Sunday 3 July 2011

Ambiga: Bersih is the rakyat, ban has little impact

July 03, 2011
Ambiga said Bersih 2.0 does not require registration as it is a coalition of established groups. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — The Home Ministry ban on Bersih 2.0 will not have the impact it had aimed for as the electoral reform movement has captured the people’s “hearts and minds”, says its chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.

The former Bar Council president also disagreed with the Najib administration’s rationale for outlawing the movement, saying Bersih 2.0 was a coalition of established groups and does not need to be registered.

“More important, above and beyond that, Bersih now means more than just a group of organisations to Malaysians. Bersih is now a concept that has captured the hearts and minds of the rakyat.

“Bersih is now the rakyat, therefore whatever anybody tries to do to Bersih will not make any difference to how people feel about what it stands for,” the Bersih chairman told The Malaysian Insider.

The Home Ministry declared Bersih 2.0 illegal effective July 1 for causing an “atmosphere of unrest”, a week before its planned July 9 rally calling for free and fair elections.

The ministry issued a four-paragraph statement yesterday outlining the reasons for the ban by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

It gave three reasons for the banning of the movement, adding it was an unregistered group despite fulfilling all criteria to form an organisation under the Societies Act 1966.
The reasons given for the ban are:

i) Being active and sparking an atmosphere of unrest and worry among the multiracial community in the country;

The police raided the Bersih secretariat office in Petaling Jaya on June 29. — file pic
ii) Spreading propaganda to incite the people to topple the government by distributing certain leaflets;
iii) Its activities have given a bad image to the country, which can threaten and undermine public order, security, economy and the country’s sovereignty and affect the harmony of the multiracial community.

Ambiga disagreed with the reasons outlined by the Registrar of Societies Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman and gave her justification.
“From a legal standpoint, we believe that Bersih 2.0 is a coalition of established organisations, so it does not require registration under the Societies Act,” said the senior lawyer.

Police have arrested more than 100 people this past week in connection with the Bersih rally, declaring its iconic yellow T-shirt illegal.

They released and re-arrested Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar and five other Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) members yesterday for 60 days under the Emergency Ordinance, which allows for detention without trial.

The PSM members were campaigning for the electoral reform movement, which comprises some 62 groups and has received support from the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition and few other political parties. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) has snubbed an offer to support the movement and has instead demonised it through state-run media and mosque sermons.

Bersih 2.0 has planned a rally for July 9 in the capital city to press for its eight demands, but police have said it will not allow any demonstrations on that day.

At least two other groups — Perkasa and Umno Youth — have said they will mount counter-protests against the Bersih rally.

The first Bersih rally in 2007 saw an estimated 50,000 people take to the streets in the capital city before they were dispersed by riot police armed with water cannons and tear gas.

Bersih 2.0 expects a higher turnout this year due to more widespread publicity courtesy of social media.
PR parties have ordered their members to support the rally, with PAS asking its million-strong members to turn up on July 9.

Several rallies in support of Bersih are also being planned in major cities across the world on that day.

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