Tuesday 12 July 2011

Thousands throng 'Bersih 3.0' ceramah in Penang

They have been accused of hijacking the July 9 rally as calls of 'reformasi' - PKR's battle cry - reverberated on the streets of Kuala Lumpur instead of cries of 'Bersih' for electoral reforms.

Yet more than 5,000 turned up to throw a hero's welcome for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and PAS deputy chief Mohamad Sabu at the Seberang Jaya Expo site last night, a ceramah which the latter described as 'Bersih 3.0'.

penang bersih 3.0 rally mat sabu and anwar ibrahimBoth leaders, who arrived within 20 minutes of each other, made a grand entrance - Anwar entered sporting a neck brace and had to assisted as he headed for the stage, while Mohamad was in a wheelchair and was hauled up onto the platform by several security personnel.

A media frenzy ensued, with photographers jostling to take the best shot of the duo - their first appearance after their harrowing experience at the Bersih rally which included being tear-gassed and sustaining injuries.

Afraid that their leaders may sustain further hurt due to all the shoving, the emcee had to gently tick off the media for their enthusiasm and pleaded for calmness.

Judging by the mood of the multiracial crowd last night, the jubilation of those who joined the banned gathering in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday have spilled over into this Malay epicentre of Penang.

During his session, Anwar spoke briefly, but was noticeably less energetic than usual, obviously due to the pain on his neck and back he suffered following the KL Sentral underpass incident, which PKR had described as a "criminal act".

He managed, however, to lambast Najib Razak for accusing him of faking his injuries, saying that the prime minister had "no sense of humanity" for belittling others when they are down.

"I am forced to wear this neck brace - it was the doctor's orders after he saw how bad the injury was to my neck and back... I did not ask for it," he said.

"Najib would even like everyone to think that I had purposely gone for a (slip disc) surgery in Munich so that I can come home and show the people," he chided the prime minister.

Renewed enthusiasm
Meanwhile, the crowd displayed a rare sense of renewed enthusiasm for the Bersih campaign by responding boisterously to their leaders' comments, clapping loudly or offering a remark of two.

The mixed crowd of young and older men, women and children, sat on the grass patch and the more experienced ones rolled out their own mats, while it was business as usual for the operators of a nearby pasar malam.

penang bersih 3.0 rally participant with yellow shirtBefore the ceramah begun, many who just returned from the Bersih 2.0 rally on Saturday, were heard eagerly sharing their stories with friends and acquaintances.

Tales after tales of police brutality against peaceful protesters such as physical assault and the firing of tear gas directly into a retreating crowd which they witnessed "with my own eyes" were heard.

Although Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai and the police have refused to accept responsibility for the firing tear gas into the Tung Shin hospital near Puduraya, a Seberang Perai municipal councillor Oon Neow Aun said he was at the scene and witnessed the incident.

Police also arrested a shocking figure of 1,667 for taking part in illegal rallies and defying police orders to disperse, all of whom were released that night.

Government leaders, especially Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein had refuted claims that the police force was brutal.

One-minute silence for Baharuddin

Meanwhile, Mohamad, who is widely known as Mat Sabu, arrived from Langkawi in the midst of a one-minute silent for Baharuddin Ahmad - spouse of PKR Setiawangsa women's chief Rusni Melan - who died of a heart attack after he was chased by police during the rally.

The police have denied involvement in his death, saying that Baharuddin did not die out of complication arising from exposure to tear gas.

penang bersih 3.0 rally lim guan eng and other speakersPenang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng who initiated the silent memorial said it pained him to see his friends injured as the result of the police's reaction against the protesters.

"But nothing can be more painful than to know of Baharuddin's death, so let us remember him," he said.

"And no matter how much pain they are suffering, these two leaders have come... this is the kind of leaders we want, those who would go through thick and thin with the rakyat," he added, referring to Mat Sabu and Anwar.

Despite having to go for a leg surgery this Friday, Mat Sabu, who spoke in his wheelchair, was in high-spirits as he entertained the crowd.

"Najib lies! Najib lies! Najib lies!" shouted Mat Sabu, asking the crowd to echo him several times as he related a series of incidences where Najib "flip-flopped" in his handling of the Bersih rally.

However, despite all the bad blood between the opposition and the police, Mat Sabu said "all is not lost yet".

He advised the force not to be partisan since "if tomorrow BN is gone, you will still be around".

He urged the police to protect the rakyat, not Umno.

"But if you protect Umno, if they fall, you will fall also," he added.

"It is still not too late to act professionally in your duties... do not work for Umno, which is rotting internally."

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