime Minister Najib Razak and his coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) at the coming 13th General Election (GE).

Although more politically conscious now, Malaysia’s middle class is generally apolitical, only desiring fairer laws and better governance, be it from BN or its rival coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR). The many who consider themselves neutral or fence-sitters make up 30-40 per cent of the electorate.

Saturday’s rally was a first for many, as was the maiden experience of getting tear-gassed. The questions being asked now include the following: why did the FRU not arrest those who had breached the court order for Merdeka Square? Why shoot tear gas without sufficient warning? And would not a round or two have been sufficient to start dispersing the mass of people that stretched at least a kilometre along streets surrounding the square?

Instead, round after round after round was fired in succession into the crowd, resulting in many retching and injured on the streets. Reports say some 40 rounds were discharged in total, and that the FRU also committed various acts of aggression towards journalists and lawyers covering and monitoring the event.

The police’s “grotesque force” and “lack of restraint and proportionality” have been condemned by the Bar Council.

Netizens were also aghast. “The duty of the police was crowd control and not to turn aggressors as they did on the slightest provocation,” said Jedi_Who. “Why the necessity to fire tear gas and chemical-laced water at those innocent people further down the street, even as far as Petaling Street?” asked FairMind.

Others pointed out that the blocking of certain roads and the halting of train services prevented the crowd from leaving the area faster.

Big turnout

Social commentator Marina Mahathir said that, in such a huge crowd, there are bound to be people who misbehave or agent provocateurs out to discredit Bersih. “But it doesn’t detract from the fact that an unbelievable number of people turned out today, far more than last year, and compared to the incidents of bad behaviour, there was a far larger number of people who marched and rallied peacefully.”

At the end of the day, Bersih 3.0 is unlikely to move the authorities to reform election laws to the degree that Bersih desires, though some proposals could be implemented.

Given Mr Najib’s attempt over the past two years to court the middle-class and youth by promising more reforms, Saturday’s aggression was unfortunate. Social commentator Terrence Netto believes: “The massive size and youth of the crowds at Bersih 3.0 bode ill for the BN at the 13th general election.”


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