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Thread: Bersih 2.0 rally: International coverage of event

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    Bersih 2.0 rally: International coverage of event

    Ministry of Information, Zainudin Maidin, interview by Al-Jazeera and BBC.

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    Asia Pacific News

    Protest crackdown taints Malaysia's image

    Posted: 10 July 2011 1210 hrs
    Photos 1 of 1

    Malaysian riot police officers fire tear gas at activists (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

    KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police may have crushed a weekend protest, but analysts say the crackdown has tainted the country's democratic credentials and could embolden the opposition ahead of elections.

    A massive security lockdown on Saturday in the capital Kuala Lumpur crippled a plan by Bersih, a broad coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups, to muster 100,000 people for a rally demanding electoral reforms.

    Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds in the biggest anti-government protests to hit the nation since 2007, when similar demands for reform also ended in chaos on the streets.

    More than 1,600 people were arrested, including 16 children as well as prominent lawmakers, and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was hospitalised after being knocked down in the pandemonium.

    Analysts and campaigners said the stern police action was likely to backfire on the country's image as one of Southeast Asia's more democratic countries.

    Prime Minister Najib Razak has been cultivating an image of an emerging nation with a strong economy and an open political environment.

    "I think it has tarnished Malaysia's image and its membership in the UN Human Rights Council," said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.

    Describing the police action as "completely overdone," Khoo said, "It is a killer to our image as a progressive democratic country."

    Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the crackdown and the arrests and chided Malaysia for flouting international standards.

    "As a current member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Malaysian government should be setting an example to other nations and promoting human rights," said Amnesty International's Donna Guest.

    "Instead they appear to be suppressing them in the worst campaign of repression we've seen in the country for years."

    Yeah Kim Leng, chief economist with independent consultancy RAM Holdings, said the protest cast a negative light on Malaysia, whose economy grew 7.2 per cent last year -- one of the strongest in Southeast Asia.

    "The greater concern is the tangible costs of increased political risk premium and heightened wariness among investors," said Yeah.

    The political opposition led by Anwar scored major gains in general elections in 2008, denying the ruling Barisan Nasional an outright two-thirds majority for the first time since 1969.

    Last April, the opposition followed through with upset victories in state polls in Sarawak on Borneo island, a traditional Barisan power bastion.

    The opposition, which believes it would have done even better in 2008 -- potentially threatening the Barisan Nasional's half-century rule -- if voting had been more fair.

    The protesters said they want to see election reforms to prevent fraud, including the use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting, equal access to the media for all parties and the cleaning-up of electoral rolls.

    "It is clear the government is intimidated by the gathering. They did not want the opposition to gain momentum from this protest," added Khoo.

    James Chin, a professor of political science at Monash University's campus in Kuala Lumpur, said the government had overreacted and warned that "this will lead to blow-back to Najib".

    "The consequences will be felt by Najib in the coming general election. People will vote against the ruling government," he said.

    Political observers noted that the protesters were disciplined on Saturday -- refraining from pelting police with rocks, looting stores or smashing windows.

    Many were young adults and professionals, who are adamant about their demands for electoral reforms.

    "It is clear the government is running scared. People are not afraid of being arrested," Anwar said.

    Khoo said Najib lacked political savvy in allowing police to lock down the capital and launch door-to-door searches in hotels to detain protest leaders in the lead-up to the rally on Friday night.

    "There is a clamour for better governance and greater democratic principles, but sadly the government did not get the signals," he said.


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    ASIA NEWSJULY 10, 2011, 2:10 A.M. ET
    Malaysia Clamps Down on Unrest

    By PATRICK BARTA in Bangkok, Thailand and CELINE FERNANDEZ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    Weeks of rising tensions in Malaysia boiled over Saturday as police fired tear gas and water cannons on activists in downtown Kuala Lumpur and arrested more than a thousand people at the country's largest political rally in several years.

    European Pressphoto Agency
    Malaysian police detained a protester ahead of a banned rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday.

    Thousands of protesters seeking reforms to Malaysia's electoral system descended upon central Kuala Lumpur by mid-afternoon, despite stern warnings from the government, which sealed off roads and shut down train stations to try to keep people away. Federal police said they had detained 1,667 people. Ambiga Sreenevasan, one of the main organizers of the rally, had been detained but was later released.

    Authorities fired their water cannons and tear gas to scatter the crowds as they tried to mass near the city's famous Merdeka Stadium, while helicopters buzzed overhead. Witnesses said police charged on demonstrators with batons, while other protesters shouted "Reform!" and "Long live the people!"

    There were no immediate reports of serious injuries. Authorities estimated the total number of protesters at 5,000, though supporters of the activists said they believed the number was as high as 50,000.

