While the government focuses on the breaching of the barricades at Dataran Merdeka by a few, and what they see as a threat to their power, there is a deafening and irresponsible silence about the unprecedented violence inflicted upon unsuspecting members of the public by the police force, says Bersih.
Whilst Bersih 2.0 does not condone the breaching of the barricades, the legality of those barricades is questionable, as is the legality of the hurriedly obtained court order. We are also receiving information that much more was happening at the barricades than meets the eye.
The unanswered question still remains – who is responsible for the untold violence upon participants of the Duduk Bantah that occurred after the first tear gas was fired?
Evidence based on medical reports of some of those who were detained by the police appear to show that some members of the police force were out to punish those who wore Bersih3.0 T-shirts, anti-Lynas T-shirts or any yellow T-shirts, by inflicting excessive and completely unjustified violence on them.
Some detainees were attacked at the time of arrest, when they were in shops dining, or about to board LRTs while others were attacked after arrest and despite the absence of struggle. Some were alleged to have been assaulted by over 30 police personnel. Many speak of having to “run the gauntlet” of police personnel and being beaten repeatedly before being loaded onto police trucks.
The brutality suggests that a segment of the police force on duty that day had acted with vengeance against Bersih 3.0 participants whether due to orders given to them or because they had lost control. There are too many reports of police officers who were wearing blue police uniforms but without their names and police identity numbers so as to prevent the victims of violence from identifying the perpetrators of police violence.
In addition to Bersih 3.0 participants, it must not be forgotten that more than 12 photographers and journalists were assaulted, intimidated or detained by police while reporting the rally, and cameras, memory cards and video equipment were taken away.
Given the violence towards members of the media, we find it shameful that fellow members of the mainstream media, continue with their blatant censorship of the news on the violence committed against civilians by the police. It is at this critical time that the media must step up to the plate, serve the interests of justice and report the truth and the whole truth. In not doing so, they fail the rakyat and their fellow journalists, many of whom (including those in the mainstream media) are now bravely voicing their concerns. We support these journalists who are claiming their rights as professionals.
The proposed independent panel
The “independent panel” that is to be set up is to apparently look into violence against journalists only. What of violence against the other participants? Is that unimportant to the government? Bersih 2.0 calls upon Suhakam to conduct an urgent independent inquiry into one of the most extensive acts of violence perpetrated by the authorities upon the people of Malaysia.
The rejection of Stadium Merdeka
As to the rejection of the stadium by Bersih as a reason for the violence, this is wholly without basis. The offer for Stadium Merdeka came too late for Bersih 2.0 to re-organise its event. It is evident from the vast number of people who turned up that day that any change in venue at the last minute would have created certain chaos on the day. We were therefore right in the decision not to change venue at short notice.
In hindsight, we believe it was also a good thing not to have accepted Stadium Merdeka. Given the conduct and ill intent of some of the police force, the stadium would have been a trap that would have been wholly unsafe for the participants.
Overthrowing the government?
As far as the statement about overthrowing the government is concerned, Bersih 2.0 rejects it entirely. Bersih 2.0 wants free and fair elections. The government has not explained how occupying Dataran Merdeka constitutes a threat to government, or an attempt to overthrow the government.
It is our wish that any changes to those who will ultimately represent us in government be made through the ballot box in elections that are clean and fair.
Which brings us back again to Bersih’s demands. Are they all going to be implemented before the 13th GE? Are the EC Chairman and Deputy Chairman going to be asked to step down if it is confirmed they are Umno members?
Those that choose to ignore the cry of over 250000 people for clean and fair elections, by labelling it something else, insult the intelligence of the people. What we want is for candidates who win the elections to do so honourably. And what we need to see now are statesmen and stateswomen who handle the grievances of the people sensitively and responsibly.
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (Bersih 2.0)
The Steering Committee of Bersih2.0 comprises:
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Co-Chairperson), Datuk A. Samad Said (Co-Chairperson),Ahmad Shukri Abdul Razab, Andrew Ambrose, Andrew Khoo, Anne Lasimbang, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Awang Abdillah, Dr Farouk Musa, Hishamuddin Rais, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Matthew Vincent, Niloh Ason, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh, Zaid Kamaruddin.