Peaceful assembly is the people’s constitutional right.
Ten years on from the Bersih 2.0 rally in downtown Kuala Lumpur in 2011, Malaysians have been urged not to hesitate to take to the streets peacefully to display their dissatisfaction over any situation.
Former Bersih 2.0 chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan said Malaysians should never forget that peaceful assembly was their constitutional right, especially since they had few other ways to display dissatisfaction against the government between general elections.
The former Bar Council president said movements like Bersih 2.0 must never give up as the pandemic – and the infamous Sheraton move – had shown that the wrong people were leading the country.
“The problem is leadership. The leadership amid this pandemic has been appalling, to the point that people are suffering.
“Change is possible, but the problem is that change is not easy, and it takes time. You must never ever give up. Bad leaders want you to give up. But we must not,” she said in an online forum organised by Bersih 2.0 last night.
Pointing out that the police’s treatment of protestors had improved after the second and third Bersih rallies, she said the sudden arrest of then chairman Maria Chin Abdullah under Sosma proved that there was a constant need to “fight the system”.
Current chairman Thomas Fann said protests were never off the table even now as it was the people’s constitutional right to express themselves peacefully, calling it “democracy in action”.
However, he said the Covid-19 pandemic was a major consideration, especially with cases continuing to surge. The right timing was also important for a protest.
In recounting the iconic protest for clean and fair elections which saw an estimated 50,000 people gather and more than 1,000 reportedly arrested, Ambiga said she had never expected such a big turnout for the rally.
She quipped that she had to thank the government for the strong response and intimidation against the organisers, saying it actually helped the protest gather more traction.
“It made people wonder why they were so against clean and fair elections. There must be something wrong with the elections, that’s why they’re coming down so hard on us,” she said.
Another former chairman, Zaid Kamaruddin, said one factor that made Bersih 2.0 gather so much steam to unite a big part of the nation was that its goals were logical and “supportable” by the people.
He added that the same united stand for clean and fair elections might not be achieved in other issues which would see conflicting views. – FMT