    See video in original article.
    Police use tear gas on demonstrators in Malaysia as opposition leader is among those injured. Video courtesy of Reuters.

    The rally – and the government's response – could dent Malaysia's reputation as one of Asia's most stable and predictable countries. Although the predominantly-Muslim nation is often held up as a model in the Muslim world for its successful economy and modern infrastructure, it has become increasingly fractured along racial lines in recent years as ethnic Chinese, Indian and other residents demand reforms to boost their standing compared with the country's powerful Malay majority.

    Activists organized Saturday's rally to publicize their demands for changes to Malaysia's electoral system, including equal media coverage for all election candidates and stronger measures to curb fraud, including the past practice of people voting multiple times. Although fresh elections aren't required under Malaysian law until spring 2013, many analysts expect Prime Minister Najib Razak – whose ruling coalition has long dominated the country – to call them much earlier.

    Authorities have argued that the group behind the rally – known as Bersih, or "clean"— is outlawed because it is not formally registered, and that its real intent is to boost opposition parties ahead of any planned vote and threaten public order. Bersih leaders contend their group is a coalition of existing registered organizations and therefore valid.

    A government spokesman said Saturday afternoon that the protesters ignored efforts by authorities to steer them to a sanctioned rally site and that officials therefore had no choice but to take actions to protect ordinary citizens. Officials also noted that at least two well-known pro-government protesters were detained after clashing with police.

    Mr. Najib said Saturday that the protesters only represent a minority of Malaysians and that he still enjoys the support of most people. "If there are people who want to hold the illegal rally, there are even more who are against their plan," he said, according to the national news agency, Bernama.

    Authorities arrested more than 200 activists in the days leading up to the protest, leading to a rare intervention by Malaysia's constitutional monarch, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, who issued a statement asking both sides to step back from the brink of a broader conflict. The tensions appeared to ease for a while, as protest organizers negotiated with authorities to schedule a sanctioned rally at a site approved by the government.

    But the talks broke down by week's end, and government officials began warning residents it would tolerate no public demonstration at all.

    The last time Bersih held a protest in Kuala Lumpur, in 2007, a similar script played out, with tens of thousands of people appearing and authorities resorting to water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowds. A few months later, the ruling National Front coalition lost its two-thirds majority in Malaysia's Parliament for the first time in decades.

    Since then, Mr. Najib has had some success in calming matters and reasserting his backers' control. He took over the premiership in 2009 with a goal of halting the opposition's momentum and backed modest economic reforms that helped win back some support for the ruling United Malays National Front. He also launched a "1Malaysia" campaign aimed at celebrating the country's racial diversity and bridging some of its ethnic divides.

    He benefited, too, from the ongoing troubles for Malaysia's charismatic opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who authorities put on trial for allegedly breaking Malaysia's strict sodomy laws, which he denies. Mr. Anwar said on Twitter Saturday that he sustained a "minor injury" at the rally when his group was hit by tear gas, the Associated Press said, though immediate details on his condition were not available. A press aide for Mr. Anwar said he was leaving a Kuala Lumpur hotel when he was hit with the tear gas.

    Some analysts believe the opposition will be emboldened by the rally, and the government's difficulty in containing it, and may take other steps in the months ahead.

    The protest "will have long-term consequences for Najib because there will be a blowback – a lot of people thought we were past authoritarian methods," said James Chin, a political science professor at the Malaysian campus of Australia's Monash University, speaking before the demonstrations kicked off. If the authorities had allowed the protest to go ahead without interference, it likely would have passed without major incident, he said. "It is a stupid thing they overreacted" and tried to block it, he said.

    Protesters on the scene, meanwhile, said they were heartened by the turnout despite official efforts to keep the number of participants low.

    "The system must change," said one protester from the northern state of Kedah, Akashnan Ahmad, whose glasses were smashed in a confrontation with police. "Look around, see the young faces – they want clean elections."

    "We have proven a point despite all the attacks on the people," said another protester, S. Arutchelvan, who is Secretary General of the Socialist Party of Malaysia.

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    BERSIH 2.0 overcomes the police state

    July 10th, 2011 by William de Cruz, Guest Contributor · 4 Comments

    This could be the defining image of the cruelty of the present regime - brave auntie

    Malaysians and their supporters gathered in capital cities around the world today in Bersih 2.0 Global solidarity walks as the Opposition leader in their home country lay injured after a violent government crackdown on a peaceful Kuala Lumpur call for electoral reform.

    An estimated 50,000 Malaysians took to the streets of KL in defiance of a government ban and even as Bersih 2.0 leaders were arrested.

    Helicopters hovered over the capital amid heavy rains and Federal Reserve Unit troops blocked KL’s main arterial roads, but Malaysians proved unstoppable in their determination to stare down a belligerent government that had disallowed and demonised a public gathering for free and fair elections.

