Aliran hosted a high-tea in Penang at which Bersih 2.0 co-chairperson Pak Samad Said and other Bersih Steering Committee members addressed a crowd of 500 at a hotel in Penang yesterday.
Pak Samad, Subramaniam Pillay and Tok Kin Woon briefed the audience about the drama and excitement at Bersih 3.0 in KL on Saturday.
Ambiga was originally supposed to come but after what happened on Saturday, she felt she had a moral responsibility to stay back in KL. She conveyed her apologies to Aliran and said she would come to Penang soon.
Pak Samad expressed outrage that he was stopped at the pedestrian bridge on the way to the National Mosque in KL on Saturday morning. All these years he had been going to the mosque to pray unhindered. The national poet laureate promptly decided to “duduk bantah” on the pedestrian bridge. He contacted Ambiga and informed her of his new plan.
“Pak Samad, you do it your way,” Ambiga told him.
At the high tea, Pak Samad also read out his poem “Unggun Bersih“. Later, many in the audience wanted to be photographed with the bearded celebrity poet-activist, who resembles the wise Gandalf character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Later, Bersih team members revealed that Pak Samad had been vilified by certain quarters for his unstinting support for Ambiga. Some of these critics even accused him of being “nyanyuk” (senile) on his Facebook page.
Subra said the crowd in KL comprised young and old, people of all backgrounds. He especially noted the large presence of young people. “This gives me hope for the future.”
He said Bersih gave the order to disperse at around 2.45pm. Until then, the rally had been peaceful. It was soon after this that the security cordon at Dataran was breached.
Subra regretted the isolated instances of disorder after 2.45pm. The police, he said, should investigate to find out who the trouble-makers were and take appropriate action.
But he said the instances of disorder had to be put in perspective. The rally had been largely peaceful, and if the authorities had allowed the crowd to use Dataran and shown more restraint, the chances of disorder would have been minimal, he added.
The biggest positive from Bersih 3.0 is that where government agencies with large budgets have failed in creating 1Malaysia, “Bersih has succeeded in uniting Malaysians,” noted Subra, to loud applause.
Subra also pointed out the following:
– Bersih 1.0 in 2007 included political parties, but after 2008, when opposition parties took over several state governments, a decision was taken to exclude political parties from Bersih 2.0. The Bersih 2.0 rally last year and the Bersih 3.0 rally on Saturday were solely civil society initiatives, though they were supported by federal opposition parties.
– the Election Commission chairperson is supposed to be independent and answerable to the Agong. He should not consider himself a “loyal civil servant”. Moreover, it has now been revealed that the top Election Commission leaders are Umno members. This alone is enough to justify the calls for the resignation of the Election Commission.
– The amendments to the electoral process rushed through Parliament are serious as they curb transparency during the voting process especially at the polling centres. It may even be difficult or impossible for independent observers to see if voters have the indelible ink on their fingers or for polling agents to verify the voters’ names and IC numbers against the electoral rolls.
Both Subra and Kin Woon said it was difficult to estimate the size of the turnout. But they said it was many times bigger than the Bersih 2.0 turnout, which was around 50000.
“Though it was difficult to estimate the size of the crowd, one thing you can be sure of: it was big enough to worry Najib,” said Kin Woon.
Kin Woon later mentioned a figure of “nearly 200000”. This was more or less in line with the rough consensus among the majority of readers of this blog who put the figure at more or less 200000.
The panel discussion and Q & A was moderated by Aliran president Dr Francis Loh. The Aliran Singers made a guest appearanc.
In his address, former Aliran president P Ramakrishnan stressed that if Malaysians want change, then they have to change the government at the next general election. Subra added that whoever was in power, a strong opposition would be necessary to act as a check and balance.