'Without protests, there would have been no M'sia' Bersih tells Johor Sultan
SHAH ALAM - Election watchdog, Bersih has "respectfully disagreed" with the statement made by Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar for referring to Bersih rallies as "black marks’ and ‘riots’ in the nation's history.
Bersih said that 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.
“We would like to point out that protests are legitimate means of political expression and are formative to our country's history.
“Furthermore, the 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.
Bersih added their movement was formed in 2006 to highlight electoral malpractices and shortcomings that rendered the elections less than fair or free for democracy with the hope they are able to put a spotlight on these failings and create awareness within the rakyat to demand for better elections from the Election Commission.
“The introduction of the indelible ink and subsequent improvements to the conduct of elections and the expansion of voting access to voters would not have come about if not for the pressure placed on the EC.
“The fourth and fifth rallies in 2015 and 2016 respectively came about due to the 1MDB scandal, which has been described as the world's biggest case of kleptocracy, where up to RM42 billion were stolen. Bersih responded to this grand-scale thievery by organising two peaceful protests where hundreds of thousands of Malaysians turned up.
“We demanded institutional changes to existing laws to end the scourge of corruption in this country and for the culprits to be held accountable,” the statement added.
Yesterday, Johor Sultan had said the street protests proposed by a DAP leader to pressure the government to resolve the rising cost of living issue in the country is not a solution.
The sultan who expressed disagreement over the matter urged the people to learn from what happened in the past. “This is an irresponsible way to find a solution," he had said, stating "1969, also recently the Bersih riots? It never achieved anything, except chaos, destruction and a black mark on our nation’s history!."
His comments were in response to the statement by DAP central executive committee member Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali who encouraged the public to gather on the streets in Kuala Lumpur to hold street protests over the recent rising cost of living.
But Bersih said it is committed to organise peaceful protests and if there had been disorderly conducts, chaos or even damage to properties, it had usually been caused by aggressive actions by the police who, instead of facilitating the peaceful protestors as well as being attacked with tear gas, water cannons and brute force.
Despite the challenges they have faced, Bersih said they have proven beyond doubt that they are able to organise large-scale peaceful protests during Bersih 4 and 5.
“If the Rakyat had not had the opportunity to express their anger towards electoral injustices and grand-scale corruption in a peaceful manner, who knows what would have happened to our country?
"The kleptocrat and his accomplices could have continued to plunder this country and not be charged for the crimes they have committed. Surely Your Majesty would not condone such a tragedy, had the rakyat not been mobilised.
“Your Majesty, history proves that civil disobedience has always been part and parcel of our DNA. Bersih invites Your Majesty to join us in not only respecting but celebrating the rakyat's fundamental rights to freedom of speech, expression, form associations and hold peaceful protests.
“As a nation practicing parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, we ought to welcome and recognise any expression and participation by our rakyat for the common good of Malaysia. Without protests, there would have been no Malaysia,” the statement added.