    They staged an advance-retreat-advance street strategy against a massive police and riot squad presence, sustaining tear-gas and water-cannons attacks, overcoming roadblocks and the cancellation of all public transport across Malaysia’s richest urban centre.

    Tear-gas canisters were also fired into Tung Shin Hospital in Jalan Pudu, KL, as riot squads targeted marchers who kept trying to avoid the roadblocks.

    Developments in the violent state crackdown on the peaceful Bersih 2.0 rally were relayed to crowds across the world via Twitter, Facebook, mobile phones and wi-fi driven laptops and iPads.

    PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar told New Mandala, “Malaysia is effectively a police state,” speaking after the riot squad attack that left her father, Anwar Ibrahim, injured.

    Australian state capital cities were among the first worldwide to answer the clarion call to support the second Bersih rally in KL; the first was held in 2007.

    More than 750 Malaysians and their supporters in Victorian capital Melbourne were the first Down Under to hold their Bersih 2.0 rally. By day’s end, Sydney, Canberra Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane saw politicians, union officials, Singaporeans and friendly NGO representatives add their voices to the widely embraced KL call to return democratic integrity to Malaysia’s electoral system.

    Malaysian anti-Lynas campaigners from Kuantan on Malaysia’s east coast joined the Town Hall rally in Sydney’s Town Square, which saw nearly two hours of speeches, personal stories, skits and music on a wintry but sunny mid-afternoon.

    As Australians joined hands with Malaysians, the Bersih 2.0 Global roll call drew in Geneva, London, Cork (Ireland), Paris, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Jakarta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC.

    Bersih 2.0 leaders said at least 50,000 people took to KL byways, alleys and lanes, many pouring out of hotels they had booked into days ahead to avoid having to manoeuvre past blocks on arterial roads.

    National laureate A. Samad Said, arrested mid-week and later released, said at Merdeka Stadium that their rally was a “great success”.

    “I have never seen all the races in Malaysia so united for one cause before,” Samad said.

    Anwar Ibrahim was hurt in the head when tear-gas canisters were apparently fired directly at him.

    Daughter Izzah said her father had “sustained head injuries, receiving urgent medical attention”.

    “The FRU had fired tear gas canisters directly at him, and I fear for the worse,” Izzah said soon after the attack.

    “YB Khalid Samad underwent six stitches at the back of his head after being hit by a tear-gas canister. They were all in the tunnel at KL Sentral in Brickfields.

    “It was a blatant show of brute force by the police, under orders of the Minister for Home Affairs and the PM.

    “Malaysia is effectively a police state.”

    “All my sisters, my mum, my husband were with me – concerned citizens who will continue the fight alongside so many courageous others to ensure we realise a truly fair, clean and transparent election system.”

    Another Bersih 2.0 walker who survived the attacks said: “I am enraged. We must vote out UMNO-anchored Barisan Nasional.

    “They are liars and cheats. There is nothing honourable about them.

    “From here on, no supporter of BN is a friend.”

    In fact, madness had already begun stalking Malaysia when police days before began arresting people for wearing yellow T-shirts.

    Arrested this afternoon in KL were Bersih 2.0 chair Ambiga Sreeneevasan, chief of women’s rights group Empower, Maria Chin Abdullah, PAS president Haji Hadi Awang, Nurul Iman Anwar, sister to Izzah, and an unknown number of Opposition leaders, who were among more than 1,400 Malaysians detained by police at time of writing.

    Less than two hours after the arrests, Opposition coalition member PAS threatened to mobilise one million of its members in a second rally if all detainees from today’s gathering were not released unconditionally within 24 hours. PAS helpfully announced exactly where these one million Muslims would descend – police headquarters at Bukit Aman, KL, and the main station in Jinjang, to the city’s north.

    Ambiga was duly released by police (6.30pm, KL time). Speaking as a free Malaysian again, she said Malaysians have shown courage in the face of government intimidation.

    The “amazing” turnout was a sign that “we do not want to be bullied anymore”.

    “Rough intimidation does not work anymore,” said the Bersih 2.0 chair, effectively declaring a people’s victory in the face of an unconscionable and violent suppression by Najib Razak’s prime ministership of a matter as simple as his fellow citizens’ right to a democratically legitimate election system.

    Bersih 2.0 was no more than a widely embraced call in Malaysia for just that, with eight specific reforms that 62 NGOs of varying persuasion and colour had considered needed urgent implementation if Malaysia was to actually be considered a practising democracy.

    But a backward-running Putrajaya publicly interpreted a call for free and fair elections as a shout to topple the government. The triumvirate of PM, DPM and Home Minister basically bull-horned to the world that it could not stomach an independently accountable system by which the rakyat would choose their parliamentary representatives.

