Malaysia

City Hall says no, Bersih 3.0 to go ahead

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the electoral sit-down protest at Dataran Merdeka next Saturday will go ahead as planned despite Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s rejection of its request.

“We are going to go ahead with it anyway,” she told reporters at a press conference today.

Fellow Bersih 2.0 steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah said it received this morning City Hall’s letter rejecting its request to hold the event at the historic square on April 28.

File photo of Ambiga (second from right) and other Bersih leaders earlier this month in Kuala Lumpur when they announced the date of the sit-down protest. — Picture by Jack OoiFile photo of Ambiga (second from right) and other Bersih leaders earlier this month in Kuala Lumpur when they announced the date of the sit-down protest. — Picture by Jack Ooi

“It said: ‘Dataran Merdeka untuk acara yang bertahap nasional. Contohnya, Hari Kebangsaan dan Hari Wilayah Persekutuan dan acara yang setaraf dengannya’ (Dataran Merdeka is for national-level events. Examples are the National Day and Federal Territory Day [parades] and events of similar stature),” she told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.

Chin said the letter was signed by a Datuk Normah Malik, deputy director of management at City Hall.

Ambiga said the group was not surprised to receive the rejection letter and will proceed with the sit-in as “Dataran Merdeka belongs to the people”.

“There are many events held there that are not of national level, including concerts. You can check that,” she told reporters here.

Last month, food giant Nestle celebrated its 100th anniversary at the iconic square for two days, on March 18 and 19.

Asked if the coalition will appeal the decision, Ambiga said: “If there are any obstructions by DBKL on that day, we will discuss with them on that day.”

Electoral reform group Bersih’s rally next Saturday is a sequel to its mammoth rally on July 9 last year to raise greater attention to its causes ahead of the 13th general election, widely expected to be called soon ahead of its expiry next March.

PAS’s national leadership has instructed all members and supporters to attend the protest in a major boost for the electoral reform protest movement dismissed yesterday as having very little traction with the public.

PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali said the party’s machinery has been directed to mobilise support among members to take part in the protest.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said yesterday the April 28 rally did not pose a security threat to the nation, adding that the civil rights movement’s demands had gained little traction with the public.

“April 28 is not an issue,” he told reporters.

He appeared to suggest that the federal government has accommodated the group’s demands on electoral issues through a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) set up last year, the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and even addressed public fears as to radioactive hazards on the Lynas rare earth project in Pahang.

Hishammuddin also described the organisers and participants of the Bersih rally as “irresponsible”.

Last year, thousands thronged the capital city’s streets to march for free and fair elections during a time when gatherings were still deemed illegal without permit from the authorities.

At about midday, riot police fired tear gas and chemical-laced water to disperse protesters who had assembled for an otherwise peaceful event calling for electoral reform.

The clampdown drew negative publicity for the Najib administration in the foreign media, and was seen as the catalyst for a series of reforms announced by the government.

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