By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili accused Bersih today of being a political vehicle to test the government’s will to enforce law and order, insisting the rally on Saturday “had nothing to do with electoral reform.”
The Cabinet minister who chaired the recently concluded parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral improvements said the organisers of the demonstration should be held “fully responsible” for the chaos that ensued after some rally-goers breached the barricade barring them from Dataran Merdeka.
“But when you have the leader of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) openly urging demonstrators to storm Dataran Merdeka, then we have a bunch of leaders who are disrespectful of the law of the land and instigating supporters to openly commit offences.
“Are these the type of leaders Malaysians can trust, place their future in their hands, and to manage this country and the people’s political future?” the science, technology and innovation minister asked in a press statement.
Police had obtained a court order barring members of the public from entering the historic square and Bersih leaders had also told supporters not to defy the order but to instead hold their sit-in rally for free and fair elections at the point they were stopped by police.
But the breach of the barrier by some demonstrators led to Federal Reserve Unit personnel firing tear gas and water cannons at them, leading to spiralling chaos. Police also chased Bersih supporters down several streets while some rally-goers retaliated and attacked riot officers.
A clip that surfaced on video-sharing site YouTube yesterday appears to show Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim signalling to Azmin Ali to breach a police barricade barring Bersih supporters from entering Dataran Merdeka.
But the PKR de facto leader and deputy president both denied today exchanging signals to break a police barrier in front of Dataran Merdeka during Saturday’s Bersih rally, insisting that Anwar had asked the Gombak MP to negotiate with police.
Ongkili, who is also Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) deputy president, chaired the polls panel that was announced by Datuk Seri Najib Razak shortly after Bersih’s previous rally on July 9, where tens of thousands flooded the streets of the capital to call for free and fair elections in defiance of a police ban.
Widespread condemnation from the international media over Putrajaya’s clampdown led the prime minister to announce a raft of reforms including the PSC and a new law that he said would allow public gatherings in Malaysia in accordance to “international norms.”
But Bersih announced a third rally early this month, saying it was disappointed with the findings of the parliamentary committee despite Ongkili’s insistence that even opposition members of the panel had agreed to over 90 per cent of the recommendations.
The Kota Marudu MP added today that “Malaysians should count their blessings as there were not many countries that they could truly call home like Malaysia with all the stability, freedom, progress and peace that we enjoy.”
“We must never allow this country to be governed from the streets,” he said.