KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) threatened today to forcefully bar demonstrators from using Dataran Merdeka for this Saturday’s Bersih 3.0 sit-in protest for electoral reforms, with Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail dismissing the activists as unreasonable.
Both sides stuck to their guns today in an hour-long meeting at City Hall, with Bersih leaders insisting that it was too late to change the venue of the protest from the historic square to Stadium Merdeka.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Bersih representatives, Ahmad Fuad also pointed out that he would hold Bersih responsible if chaos ensued this Saturday.
The mayor said DBKL would deal with Bersih attendees as it has the Occupy Dataran activists. — Picture by Choo Choy May
“Action was taken against those students at Dataran Merdeka. The same action will be taken against (Bersih) if you do the same.
“If there is chaos, blame Bersih,” he said.
Yesterday, City Hall enforcers detained four Occupy Dataran activists, hours after evicting the movement from Dataran Merdeka.
DBKL officers had earlier seized tents and camping equipment belonging to the activists, and put up steel barricades to stop them from camping there.
Occupy Dataran’s stated aim is to reclaim public spaces for the purpose of promoting participatory democracy.
Earlier, Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the movement was still hopeful that City Hall would changed its stand.
“We have a grave problem here with time; we cannot change the location because it is already Wednesday. Even if we make an announcement by tomorrow, that leaves two days,” Ambiga told a press conference today.
“We believe that if we change the place now, it’s going to cause a bigger confusion. People will gather here (Dataran Merdeka) as well as Stadium Merdeka,” she added.
Ambiga stressed there would be less likelihood of chaos if the rally were to go ahead at Dataran Merdeka as planned.
“If there is any change now, there will be more chaos. There is just too little time to inform people.”
However, Ahmad Fuad dismissed Ambiga’s justification as “unreasonable”.
“If their problem is not having enough time to inform their supporters, we can hold a press conference together to make sure the public knows about our mutual understanding,” he said.
Reiterating the offer of Stadium Merdeka as an alternative venue, Ahmad Fuad said the site has more “historical value” as well as “bigger space, more parking, and seats for them to sit on”.
“Stadium Merdeka is a win-win situation for all.”
Bersih said yesterday it would consider calling off Saturday’s rally if Datuk Seri Najib Razak can guarantee the electoral reform movement’s demands are met before the next federal polls.
The movement said early this month a third rally was necessary to warn Malaysians that the country is about to face its “dirtiest” polls to date.
The coalition said it was disappointed by the recently concluded Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms, saying that despite Putrajaya’s repeated assurances and promises, the panel had failed to introduce meaningful reforms to the election system.
The bipartisan panel was formed following the July 9, 2011 rally for free and fair elections that saw tens of thousands flood into the streets of the capital.
The Najib administration was widely condemned for a clampdown on the demonstration in which police fired water cannons and tear gas into crowds during chaotic scenes that resulted in over 1,500 arrested, scores injured and the death of an ex-soldier.
Bersih’s eight demands are: a clean electoral roll, reform to postal voting, the use of indelible ink, a minimum campaign period of 21 days, fair access to the media, the strengthening public institutions, a stop to corruption, and an end to dirty politics.
By Lisa J. Ariffin