Ambiga: Police’s duty to prevent clashes at Bersih rally


Lawyer says under the law, district police chief is compelled to relocate counter rallies to another location, time, and date to prevent violent clashes.

(FMT) – It is the police’s duty to prevent members of the Red Shirts group from clashing with Bersih 5 supporters this Saturday, former Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan said.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Bersih 2.0 headquarters, Ambiga said under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012, it was stated that the district police chief must provide an alternative date, time and place for the organiser of the counter rally to prevent clashes between protesters.

Section 18 of the PAA 2012 reads: “If the Officer in Charge of a Police District receives a notification of a counter assembly and it is evident that the organisation of the counter assembly will cause conflict between the participants of the assemblies, the Officer in Charge of the Police District shall give an alternative for the counter assembly to be organised at another time, date or place”.

“Previously, the Red Shirts made it clear that they were the counter assembly to Bersih. They have always said ‘if there is no Bersih, there will not be Red Shirts’,” Ambiga said.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Najib Razak expressed concern over an imminent physical clash between the Red Shirts and Bersih 5 protesters in the upcoming Bersih 5 rally.

Responding to Najib, Ambiga said the simple solution to avoid violent clashes this Saturday was to enforce Section 18 of the PAA 2012.

“Direct the Red Shirts to come at another time, place or to assemble at another location. There’s a clear cut provision here,” she said, urging the police to exercise their powers under the said Act.

“In my view, it is mandatory for the police to exercise their powers under this Act. I think we have seen enough statements from them (Red Shirts) that would certainly suggest so (violent clashes).

“I cannot see how they (police) cannot act under Section 18. They just have to check with their police personnel on the ground and it will be clear that Section 18 is ideal for them to act on.”

It was previously reported that Bersih 5 supporters and even journalists were violently manhandled by the Red Shirts, during the former’s convoy.

Meanwhile, Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah said street demonstrations played an integral part in the country’s culture.

“Street demonstration has always been our culture. Umno would not have survived if it had not gone to the streets. That’s how we won independence (from the British),” she said, referring to the British colonial era.

She added that demonstrations were the people’s right to express dissent towards the government.

“And now, we want to show the government that people are serious for change. So this is part and parcel of our struggle.”

The Bersih 5 rally this Saturday will see protesters gathering at the Bangsar LRT station near Dataran Maybank and Masjid Negara at 10am.

At 12.30pm, protesters from the two meeting points will converge as they make their way to the vicinity of Dataran Merdeka, where the rally will commence before officially ending at 6pm.