Monday, November 12, 2007

Press Release from BERSIH at 6pm, 10 Nov 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, 6pm - A mass rally organized by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) to demand for electoral reforms managed to successfully hand over a memorandum to HM Yang diPertuan Agong (the King) despite persistent actions by the police to deter and intimidate the crowd.

The crowd then decided to make its way to the National Palace after the original venue of the rally, Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) was completely cordoned by the police.

In the last two days prior to today’s event and right up to today, the police and the government had pledged to come down hard on the participants of the gathering:

* Roadblocks were launched on all major arteries into Kuala Lumpur, the venue for the rally.
* Participants were harassed, the yellow t-shirts specially made for the event confiscated.
* Buses were asked to turn back at the toll plazas, and some buses ordered to the police stations.
* Plainclothes policemen were placed on public transportation such as the LRT.
* The Komuter trains and LRT were not allowed to stop at the stations closest to the venue, causing many to miss the event.
* Cars carrying 3-4 passengers were searched for BERSIH-related materials such as T-shirts and headbands.

Police had tried to stop the participants with water cannons and teargas at the four meeting points (Masjid Jamek, Central Market, Sogo and Masjid Negara) as well as when the crowd tried to make their way to the National Palace, but later allowed them to proceed.

The crowd in total was estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000, making this the biggest public gathering in the country. Needless to say, that figure would have been much higher had the police not prevented the people from attending the rally.

The memorandum was handed over to palace officials between 3.45pm and 4pm. The delegation included Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim (Advisor to Parti Keadilan Rakyat-PKR), Lim Guan Eng (Sec-Gen of the Democratic Action Party-DAP), Lim Kit Siang (Parliamenatry Opposition Leader-DAP), Dato’ Seri Haji Hadi Haji Awang (President of Parti Islam SeMalaysia-PAS), Dato’ Kamaruddin Jaafar (Sec-Gen of PAS), Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad (central committee member of PAS), Teresa Kok (MP for Seputeh-DAP) and Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim (Sec-Gen of PKR) and Tan Kok Wai (MP for Cheras-DAP).

The memorandum contained a long-term agenda for electoral reform as well as the four immediate demands which are at the core of BERSIH’s campaign, namely:

* The use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting (ML’s note: this has been approved, according to Pak Lah)
* The abolition of domestic postal voting for the armed forces
* Cleanup of the electoral rolls
* Fair and equitable access to the national media

The memorandum also called on His Majesty to:

* Heed the demands of the people for widespread electoral reform, including the establishment of a Royal Commission to review and reform the electoral system
* Use his authority under Article 40(2) of the Federal Constitution to overrule any decision to dissolve Parliament as long as these four immediate demands are not met.

Immediately after the handover of the memorandum, there were a few more arrests made. At this point in time, 23 people have been detained at the Kuala Lumpur Police Headquarters, according to our lawyers.

BERSIH condemns the arrests of peaceful demonstrators and the use of teargas and water cannons by the police, and demands that all those arrested be released immediately.

BERSIH sees the flawed electoral process — which virtually guarantees the perpetual rule of the governing Barisan Nasional — as the core cause of the exploding political, administrative and judicial rot in Malaysia, with far-reaching implications on the economy and society at large.

BERSIH commends and applauds the people for braving the rain and intimidating police actions, to turn up and support the campaign for electoral reform.

“Only when elections are clean and fair, can citizens be real masters of their own destiny and expect holders of public office to act accountably and effectively.”

LIVE reports: The Bersih rally
from Malaysiakini

Nov 10, 07 –Despite an almost complete lockdown of the city by police and with the rally venue Dataran Merdeka sealed off, thousands of protesters are congregating in Sogo department store, Masjid Jamek, Masjid Negara and Pasar Seni.

4.30pm: Most of the protestors are seen walking back to Masjid Negara and the traffic is at a standstill. About 20 people have been arrested earlier today and they are being held at Pudu police station. When they arrive at Masjid Negara, they were told to go home. Some of them are going to the Pudu police station to support those who were detained

4pm: The Bersih delegation led by Anwar Ibrahim handed the memorandum to the King’s representative at the gate of the Istana Negara. Anwar is accompanied by PAS’ Hadi Awang and Nasharuddin Mat Isa and DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng. The organisers are asking the 40,000-strong crowd to disperse. Nasharuddin describes the event as a resounding success.

3.55pm: Anwar Ibrahim arrives on a motorbike to join Lim Kit Siang and Hadi Awang near Istana Negara. He and Hadi Awang give a short speech and are getting ready to move to the palace gate.

3.40pm: Another few thousand of protesters, mostly from Masjid Jamek, are marching to join the main crowd in Istana Negara. They are currently in Jalan Maharajalela, near the old KL train station.

3.30pm: Seven members of Bersih will be allowed to go to the gate of Istana Negara to hand in the memorandum calling for the King’s intervention in instituting poll reforms. The delegation is waiting for ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim to arrive. He was caught in the traffic jam and will now travel by motorbike.

3.20pm: A Bersih delegation, which include Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang from DAP and PAS president Hadi Awang, is waiting about 100 metres outside the Istana Negara. The 40,000 protesters are on the highway and are being held back by riot police 200 metres from the palace.

3.15pm: About 2,000 protesters are marching from Sogo department store towards Istana Negara. They are currently in Jalan Raja Laut near Pertama Complex. The 500 from Pasir Seni have broken away from the stand-off with riot police near Dataran Merdeka, leaving the square completely quiet.

3.12pm: There is a stand-off between the 40,000 crowd and 150 riot police -backed by water cannon trucks - about 200 meters from Istana Negara. Three police helicopters are hovering above.

3pm: The crowd, now grown to about 40,000, reached about 300 metres from Istana Negara. PAS president Hadi Awang is leading them. Former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim is due to arrive. There are people stretching over half a kilometre along the highway.

2.50pm: 10,000 who are at the Masjid Negara have begun marching to Istana Negara. They split into two groups using two different routes. Rain stops.

2.45pm: The police have taken over the road outside Masjid Jamek after firing about a dozen rounds of tear gas. Many of the protestors move away from the area. Most of them have linked up with the crowd in Sogo department store.

2.40pm: The 500 Pasar Seni marchers are met by 100 riot police about 50 metres from Dataran Merdeka. There are minor clashes but police have formed two lines of barricades, resulting in a stand-off.

2.39pm: The police in Masjid Jamek area begin firing several canisters of tear gas at the crowd in addition to discharging chemical-laced water. At least, four rounds of tear gas have been fired.

2.35pm: About 500 protesters to march from Pasar Seni towards Dataran Merdeka in heavy rain followed by 100 riot police. The group is led by Bersih leader Tian Chua, accompanied with shouts of Daulat Tuanku (Long live the King).

2.25pm: Crowd has increased to 2,000 in Masjid Jamek area. Water cannon fired several times. Crowd inside Masjid India and a bank opposite the mosque were hit. Protesters are seeking refuge inside the mosque and Masjid Jamek LRT station.

2.10pm: The police fire chemical laced water cannons at 1,000 protesters in Masjid Jamek, near the LRT station. The attempt by the police to disperse the crowd was without any prior warning. Riot police are in formation outside the mosque. Another 500 protesters are inside Masjid India nearby. It begins raining.

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