November 21, 2016
This is a press statement released by the Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee, one day after the Bersih 5 rally.
Bersih 5’s success in Kuala Lumpur with an estimated of 120,000 participants is a loud and clear cry for both our 5 demands of institutional reforms: clean elections, clean governments, strengthening parliamentary democracy, right to dissent, and empowerment of Sabah and Sarawak, and also the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.
In conjunction with our fifth demand of empowering Sabah and Sarawak, peaceful rallies were also conducted successfully in Sabah and Sarawak. Detailed reports will be issued shortly. Bersih 5 also continues to be held in 65 cities worldwide.
The coming together of Malaysians from all ethnic, religious, regional and socio-economic backgrounds in Bersih 5 shows that institutional reforms and Najib’s resignation are a growing Malaysian consensus, that no institutions, parties or groups can suppress.
Beginning 1 October 2016, we embarked on a nationwide convoy which officially launched the Bersih 5 programme. The convoys which reached 236 towns and villages in the 6 weeks before the rally on 19 November have proven to be an effective means to break media control and bridge urban-rural divide. We thank all who participated and helped in the convoys for making the success of Bersih 5 possible. Bersih 2.0 will continue its efforts on reaching Malaysians on institutional reforms and Najib’s corruption.
While we had planned for Bersih 5 a strategically planned programme, it was effectively disabled by the Police’s citywide lockdown. Even after we extended our full cooperation to the Police, being fully transparent with our plans, the IGP Khalid Abu Bakar and KL CPO Amar Singh has seriously undermined the rakyat’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble and freely express themselves by imposing restrictions.
The Police barricades in Bangsar, Masjid Negara, Dataran Merdeka, and Masjid Jamek; the seizing of our Hiluxes which served as our stages; and the arrest of our drivers seriously jeopardised our programme, crowd control, security, and communications. These restrictions had forced us to make several ad hoc decisions and compromises, including the redirection to KLCC, for Bersih 5 to continue peacefully.
Bersih 2.0 would like to acknowledge the Police officers on the ground who could not do a better job facilitating Bersih 5 because of orders of command from above. We would also like to extend our gratitude to our supporters and participants who turned out, remained peaceful, and followed instructions despite all Police restrictions. Bersih 5 ended peacefully at KLCC at 5.30pm proving that a peaceful assembly does not disrupt public order.
Bersih 2.0 also condemns the police crackdown on Bersih 2.0 leaders, social activists and opposition leaders. We are especially shocked and disgusted with the blatant abuse of Sosma, a controversial law justified as a counter-terrorist measure, against an innocent citizen like Maria. This is a clear suppression the citizens’ right to dissent and undermining parliamentary democracy. Bersih 2.0 demands for the immediate release of all detained.
In solidarity with Maria and those detained, Bersih 2.0 will be holding a candlelight vigil at Jinjang Police Station at 8pm tonight. We urge concerned Malaysians to come and stand in solidarity with those arrested.
Bersih 5 has ended peacefully, but our fight for a new Malaysia will continue. Bersih 2.0 will embark on the agenda of institutional reforms to prepare for the inevitable post-Najib Malaysia. We will continue to object the Election Commission’s recent unconstitutional redelineation exercise and prepare for the looming GE14.
The detention of Maria Chin Abdullah and others will only harden our determination to push for change.
Bersih 5 is another milestone in the building of a new Malaysia free from ethno-religious division and political violence. Malaysians have once again showed that the May 13 spectre is buried despite the UMNO-affiliated red-shirts’ futile attempts to cause violence and fear. Hidup Malaysia Baru!
Signed by the Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee members.
Anger Drives Malaysians to the Streets of Kuala Lumpur, seeking an end to kleptocratic government in Malaysia
by Khmer Times/Mayuri Mei Lin
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his colleagues at BERSIH 5.0
Kuala Lumpur – Norya Esa and her husband, both in their 50s, traveled six hours from the sleepy town of Kluang, located on the outskirts of Johor state to the south of Kuala Lumpur, just to make it to the capital city first thing in the morning on Saturday.
Their journey started at 11pm on Friday and they did not arrive in Kuala Lumpur until 5am the next day, where they promptly went to the National Mosque to perform their morning prayer, before they went to work on the day’s task.
They put on their yellow T-shirts and attached the Johor state flag to a makeshift flagpole, made from a repurposed broomstick. By 7am, the pair were ready to join other protesters who were at the mosque to demand the resignation of Malaysia’s Prime Minister in a large street demonstration.
Thousands of Malaysians flooded the streets of Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, turning the streets a bright yellow, to protest against Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been plagued with allegations of misappropriating millions of dollars in taxpayer money.
Thousands of demonstrators participated in pro-reform NGO BERSIH 5.0’s rally in a desperate attempt to tell the government that they are fed up with the current administration and want someone else in office.
“Ever since Najib has been in office, everything has been on a decline. I’m from a rural town so we’re not rich. Everything is so expensive and even welfare handouts have been decreasing these last few years.We can find someone else better. We have an option and we want a change!” an incensed Ms. Norya, 54, told Khmer Times.
Demonstrators diverted to the Petronas Twin Towers after their original plan to converge at the Independence Square was thwarted by the Police. KT/Mayuri KT/Mayuri Mei Lin
Mr. Najib has been accused of “stealing” money from taxpayers after the Wall Street Journal reported last year that approximately $700 million from state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a brainchild of the Prime Minister, had been diverted into his personal bank account.
His reputation was further damaged when the US Department of Justice filed lawsuits in July stating that 1MDB had misappropriated $3.5 billion, with some of the funds allegedly having gone to an individual only identified as “Malaysian Official 1.” Both US and Malaysian officials have claimed Mr. Najib is Malaysian Official 1.
