KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — Putrajaya should learn from the leaders of neighbouring Singapore and adopt a firm stance against rallies, local daily Utusan Malaysia said today, claiming that the Malaysian government’s weak response to the pro-democracy Bersih 4 rally would send off the wrong signals.
Using the Awang Selamat pseudonym, the Umno-owned paper said the deterrent approach used by Singapore should be the core of any efforts to ensure national harmony.
“Awang hopes the government learn its lesson. Learn from the Chinese-led Singapore government that has no compromises to any illegal rallies,” it said in its editorial opinion piece in the paper’s weekend edition Mingguan Malaysia.
It pointed out that Singapore had arrested 21 Malaysians in 2013 for a similar Bersih rally there and had yesterday issued a warning against illegal rallies including Bersih.
Utusan Malaysia said Putrajaya must hold the rally organisers accountable instead of letting them off, asking: “What is the uniqueness of the Bersih organisers that conduct sabotage of the country but they have never been charged as if they have immunity?”
The paper claimed that the authorities’ failure to act firmly in matters of threats to safety and public order had even led to places of worship publicly offering aid to Bersih 4 rally-goers.
“The weakness of the authorities can lead to complicity and greater harm,” the broadsheet paper also said, before saying that the time has come to reject extremism and political racism that it claimed was also under the guise of Bersih.
Utusan Malaysia claimed that anyone – including foreign workers – would describe the Bersih 4 rally organisers as being unpatriotic and having an agenda that is allegedly dangerous to the country.
It also alleged that the Bersih 4 rally’s turnout yesterday showed the “domination” of the largely-Chinese DAP supporters, claiming that this was a change from the Chinese that were in the past purportedly lacking passion to go to the streets to protest.
It went on to say that the rally turnout allegedly showed the Bersih 4 organisers’ true colours of allegedly working together with the DAP.
Yesterday saw proportionately fewer Malay turn-out compared to past Bersih rallies when PAS mobilised its members to attend, according to news reports and observers.
Unlike the 2012 Bersih 3.0 mass-rally for electoral reforms, there were no untoward incidents that happened, with no tear gas or water cannons fired on rally-goers in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Arrests were only made on those in Malacca and Nilai for wearing the outlawed Bersih 4 shirt and a bus of rally-goers headed for Kuala Lumpur was stopped in Bentong before being told to turn back, Bersih’s Urgent Arrest Team said.
All were released after police recorded their statements, Malay Mail Online was told.
The overnight Bersih 4 rally will continue until the end of the day, with the police estimating the numbers of protesters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday at 25,000, and 4,500 more in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, in Sarawak and Sabah respectively.
Bersih 4’s five demands are: clean elections, clean government, right to dissent, strengthening parliamentary democracy and saving the economy.