As police summon Bersih 4 organisers, one Umno minister sees action as unnecessary

Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz says that the peaceful Bersih rally showed that the Barisan Nasional government respected the concept of democracy and even allowed dissent. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz says that the peaceful Bersih rally showed that the Barisan Nasional government respected the concept of democracy and even allowed dissent. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 ― Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz may be a lone voice in the Cabinet today.

While the police have summoned the organisers of last weekend’s massive Bersih 4 demonstration of civil disobedience to Bukit Aman for questioning, the tourism minister sees their actions as unnecessary.

The former de facto law minister also pointed out that the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 made it lawful for such assemblies to take place provided it was done in a peaceful and nonviolent manner.

“It was seen to be peaceful, and now it has ended. We already have the law which governs peaceful demonstrations, and this was accepted and passed by Parliament,” he told Malay Mail Online in an interview yesterday evening.

“If they want to express their opinions in a peaceful manner, so be it. There are laws that deal with how to go about it.

“I am one of the proponents of free speech in this country, provided you keep to the right side of the law,” Nazri added.

The Umno lawmaker said that the peaceful Bersih rally showed that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government respected the concept of democracy and even allowed dissent.

Nazri also denied claims that the rally was attended by predominantly non-Malays, saying that he believes that race was not an issue in the weekend rally.

“There is nothing racial about the whole thing, it’s just issues, just issues that people have opinions about.

“In fact I think by wearing yellow it shows the 80,000 plus people who took part respect royalty as yellow is the symbol of royalty,” Nazri said with a smirk.

It is understood that the police will question seven individuals from polls reform group Bersih 2.0 over last weekend’s Bersih 4 rally later today.

Bersih 2.0 secretariat member Mandeep Singh Karpall confirmed that all seven have been summoned to Bukit Aman to aid in the police’s probe on the weekend rally for unlawful assembly.

Earlier in a Facebook post, Mandeep confirmed that he along with six others — Bersih 2.0 chair Maria Chin Abdullah, deputy chair Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan, treasurer Masjaliza Hamzah, national representative Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and member Farhana Abdul Halim and Adam Adli Abd Halim, have been summoned for questioning by the police.

As of now, the lawyer representing the seven will be Latheefa Koya, Mandeep said.

According to Bersih 2.0, the seven will be probed under Section 124C of the Penal Code, which deals with attempts to commit an activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

Under Section 124C, anyone who attempts to do so or acts in preparation of such activities will face a maximum jail term of 15 years.

The seven will also be probed under Section 141 of the Penal Code for unlawful assembly, which will be read together with Section 120 involving the concealing of an intention to commit an offence that is punishable with imprisonment.

When contacted, Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa confirmed the police probe.

“Yes, we are investigating them under various offences under the PAA and few other Acts which we see fit,” he told Malay Mail Online.

When asked if the seven will be held for questioning, Tajuddin said it would depend on whether it is required for the investigation, adding: “We have not decided yet.”

The 34-hour Bersih 4 rally in Kuala Lumpur kicked off on August 29 and ended peacefully at midnight on August 30. Similar rallies were held in Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and several other cities worldwide.

No arrests were made during the Bersih 4 rally here, except for four individuals who had allegedly attempted to throw firecrackers at rally participants and a man who had engaged in an obscene act and failed to produce his identity card.

Last Sunday, Kedah police nabbed 11 persons wearing the yellow Bersih 4 shirt deemed illegal by the government during a gathering at Dataran Zero Kilometer.

Last weekend, Malacca police also arrested 12 persons wearing the same shirt and a further 10 for failing to disperse from a rally in its state capital that was held without prior notice to the police.

Aimed at pressuring the prime minister to step down, the Bersih 4 rally had five official demands: clean elections; clean government; right to dissent; strengthening parliamentary democracy and saving the economy.