    They were, and are, afraid of losing that much more ground come G13.

    And maybe more.

    In fact, Najib, Muhyiddin Yassin and Hishammuddin Hussein did not even want to discuss the reform memorandum, and had rebuffed all requests to simply accept the Bersih 2.0 document.

    Following a rare intervention by Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, the constitutional monarch, Ambiga walked the talk of the obedient subject and opted for KL’s Stadium Merdeka, instead of a million flowers blooming on the streets.

    But Malaysia’s new, less than loyal Trio continued to demonise and antagonise the Bersih 2.0 leader, who maintained a stately but unmoving commitment on behalf of the promise of a new future.

    It would be stealing the monsoonal thunder from Bersih 2.0 to say Najib, Muhyiddin and Hishammuddin totally ‘lost it’.

    The fact is, even with violence, bullying, threats, roadblocks ringing a capital city and the cancellation of weekend permits for private buses coming into KL and public military exercises where soldiers carried placards saying, ‘Dismiss or we will shoot’ in choice Malaysian tongues and the police deeming 91 eminent Malaysians persona non grata everywhere else in KL except in Merdeka Stadium on a soon to be fateful Saturday 9 July 2011 and what do you expect, helicopter them in?, and sudden emergence of weapons hoards that just must be linked to Bersih 2.0 and look, everyone, they even left bundles of signature-yellow T-shirts right next to the parangs for you to find and riot squad troops playing house in university grounds and elected leaders chorusing that if you want free and fair elections you must want to topple the government, and who are you, anyway, to think you know what you want and you’re going to get it, even after all that, it was Bersih 2.0 that had won.

    The people chose to exercise their right to speak. They were not the violent ones.

    Forty-two years since Malaysia’s ruling coalition first brought the country to the brink, Najib & Co again dared the unthinkable.

    But Bersih 2.0 did not blink.

    Back in Melbourne, Australia’s Bersih 2.0 co-ordinator, David Teoh, already looking at tomorrow, said the chapter would offer to the High Commission in Canberra all the volunteers necessary to help formalise, administer and oversee a postal vote system for those wanting to have their say in G13.

    On 9 July, 2011, Malaysia’s Bersih 2.0 won for the people the right to speak, and put an end to the idea that more than a half-century of suppression of that fundamental tenet of democracy would be allowed to go on indefinitely.

    As every finality has its own new beginning, Malaysia, all of 54, has arrived at its future.

    IN BRISBANE, Mary O’Donovan wrote: A crowd of about 100 people gathered by 11am, dressed in different hues of yellow.

    With a background of a banner emblazoned with the words Bersih 2.0 and the eight reform demands, the day began with a welcome speech that was followed by a period of silence for our friends and loved ones in KL today.

    Many speakers took to the microphone, including Ng Sze Han, and amid laughter at his requiring sunglasses so he couldn’t be recognised, he spoke at length of the changes required, and many reiterated his stance.

    We sang Negaraku with pride and the solidarity was apparent among us. We called out, What do we want? A fair and free election! When do we want it? NOW! As fliers were handed out, a few spoke to the passing crowd, informing them of the situation in Malaysia.

    Although not among our friends and family in KL, we did all that we could, on a cold and blustery morning, in the heart of Brisbane, to support Bersih 2.0.

    IN PERTH, Soon Yee Yap wrote: What a turn out it was, considering the grey skies and cold breeze. The really eager turned up by 1pm, well before we were due to start.

    Must have been close to 300 in a racially-balanced crowd, packed like sardines on the 4m-wide verge in front of the Malaysian Consulate at Adelaide Terrace. Those who wanted more personal space went across the road.

    At least a dozen blues – in yellow vests! – were on hand to assist with crowd control, and they were joined by plain-clothes AFP from the Dignitaries Section.

    Suspect SB personnel were mingling with the crowd, as we sang, Negaraku. Many spoke of their surprise at the turnout, in spite of the oppression, threats and lies. But it was an event that the people wanted.

    IN LONDON: More than 500 Malaysians from across Britain travelled to London to take part in a solidarity march today, speaking out for clean and fair elections. As 50,000 Malaysians faced tear gas and police brutality in Kuala Lumpur, the London Bersih 2.0 faction enjoyed full police co-operation with the peaceful demonstration.

    The initial group of peaceful protesters – a well mannered cross section of our nation, young and old alike – started out in front of the Malaysian High Commission as early as 10 am, although the protest was not timed to start till noon, wielding placards with slogans such as, ‘Shame on you Malaysian Government‘, ‘Free and Fair Elections’ and ‘Release our leaders now!’

