KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — More than a thousand people marched today at the Bersih 4 rallies in Kuching, Sarawak, and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, to call for institutional reforms, even as more than 10,000 Malaysians rallied in Kuala Lumpur simultaneously.
About 3,000 people have turned up so far at the Song Kheng Hai rugby field in Kuching as of 2.50pm, while some 500 from the Sabah Trade Centre, 50 from the Hakka Association Hall, and 100 from the City mosque and Plaza Juta walked in small groups chanting “Bersih, Bersih” repeatedly, towards the Tanjung Lipat waterfront in Kota Kinabalu.
Police personnel at Kota Kinabalu including teams from Federal Reserve Unit vehicles were on standby but did not stop the entourage who were walking in an orderly fashion past them at the Likas Bay Park.
Sabah police had declared the gathering illegal and threatened to take action against participants.
The crowd, the biggest Sabah has ever seen in a Bersih rally, seemed to consist of people from all walks of life who carried Sabah and Malaysian flags.
Students from a hospitality school in Sepanggar, Sabah, also came to show their support at the Bersih 4 rally, organised by polls reform groups Bersih 2.0, to protest against the rising cost of living due to the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
“We came after we read about the rally in the news. We are concerned about the current political scene and how confusing it is. We want a more transparent government,” said a 19-year-old student who declined to be named.
Sabah Bersih chairman Jannie Lasimbang reminded people not to bring up racial and seditious issues and let the negotiation team handle matters if protesters are stopped.
Although Sarawak Bersih organiser Peter John Jaban reminded participants not to wear T-shirts with DAP or PKR logos, some DAP supporters turned up in shirts with their party logo.
Unlike Sabah or Kuala Lumpur, where the authorities have prohibited the Bersih 4 demonstrations, the state government allowed the use of the Song Kheng Hai field in Sarawak for the rally.
Awang Ahmad Awang Ali from the Sarawak Bersih 2.0 secretariat told the Bersih 4 rally in Kuching that there was a need to “bersih” (clean) the government.
“Look at our ringgit,” he said. “Its value has gone down over the past months”.
The local currency recently plunged to a 17-year low against the US dollar, diving to the levels seen during the 1998 Asian financial crisis.