Apr 10 2012

Bersih 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur

Published by at 12:32 am under Health & safety

Visitors to Kuala Lumpur in late April should be aware that the city is bracing itself for what could be one of the largest political demonstrations in its history. A massive sit-down protest is planned at Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka) on Saturday the 28th, from 14:00 to 16:00, to call for free and fair elections in Malaysia.

Bersih, flying the flag for electoral reform.

Flying the flag for electoral reform in Malaysia.

It is the third mass rally called by a coalition of NGOs known as Bersih (“clean” in Malay) over recent years, pushing for an end to an electoral system riddled with serious irregularities. Bersih has eight key demands: clean up the electoral roll; reform the postal ballot; use indelible ink for voters; a minimum 21-day campaign period; free and fair access to media; strengthen public institutions; stop corruption; and stop dirty politics.

The last mass protest, Bersih 2.0 in July 2011, saw a heavy-handed response from the authorities, with the police using baton charges, water cannons and tear gas. Dozens of people were injured, and about 1,600 arrested.

Yellow, the colour of protest.

Yellow, the colour of protest.

Since then, the government has promised changes to the laws on peaceful assembly, and umpteen small protests have passed off peacefully. The police even adopted a softly-softly approach towards the thousands of supporters of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who gathered in early January to hear the verdict in the latest court case against him.

Mobbed by supporters.

Mobbed by supporters.

Anwar was acquitted, much to the delight of the crowd, but the celebrations were cut short by three small bomb blasts in quick succession. Five people were injured in the explosions, none seriously. It is a warning that attending a political rally in Malaysia does come with risks, even if the police are not being confrontational.

No smoke without bomb blast.

No smoke without bomb blast.

Whether the government will adopt the same heavy-handed tactics with Bersih 3.0 as with its predecessor is anyone’s guess. But an early indication is that the protest was declared illegal within hours of it being announced. The main worry for visitors, apart from being baton charged/tear gassed/water cannoned/arrested, is that KL will face a similar “shutdown” to last July, when major road and rail links were blocked by the police.

Do they predict a riot?

Do they predict a riot?

Adding extra spice to this rally is the knowledge that the next general election, or GE13 as it is known in this acronym-loving country, is just months away. With free and fair polls, Malaysia could well see its first democratic change of government since independence in 1957. But after more than five decades in power, the ruling UMNO and its coalition partners are in no mood to abandon an electoral system which has served them so well. As the saying goes, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

UPDATE (April 30): To see how the day turned out, follow this link.

One response so far

More still
» Previous post:
» Next post:

Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.

Tags: ,

Agoda logo
best price guarantee

One Response to “Bersih 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur” ...

  1. Iskandaron 16 May 2013 at 2:06 am

    Expect another wave of demonstration this year. The opposition parties are planning (and had actually executed) a few street rallies all over Malaysia, not just in KL in protest of their losses in the 13th General Election.

    Tourists going to Bukit Bintang and KLCC should not fret though as these demonstrations are normally held around Jalan Pudu and Dataran Merdeka areas as congestion in this areas will put the most choke to the city’s traffic.

    If you plan to see the Masjid Jamek or thinking of heading to the Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman night market, keep yourself informed about such planned rallies from foreign (Jewish) funded pro-opposition media such as http://www.malaysiakini.com .

    If things get out of control, just stay in your hotel room.

Leave a Reply