Malaysia

Bersih rally shows Malaysian government ‘authoritarian’, says Aussie senator

By Ida Lim

April 28, 2012

Police firing tear gas canisters at protestors during Bersih 3.0. – Reuters picPolice firing tear gas canisters at protestors during Bersih 3.0. – Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, April 28 – The government’s handling of the Bersih sit-in protest at Kuala Lumpur shows its ‘authoritarian’ nature, according to an Australian Senator who is here as an election observer.

Nicholas Xenophon, who was at the rally, said that the police had fired teargas and chemical-laced water in what had been a largely peaceful rally.

“It raises serious questions over how authoritarian it is. The police have just let off canister after canister of teargas,” he was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

Xenophon said this raised questions over Canberra’s persistence in pursuing the controversial refugee swap deal with Malaysia that has sunk the approval ratings of Australia’s Labor government over the past year.

Xenophon is part of a seven-member international “pre-election assessment” team asked to come up with recommendations to improve the Malaysian electoral system.

Despite being invited by the Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the group insists they are independent, claiming that their expenses for the fact-finding mission are being borne by themselves or their respective governments.

However, after the protest ended, some protestors misbehaved and taunted the police.

Angry protestors had attacked a police car, causing it to flee and crash into at least two people.

A male protestor had leapt on the police car’s bonnet while surrounding protestors threw stones and water bottles at the vehicle, causing the windscreen to shatter.

After an ambulance took away the injured policemen, the protestors turned the car over on its side but then fled after tear gas was fired.

Police also claimed on the micro-blogging site Twitter that one of the protestors stole a police firearm.

However, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said on Twitter the weapon was recovered and the two policemen in the car are receiving treatment in hospital.