Thursday 16 June 2011

Despite counter protest, Bersih gathers pace on Facebook

June 16, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 - Support for the Bersih 2.0 rally on July 9 appears to be unaffected by the threat of clashes with the anti-Bersih counter protest in the streets of the capital city.

The Pakatan Rakyat-backed (PR) demonstration calling for free and fair elections has faced loud opposition from the right-wing Malay ground led by Perkasa, which has said that it is “ready for any eventuality.”

But as at 5pm today, the official Bersih Facebook group has over 14,300 likes, growing by more than a thousand in the last 24 hours, with nearly 300 more people confirming they will attend the march, which has close to 2,200 confirmed participants on its Facebook page.

In contrast, the anti-Bersih page now has 368 likes, 150 more than yesterday.

“People are reaching a breaking point. It doesn’t matter how you intimidate them or what the issue is, people are motivated by their pockets,” said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties and activists are gearing up to march next month in the second such rally by Bersih, the first being in 2007 when up to 50,000 were reported to have gathered in the capital, with many being dispersed by water cannons and tear gas fired by the police.

PAS has promised to bring 300,000 protestors this year in hopes that it will galvanise support for the opposition in the general election expected within the year.

The 2007 rally was said to play a big role in bringing record gains for the opposition electoral pact in Election 2008, where it swept five state governments and won 82 parliamentary seats.

However, Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia has continued to attack the rally since last weekend, urging Malaysians to gather in a counter protest.

Umno leaders have also accused Bersih organisers of using illegal means to gain political mileage.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has warned that “it will be chaotic when those for and against the street demonstration clash.”

However, it has not discouraged either camp who have committed to coming out in full force on June 9.
Perkasa, who claim the backing of 36 other NGOs, also announced that it will launch the Anti-Bersih Movement on June 19, in expectation of more support for its anti-Bersih march.

Last weekend, its president Datuk Ibrahim Ali had warned that “I am ready to face any eventuality” should the two sides meet in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

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