By Anisah Shukry
KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — Major English and Malay dailies linked to Barisan Nasional (BN) zeroed in today on purported acts of violence by Bersih participants, saying that the rally for free and fair elections was “aggressive and dirty,” laying blame for the “day of shame” squarely on the opposition’s shoulders.
Umno’s Utusan Malaysia said Pakatan Rakyat (PR), particularly Opposition Leader Datuk Sri Anwar Ibrahim, incited protesters by saying “we will proceed to Dataran Merdeka no matter what happens.”
The Malay newspaper’s Sunday edition, Mingguan Malaysia, also pinpointed PKR deputy president Azmin Ali for calling on participants to fight the government.
“Right from the start, I viewed Bersih as politically motivated. It is meant to provoke the public into toppling the government through a process beyond that of the general elections.
“Demonstrations are the opposition parties’ escape route because they are afraid they will lose badly in the upcoming elections,” wrote Awang Selamat, a pseudonym used by the daily’s editors.
Meanwhile, headlines such as “Police attacked, beaten up” and “Pas Unit Amal aggressive, broke through barrier” dominated coverage by the Umno-linked Berita Minggu.
The weekend edition of Berita Harian described in detail how protesters jeered and hurled items at police vehicles, as well as attacks on a traffic policeman.
“The rioting and violence began when Anwar was about to begin his speech as several protesters were seen pushing and lifting the barricades... following Azmin Ali’s speech,” it reported.
MCA-owned Sunday Star also stated that “it is believed” the crowd became unruly after the speech by Azmin Ali, who asked demonstrators “if you want to occupy Dataran Merdeka” despite the historic square being barred to the public by a court order.
It said his question was met with cries of “hancur rempah, buka pagar” (crash and destroy, open the gates).
Meanwhile, Berita Harian’s sister newspaper The New Straits Times described yesterday’s events as “a day of shame” with “five hours of violence and madness that crippled the city” and resulted in “vandalism and total chaos.”
“How do Bersih leaders justify when some of their supporters overturned a police patrol car, or kicked a traffic policeman lying helplessly on the street?” NSTP group managing editor Abdul Jalil Hamid wrote in its weekend edition New Sunday Times.
Over 25,000 demonstrators were dispersed by police with water cannon after some rally-goers pushed through the barricade in front of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and tried to rush into Dataran Merdeka.
Some of the 15,000-strong group sandwiched between police and DBKL broke down the barriers and moved towards the historic square, leading to police firing chemical-laced water and tear gas canisters.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali had tried to negotiate with police, who told the Gombak MP to calm the group down. But despite his advice they still broke through the barricades.
Police fired as far as the DBKL premises, which are across Jalan Parlimen, and the move broke up the crowd who fled helter-skelter but police chased them down at Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Raja Laut.
Angry protestors later attacked a police car which then crashed into at least two people while trying to flee.
The angry crowd then surrounded the policemen but volunteers from PKR’s Jingga 13 formed a human shield around the officers, saying “don’t blame them, it’s not their fault.”
After an ambulance took away the injured policemen, the protestors flipped the car over on its side but then fled after tear gas was fired.
Despite most of the crowd dispersing, a pocket of 1,000 demonstrators then engaged in open battle with riot police near Masjid Jamek.
A police officer was seen dragging a man across the road, which resulted in Bersih supporters attacking the police with broken bottles, mineral water bottles and broken concrete slabs.
A convoy of police vehicles ferrying Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail in one of its cars was forced to make a U-turn near Masjid Jamek when met with a hostile reception from protestors who threw shoes and broken concrete slabs at them, smashing the windows of two cars.