Bersih rebuts HH the Sultan of Johor

(FMT) – The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) says its rallies in the past did not cause “chaos and destruction” nor were they a “black mark” in the nation’s history.

It said that having a peaceful assembly is a fundamental right of all citizens guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, along with the right to freedom of speech, expression and to form associations.

“This freedom to protest without violence is enshrined in our supreme law because protests have played an integral part in our nation’s history to shape our destiny and bring pressure to bear on unjust laws and corrupt authorities,” Bersih said in a statement.

Yesterday, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar voiced his displeasure at a suggestion for the people to organise street protests to pressure the government over the rising cost of living.

Taking to Facebook, the sultan said street protests are “not the Malaysian way”.

“Have we not learned from the bloody street protests of the past? Have they forgotten the riots of 1969 and also, more recently, the Bersih riots?

“It never achieved anything, except chaos or destruction and left a black mark on our nation’s history,” he said.

Bersih said rallies have always been a part of the nation’s history, even before Merdeka.

“One can say that this country was born out of a protest movement. Umno founder Onn Jaafar rallied the masses to object against the Malayan Union, and this paved the way for the formation of the Federation of Malaya,” it said.

“Without protests, there would have been no Malaysia.”

Bersih pointed out that in the decades since Merdeka, the people have resorted to protests to express their solidarity and grievances over various issues, including “Demonstrasi Baling” and “Reformasi”.

“Bersih carried on this spirit with protests since 2007 to highlight electoral malpractices and shortcomings that rendered our elections less than fair or free for a democracy,” it said, adding that changes to the election process, with the introduction of the indelible ink, among other things, was a direct result of these protests.

According to Bersih, its subsequent rallies in 2015 and 2016 came about due to the 1MDB scandal.

“We responded to this grand-scale thievery by organising two peaceful protests where hundreds of thousands of Malaysians turned up.”

Bersih reiterated that it was committed to organising peaceful protests and that it was not to blame for any chaos or damage to property that occurred.

“If there had been any disorderly conduct, chaos or even damage to properties, it had usually been caused by aggressive actions by the police who, instead of facilitating the peaceful protestors, attacked us with tear gas, water cannons and brute force,” it added.

Bersih added that as a nation practising parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, the participation in peaceful protests by the people for the common good of Malaysia must be welcomed and recognised.