    Crowd-chanting swelled with shouts of ‘Bersih! Bersih! Bersih!’ when a memorandum echoing the Bersih 2.0 electoral-reform demands was put through the letter box of the commission.

    The high-spirited crowd with yellow Bersih T-shirts, balloon hats and Malaysian flags then marched past famous London landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and St James Park, enroute to Trafalgar Square, long the vibrant hub of free speech and assembly in London, including during South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, anti-ISA protests during Operasi Lalang and the clampdown on reformasi.

    The protesters stopped briefly at the Malaysian Tourism Office before the group came to a halt outside the National Gallery, where songs were sung and poems read before 100 yellow balloons were released.

    Shouts of ‘Kuning, Kuning, Najib Pening’ came at the climax of the march as participants blew soap bubbles in their clean-up call. The solidarity march ended with a solemn rendition of Negaraku.

    Najib Tun Razak is due in London this coming week.

    IN GENEVA: Bersih 2.0 drew 12 people who met under the huge chair in front of the United Nations offices. Each person stated why they were there and what it meant to us. All were aghast at what happened in KL.

    A Swiss national who joined the group said she was reminded of what she had seen in South Africa in the apartheid years.

    Bob Marley’s Get up! Stand Up! was followed by Negaraku.

    A letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was handed to the UN security guards, who accepted it and promised to hand it to the Sec-Gen’s office.

    Rally organisers Malaysian Association of Geneva also called for a Q&A session with Malaysia’s ambassador to Switzerland. At press-time, they were still waiting for an official response.

    IN PARIS: The setting was the Trocadero platform with the Eiffel Tower as background. About 30 Malaysians and friends came out to support the cause. We collected over 60 signatures from people of different parts of the world and, of course, Malaysians. Several hundred bi-lingual (French and English) flyers were also distributed.

    The rally kicked-off with a passionate rendition of Negaraku, and the rest of the afternoon was spent talking to people about the situation in Malaysia. Many came forward to write words of encouragement on our giant banner.

    Parisian police were very cordial and professional, and came to check to make sure everything went smoothly.

    We ended the day with another heartfelt rendition of Negaraku, and everyone left with hopes in their hearts for change back home.

    Pictures of the global events are available here and pictures of the rally in Kuala Lumpur are available here. Also a video of BERSIH 2.0 worldwide.

    New Mandala – Malaysia section will be following this story closely as we believe that the possibility of a smooth transfer of power in Malaysia is now moving further away.

    Tags: Malaysia · Politics · Social movements · Social unrest

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    BERSIH 2.0 RALLY: ALJAZEERA - Pictures

    In Pictures: Protests suppressed in Malaysia

    Police fired tear-gas and arrested hundreds of protesters in Kuala Lumpur who were calling for electoral reforms.

    Al Jazeera staff Last Modified: 09 Jul 2011 13:39

    More than 20,000 people demonstrated for electoral reforms across Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, on Saturday in a rare protest that was declared illegal by police. The protest was called for by opposition groups, including the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, Bersih (Clean). Police fired tear-gas and water cannons at demonstrators and arrested more than 1,400 people, including top opposition leaders, according to protest organisers. The activists' demands include an overhaul of voter registration lists, tougher measures to curb fraud and fairer opportunities for opposition politicians to campaign in government-linked media. Malaysia's next general election is planned due in 2013.

    1) With Kuala Lumpur under police lockdown since the morning, protesters tried to gather and seek refuge inside a railway station before being led outside by police where many were detained and put into police vans. [Saeed Khan/AFP]

    2) Protesters display the yellow shirts of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, or Bersih (Clean}, during a rally calling for electoral reforms in Kuala Lumpur [Ahmad Yusni/EPA]

    3) Riot police stand making a cordon in front of Malaysia's iconic twin towers before demonstrators gather [Saeed Khan/AFP]

    4) A Bersih supporter shouts at police during clashes in downtown Kuala Lumpur [Shahir Omar/Reuters]

    5) Police use a water cannon to spray Bersih supporters in downtown Kuala Lumpur [Samsul Said/Reuters]

    6) A Bersih supporter throws a water bottle at a police water-cannon truck [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

    7) Police face off against thousands of Bersih supporters [Saeed Khan/AFP]

    A Bersih supporter holds the Malaysian flag in front of a police water cannon [Damir Sagolj/Reuters])

    9) Police in riot gear march under heavy rain toward protesters calling for electoral reforms [Saeed Khan/AFP

    10) Police face off against thousands of protesters in a scene shrouded by tear gas [Saeed Khan/AFP]

    11) A Bersih supporter is detained by police during protests in downtown Kuala Lumpur [Damir Sagolj/Reuters]

    12) A Bersih supporter is detained by police during protests in downtown Kuala Lumpur [Saedd Khan/AFP]

    13) Bersih supporters are detained by police during protests in downtown Kuala Lumpur [Damir Sagolj/Reuters]

    14) Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (C) is surrounded by supporters, one of whom is injured, after a protest in Kuala Lumpur calling for electoral reforms [AFP]

    15) Bersih supporters chant slogans during a protest calling for electoral reforms in downtown Kuala Lumpur [Damir Sagolj/Reuters]

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    BERSIH 2.0 RALLY: What the Singapore Straits Times say

    But the UMNO dilemma is that they cannot win without cheating.