Malaysia’s Infamous Couple–Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor
This all came at a time when the cost of living in Malaysia was on the rise following the government’s removal of gasoline subsidies and the introduction of a broad-based six percent consumption tax last year.The government now has plans to remove cooking oil subsidies next year as well, which will further drive up living costs.
Mr. Najib has also been blamed for the slump in the Malaysian ringgit after it clocked in at 4.4165 against the US dollar as of yesterday, the lowest level in 2016.
“Our leaders have cheated the people. They’ve stolen our money. Our currency has fallen so far. We live in a rural town so we really feel the impact because our income isn’t very high. Maybe if you work for the government your income will increase when prices increase, but for us on the outskirts, our income doesn’t increase like that. And the government isn’t helping us either,” Mr. Norya’s husband, who only wanted to be referred to as Azman, told Khmer Times.
The 55-year-old retiree explained that making the long trip to Kuala Lumpur specifically for the rally was crucial as the government had been ignoring the welfare of the Malaysian public for far too long, opting instead to protect only their own personal interests.
“What we want is a change in leadership, we must change our Prime Minister. Change the leader and maybe our economy will improve too. We must show them how we feel,” Mr. Azman added.
The BERSIH 5 rally, with “bersih” meaning clean in the Malay language, kicked off at 10am on Saturday with several thousand protesters gathering in various locations in the city before they were to march and converge at the Independence Square, a location symbolic of the country’s independence from its colonial masters.
However, carefully laid out plans and routes were thwarted by the Police, who blocked off the iconic location from protesters by forming human barricades along all the major streets leading up to it, forcing protesters to converge instead at the Petronas Twin Towers, the city’s most popular tourist attraction.
Traffic in the capital ground to a halt for much of Saturday as most roads were closed and a 7,000-strong Police force barricaded most major streets.
Despite the heavy Police presence, which included at least seven truckloads of riot police equipped with water cannons that went unused, the atmosphere remained carnival-like throughout the day until the demonstration wrapped up at 6pm.
Demonstrators blew vuvuzelas and a drum troupe played along as others chanted, demanding the resignation of Mr. Najib and calling for clean elections.
For prominent civil liberties lawyer Mohamed Hanif Khatri Abdullah, the show of civil disobedience was necessary to send a message to the government that deep-seated dissatisfaction existed among the Malaysian public.
“We hope the people of Malaysia take this opportunity to express themselves about all that is wrong in the government. This is the best way to express yourself apart from just complaining in the privacy of your homes and office, it’s the best way to express yourself to the leaders running this country,” he told Khmer Times.
“Najib should realize enough is enough. It doesn’t take a genius to know what he’s done is wrong. He owes it to the people to resign. If the people can get Najib to step down then there is hope for the next election,” he added.
Top leaders from Malaysia’s political opposition also came out in full force on Saturday, reminding the public that Mr. Najib’s popularity is dwindling despite his concerted measures to remain in power.
“Many Malaysians have bravely come out in the thousands to voice what is in their hearts to the Najib government. Your support is what reinforces our spirit to fight and to join the opposition, to carry out a reformation, to create a democratic government and to not misuse the laws. Down with Najib!” former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, himself a staunch critic of street demonstrations while in power in the 1980s and ‘90s, said to a roaring sea of yellow.
Dr. Mahathir, who led ruling party United Malay National Organization (UMNO) for 22 years while he was Prime Minister and was an MP far longer, quit the party and severed all ties to the government after his calls for Mr. Najib’s resignation went unheeded. Dr. Mahathir has made no qualms in placing the blame for the country’s growing intolerance and political instability squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Najib.
Dr. Mahathir, along with several ex-UMNO strongmen and former ministers who were fired by Mr. Najib for speaking out against him, have since formed a new political party which formed a larger opposition coalition with the same opposition leaders Dr. Mahathir imprisoned for dissenting while he was in power.
“We want to show there is cooperation among all the political parties so that there is hope for change. Change must happen and now is the time for us to see a change at the next general elections.Unfortunately at present, the country doesn’t take care of you, they only care for themselves. All the cronies steal the people’s money, they sell our pride. Time is up for Najib, time up for his cronies, time is up for corrupt power, time is up for ministers who speak nonsense, now is the time for Malaysians,” ousted UMNO deputy president and former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was removed from the cabinet ostensibly for demanding answers to allegations of the prime minister’s misappropriation, told demonstrators within sight of the famous towers.
For Ambiga Sreenevasan, the former chief of rally organizers Bersih 2.0, the Police arrest of the NGO’s current chairperson a day prior to the major rally was a sign that the government was shaken. It was a sign that demonstrators were having their voices heard.
“I ask you is it fair? The person who steals is walking free while [Maria Chin Abdullah], who is asking for free and fair elections, is under SOSMA. It’s not fair. Can we accept this? No. It is unacceptable,” she told the crowd, referring to Malaysia’s 2012 Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, a law created to protect national security against extremist threats.
“Why are they so scared of BERSIH? BERSIH isn’t scared of them. Why are they afraid of us? Because we fight for the truth and they don’t want the truth to come out. What does it tell you when the government keeps hiding the truth? What does it show you? It shows you that they are crooked, that they have a lot to hide,” she said to roaring applause.
Ms Ambiga Sreenevasan, Award Winning Activist and Former BERSIH Chairperson seen with Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama
Ms. Maria’s lawyers yesterday told local media that she would be held for a further 28 days.
“BERSIH 5 has won the hearts and minds of the people. You are the hope of the nation you are really the ones who will bring change. We do this not only for ourselves but for our children, our grandchildren. Because we will not accept a kleptocratic government and today, BERSIH has made it crystal clear to this government that kleptocracy is unacceptable and we are no longer accepting it.”, Ms. Ambiga said.