By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Bersih leaders today vowed not to violate the court order barring protestors from Dataran Merdeka, while pledging to also keep their rally peaceful.
Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, flanked by two other steering committee members Subramaniam Pillay and Andrew Khoo, told a group of supporters outside Central Market that they would only attempt to persuade the police to open the barricades surrounding the iconic square.
“But we will not break the law,” she promised.
Should the police insist on keeping the square closed, said the former Bar Council chairman, Bersih would direct its supporters to begin the sit-in at 2pm as planned, but from wherever they are, at spaces surrounding the barricades.
“We will not breach the court order, we have no intention of breaking the law, we will respect the law,” Khoo confirmed with reporters later.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had accused PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu and Bersih steering committee member Hishammudin Rais of trying to occupy the square with a group of 1,000 protestors last night.
“This morning at about 2am about 1,000 led by Mat Sabu n Hishammuddin Rais tried 2 occupy Dataran Merdeka. Politicians have hijacked Ambiga,” the Umno vice president said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
But the PAS leader, who was injured in last year’s Bersih rally, told the crowd at the National Mosque this morning he was only trying to pacify attendees who had gathered ahead of the rally.
Police yesterday obtained a court order under Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) banning any gathering at “Dataran Merdeka and all the land surfaces bordering Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Jalan Raja and Jalan Kelab except the area occupied by the Selangor Royal Club.”
City police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Mohmad Salleh warned yesterday of possible arrests should any member of the rally attempt to breach the order.
But events ahead of Bersih’s third rally for free and fair elections have remained peaceful so far, despite several fast-swelling groups of thousands that have gathered at various checkpoints across the capital.
The groups plan to march to Dataran Merdeka for the protest shortly after 1pm this afternoon, an act that is prohibited according to provisions against “assemblies in motion” within the just-enforced Peaceful Assembly Act 2011.
But despite the heavy police presence and road blocks across the city, notably missing are the signature red-and-blue uniforms of Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel and their fire-red trucks that were used to spray chemical-laced water to disperse protestors during Bersih’s past rallies.
Even Ambiga’s passage into the city this afternoon went smoothly.
The prominent civil society leader, flanked by a small group of close associates, made her way unhindered into Central Market shortly before 11am this morning.
“I came by car to the National Mosque and then walked here. There were no barricades,” she said upon arriving at the tourist shopping hub.
Khoo said policemen had momentarily attempted to stop his group from walking towards Central Market from Brickfields, but relented after some persuasion.
“And as far as I can see, there are no visible signs of police trucks, just large groups of personnel,” he said.
The crowd along Petaling Street and adjacent streets grew into the hundreds by 11am, with many among them openly donning Bersih’s signature yellow, which was outlawed during the last rally.
The protestors appeared in good spirits and co-operated to allow the passage of vehicular traffic along the streets.
Traffic policemen manning several junctions along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, appeared unaffected by the large crowds milling around.
Bersih 3.0 was mooted following dissatisfaction against the government’s promised attempt to reform the country’s polls process.
* The following video of Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and supporters making their way towards the Bersih rally, is provided by PDRM