    KL better off without ‘padded rolls, vote buying’, says Singapore ST

    By Debra Chong July 12, 2011

    KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — Malaysia’s top leadership would be better off working to deliver its promised reforms and give substance to the 1 Malaysia vision than stoop to a partisan approach in dealing with dissent, the Singapore Straits Times said today.

    The influential daily also remarked in its editorial today that last Saturday’s Bersih 2.0 rally here has thrown the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition on the backfoot even though it managed to deliver a counter-punch to the civil society movement.

    The Bersih rally was about electoral reform. — File pic

    The Singapore paper is privately-owned but is often seen to reflect the republic’s establishment voice, which appears keen to keep its current good ties with Putrajaya while protecting the republic’s interest.

    In the piece titled “A very Malaysian impediment”, the paper remarked that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has gained widespread support as a “moderate leader” through his liberalisation of some race-based practices to a certain extent while being mindful of keeping its majority Malay sensibilities.

    “But it would be better for the country if it could move more rapidly to give substance to Mr Najib’s vision of ‘1 Malaysia’ — an inclusive political culture in which all races can be comfortable with one another,” it said.

    The paper further remarked that Malaysian debate is now framed in an even more polarised racial context of “us-against-them contest” — where the Malays fear an erosion of their privileges and political primacy while the non-Malays demand fairness.

    “It should be acknowledged for what it was: a cry for equity and a demand that the nation’s resources and talent be not sacrificed on irresolute policies,” it said.

    “One consequence of this was Barisan Nasional being forced on the backfoot, even though Umno Youth delivered a counter-punch,” it added, noting that Bersih activists were likely to face charges in court over the affair.

    The paper advised the Najib administration not to stop at invoking the law over the rally, which it described as a “common disturbance” but to look beyond the incident and move to resolve the issues raised by the civil society movement it noted was key for national unity.

    “Bersih’s agenda was electoral reform,” ST said.

    “If padded rolls, vote buying and multiple voting are true as alleged, Malaysia would surely be better off without these impediments,” it said, noting that the rally was duplicated in many other cities around the world by Malaysians abroad.

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    Bersih 2.0 rally: WSJ: Government has caused fear and repression

    WSJ: Government has caused fear and repression

    By Shannon Teoh July 12, 2011

    KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — The Wall Street Journal said today the government’s response to the Bersih 2.0 rally on Saturday has created an environment of fear and repression.

    However, the international daily added that with an energised Pakatan Rakyat (PR), the Najib administration may find that the support of the “silent majority” will soon speak up against the ruling coalition.

    “On Sunday, Mr Najib called on the ‘silent majority’ of Malaysians, who he claims opposed Bersih, to speak up. If he continues to create an environment of fear and repression, he may find this silent majority speaking up soon, but against him,” the newspaper wrote.

    Calling the event “Crackdown 2.0,” the WSJ said that “based on the evidence of this weekend’s rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysians aspire for a more competitive political system than what they have.”

    “Also based on this weekend’s evidence, Prime Minister (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak isn’t prepared to give it to them,” it added.

    Bersih had claimed a turnout of 50,000 for their street demonstration which went ahead without police permission, resulting in nearly 1,700 arrests, scores injured and the death of a PKR leader’s husband.

    The electoral reform movement decided to take to the streets despite previously accepting Najib’s offer to move the street rally to a stadium after the government refused to allow the gathering to take place in Stadium Merdeka.

    This came after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong called on the government a week ago to execute its duties fairly and for it to meet Bersih and discuss the issue of free and fair elections.

    Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin had intervened after a police dragnet that had seen over 100 arrests, the raiding of the Bersih secretariat and confiscation of Bersih-related materials in the space of a week.

    The WSJ said the “crackdown was little surprise given the government’s actions before the rally” in which the government “tried its best to intimidate the organisers.”

    It said that Putrajaya’s “scare tactics backfired as thousands of protesters, further angered, arrived from across the country.”

    The newspaper concluded that with the government now blaming Bersih for the chaos that erupted on Saturday, further protests could materialise as public anger simmers due to rising inflation, coupled with slow reforms, eating into their standard of living.

