Najib says Bersih a bid to topple his government

(The Malaysian Insider) – Datuk Seri Najib Razak today accused the Bersih group of trying to seize power through mass rallies, while dismissing the electoral reform group’s allegations of poll fraud.

Speaking on arrival at KLIA after his eight-day trip abroad, the prime minister also maintained elections in Malaysia had always been clean.

“We have never cheated in an election in Malaysia,” he told some 200 Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters at Kompleks Bunga Raya in KLIA.

Najib also brushed aside Bersih claims that BN had an unfair advantage when it came to campaigning owing to the ruling coalition’s stranglehold on the media and restrictions on freedom to assemble.

“We say it’s fair, they (Pakatan Rakyat) say it’s not fair. Isn’t it fair enough that they’re campaigning every day? Every day a ceramah here and there . . . that’s still not fair?” he said.

Najib added that there needed to be a balance between freedom of expression and public order, but stressed that there was “room for dissent” in Malaysia.

He pointed out that Bersih had rejected the government’s offer to have their rally in a stadium and claimed this was because the election watchdog was more keen on having a procession and provoking the police than stating their demands.

“It’s not so much about electoral reform. They want to show us as though we’re like the Arab Spring governments in the Middle East,” he said.

“That’s why they tried to paint us as an autocratic government . . . but actually, they wish to seize power from we who were chosen by the people.”

Bersih estimates that 50,000 people showed up at the July 9 rally for free and fair elections despite efforts to prevent it from taking place while police have said there were only 6,000.

The protest turned chaotic when police fired tear gas and water cannon at thousands of demonstrators, resulting in nearly 1,700 arrests, scores injured, and the death of former military man Baharuddin Ahmad, 59.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has said it will hold a public inquiry into police conduct during the rally following reports that they used excessive force to disperse protesters.

Police yesterday cleared themselves of wrongdoing following an internal probe into alleged police brutality and have instead laid blame on Bersih protesters for provoking the police.