    “Saturday’s turnout is a sign that Malaysians also understand the link between true democracy and good government,” it said.

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    Bersih 2.0 rally: International coverage of event

    UN human rights expert criticizes ‘heavy-handed’ police methods in Malaysia

    UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue

    11 July 2011 – An independent United Nations human rights expert today said Malaysia’s “heavy-handed” control of a demonstration on Saturday risks democracy there, and expressed concern with reports of detention of political leaders.
    Media reports indicated Malaysian authorities used tear gas and water cannons against protesters in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday, reportedly leading to one death, several injuries and the arrest of more than 1,600 people.

    “The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including in the form of peaceful protests, is essential for democracy,” said Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

    “By declaring the demonstration illegal, sealing off parts of the capital in advance and responding in such a heavy-handed manner against peaceful demonstrators, the Government of Malaysia risks undermining democratic progress in the country,” he said in a news release.

    “Actions taken by the authorities prior to and during the rally unduly restricted the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.”

    Declaring the assembly illegal “based on claims that it is trying to topple the Government or is a risk to national security and public order – in the absence of any credible evidence to substantiate such claims – is also an unnecessary restriction of civil and political rights,” he said.

    For his part, El Hadji Malick Sow, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, said: “We remain deeply concerned about the detention of six individuals since 25 June under the Emergency Ordinance, which allows for detention without trial for up to 60 days.”

    The Working Group also reiterated its recommendation, made to the Government of Malaysia following a visit to the country in June 2010, to repeal the Emergency Ordinance and other preventive laws, on the grounds that they significantly hinder fundamental human rights, such as the right to fair trial.

    The rights experts reminded the Government of its obligation to fully respect the rights to peaceful assembly, association, and expression, as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They also recalled that as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Malaysia has pledged to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.

    Mr. La Rue and Mr. Sow are independent, non-paid experts reporting to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008


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    This post is also available in: Iban, Malay

    When he allowed his forces to brutally attack thousands of peaceful marchers, who were calling for an end to corrupt practices over the weekend, Najib must surely have taken into account the effect on his international image?

    Millions of dollars worth of expensive PR, positioned press and TV interviews have been swept aside by scenes that show exactly how BN have kept power in Malaysia for over 50 years, achieving their current status as one of the world’s longest-lasting regimes.

    Genuine democratic governments do not attack peaceful marchers with acid-laced water cannon and tear gas. They do not unleash police charges; firing rubber bullets and lashing out with whips and truncheons. Their forces do not push peaceful women and hurl insults at them or arrest people for wearing yellow T-shirts.

    Najib was determined to show his people that he is boss and that he does not appreciate complaints about rigged elections. However, in the process he also showed the rest of the world that he is just another nasty dictator like the Middle Eastern fellows, who are currently being shown the door by their own people and like Marcos and Suharto, who have already been chucked out by Malaysia’s neighbouring powers of Indonesia and the Philippines.

    Embarrassing guest

    It has made Najib an embarrassing guest for the British PM and Queen this week. Their briefing teams will have made them well aware of the issues – that BN have been in power for a very suspiciously long time and that people who have been criticising them have ended up beaten in the street and locked in jail without charge and without access to their lawyers under so-called Emergency Orders.

    Morever, that in Malaysia people are being hauled into detention for wearing the colour yellow and people making polite requests to end electoral corruption are being treated as enemies of the state.

    It was bad enough having Rupert Murdoch turn up in the middle of the biggest scandal in years over media corruption, but entertaining Najib must have been even more uncomfortable.

    Flash demos

    And, as our pictures above show, Malaysian sympathisers have been making sure throughout the week that Najib’s British hosts are constantly reminded of the real nature of their guest with ‘flash demos’ outside his various key engagements.

    Today they were outside Downing Street, where Najib was due to have lunch with the UK PM, giving the crowds of tourists and passers by a thought-provoking insight into the real Malaysia away from the holiday advertisements.

    UK police not so cooperative for BN

    These hard-core demonstrators say they are not going away easily and infuriatingly for BN, the UK police have refused to do anything to budge them (see our photographs of a nice little chat they had with them outside Downing Street).

    In fact the local Westminster Police have readily acknowledged to the demonstrators that they are being constantly pestered by the Malaysian High Commission, who have been asking for information about where protests are due to be held and for details about the organisers. The Malaysians have also tried to demand that the British police ban the protests form taking place!

    However, the UK is a free country and the police have politely told the Najib’s people that they are not prepared to harrass citizens or remove their freedom of expression in order to spare the blushes of a visiting ‘dignatory’, who has just spent the past weekend harming and injuring people in his own country.

    The demonstrations have passed peacefully in London and a result and there will be more during the remainder of Najib’s visit.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Hey! UMNO learned all those tactics from the best - the British Special Branch!

    Malaysia's Najib must abandon the Mubarak model
    Thursday, 14 July 2011 Combat

    By Simon Tisdall, Guardian

    As Najib comes touting for UK trade, Cameron has a chance to show him strong-arm tactics against protesters are unacceptable
    It is not in the same league as Arab spring uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere. But Malaysia's fancifully named "hibiscus revolution" has potential, at least, to inflict a winter of discontent on the gormless government of prime minister Najib Razak. That's something David Cameron should bear in mind when Najib comes touting for business in Downing Street on Thursday. Bilateral trade and investment is important. Respect for basic human rights more so.

    Najib reacted with characteristic heavy-handedness when tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur at the weekend demanding "reformasi" – democratic reform – and an end to a defective electoral system that guarantees Najib's party representing the Malay majority, Umno, stays in power indefinitely. About 1,700 people were arrested and many injured as police used baton charges, watercannon and teargas to break up peaceful protests.

    In an echo of Britain's Ian Tomlinson affair, one protester, identified as Baharuddin Ahmad, 59, collapsed and later died near the Petronas Towers in central Kuala Lumpur while fleeing teargas. Amnesty International said police had beaten many demonstrators. It demanded an investigation into claims they failed to provide prompt assistance to Baharuddin and that there was a 90-minute delay before an ambulance arrived.

    "Prime minister Najib's government rode roughshod over thousands of Malaysians exercising their right to peaceful protest," Amnesty said. "This violent repression … flies in the face of international human rights standards and cannot be allowed to continue. David Cameron should tell prime minister Najib that these human rights violations are unacceptable."

    The protests, the product of rising tensions linked to mooted early elections, spending cuts and political upheavals in neighbouring Thailand and Singapore, echo events across the Muslim world. Many of the participants were reportedly younger-generation Malaysians kicking back against establishment cronyism, curbs on public assembly and debate, and state-imposed censorship considered draconian even by regional standards.

    Within hours of the violence, a Facebook petition demanding Najib resign was attracting 300 "likes" per minute, the (Singapore-based) Straits Times reported. As of this morning, more than 172,000 people had expressed support. "I don't understand why the harshness, the beatings," posted Sofie Muhammad. "The crowd didn't even throw stones at the shops. Why is the government afraid? All we want is free elections." Videos were also recorded by protesters.

    Marimuthu Manogaran of the Democratic Action party, representing the ethnic Chinese minority, said many of the protesters were "first timers". "Young people [are] coming out there to demand their rights … and I think that is a good sign for Malaysia," he told Luke Hunt of the Diplomat.

    Another report, denied by police, said a hospital where protesters had taken refuge was attacked by security forces – an incident akin to events in Bahrain earlier this year. Appalled by the behaviour of police and federal reserve unit special forces, Bersih 2.0, the opposition "coalition for clean and fair elections", called for a royal commission of inquiry and vowed to continue its reformasi campaign, come what may.

    Anwar Ibrahim, the veteran opposition leader endlessly persecuted by successive governments on trumped-up sodomy charges (he is due in court again next month), was among those injured. He said later the government had lost the people's confidence and more street protests were inevitable. "We will have to pursue free elections inside and outside of parliament," he warned.

    Far from admitting fault, Najib has threatened more strong-arm tactics if the demos continue. "Don't doubt our strength. If we want to create chaos, we can. Umno has 3 million members. If we gather 1 million members, it is more than enough. We can conquer Kuala Lumpur," he said. Such threats seem ill-advised. When elected in 2009, Najib promised to bridge Malaysia's political, ethnic and religious divisions. Now he's in danger of exacerbating them, as his old boss, Malaysia's founding father Mahathir Mohammed, suggested in a recent interview.

    Malaysia is not on the verge of revolution, hibiscus-coloured or otherwise. Relatively speaking, it is more stable, homogenous and prosperous than other Muslim or Arab countries currently experiencing popular turmoil. But it is not politically immune to the international zeitgeist, any more than its economy is immune to global trends. This latter consideration explains why Najib is in London. And it gives Cameron and other European leaders leverage should they choose to use it.

    Malaysians need only look north to see how Thai voters defied the political-military establishment and voted in a leader of their choice. When Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi speaks of the twin imperatives of freedom and democracy, she speaks for an entire region. And if Malaysians look south to Singapore or east to Hong Kong, they see entrenched ruling elites under determined challenge by activists emboldened by the spirit of change.

    Malaysia's leaders should wake up and smell the coffee. Led intelligently and openly, Malaysia could be a paradigm for south-east Asia. Led repressively, it could fall apart. Najib must get on the right side of history. The Mubarak model doesn't work.

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