Monday, July 11, 2011

Press Statement: On Bersih 2.0 by Chow Kon Yeow

YB Chow Kon Yeow
Pej. Ahli Majlis Mesyuarat Kerajaan
Tingkat 52, KOMTAR
10503 Pulau Pinang.
Tel: 04-2619888

Press Statement: On Bersih 2.0

Jul 11, 2011

I view with great concern the rising state of repression in our country. With regards to Saturday’s (Jul 9, 2011) Bersih rally in the nation’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur, it is impossible to ignore the violent actions of the Royal Malaysian Police in acting against peaceful protesters. Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak’s comments today that “Police had used minimum force and there was no actual physical contact” is an outright lie, which is contradicted by the abundant availability of photographs and video clips documenting the blatant opposite of his imagined claims.

PM Najib’s dishonest assessment of Saturday’s events is propped up by a wall of silence from his approving coalition partners, who – unless they speak up strongly and immediately – collectively sanction the use of chemical weapons against unarmed Malaysians. This is particularly agonising given the fact that one man has died as a result of this violence. Further denials by the Police that they “did not lay a finger” on the late Baharuddin Ahmad ring hollow especially as they also unabashedly denied attacking Tung Shin Hospital on Jalan Pudu when protesters were forced to seek refuge from the choking and stinging effects of inhaling 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (a.k.a. CS gas). Instead of issuing mere denials, Home Affairs Minister Dato’ Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein and IGP Tan Sri Ismail Omar must confront the hard evidence that their men fired numerous volleys of tear cas canisters as well as sprayed chemical-laced water into hospital grounds – where protesters were trapped without any safe dispersal route available – thereby creating havoc and risking the wellbeing of patients in the hospital. This rabid and irresponsible action by the Police is uncalled for and I demand Minister Hishamuddin and IGP Ismail be held accountable.

I need to voice concern, too, with the Police’s violent handling of Bersih 2 and Pakatan leaders. Reportedly, Parliamentary Opposition Leader Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim sustained injuries to his head and knee and had to be hospitalised as a precaution. His bodyguard was less fortunate, taking a direct hit to the face from a tear gas canister and required surgery to repair damage to his face. The deliberate firing of a dangerous projectile into the crowd or aiming it at particular persons is a criminal act. I understand the Police have a role to play in dispersing a crowd that has turned rowdy or violent. However, the act of firing canisters at peaceful people directly is criminally motivated, hence utterly disparages Malaysia’s image as a democratic nation.

The immediate step PM Najib Razak needs to take is to recognise the sheer amount of discontentment with his government’s continued lack of commitment for free and fair elections. If it is true, as it is reported, that he isn’t “afraid” of fair elections, it is time to take Bersih’s demands seriously and reform our electoral system. As for Home Affairs Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, he has to take full responsibility over Police brutality, the usage of chemical weapons in enclosed areas and a hospital, the city-wide lock down, the massive network of road blocks, as well as intimidation against peaceful rally-goers. I also demand the release of the six PSM activists, including my colleague in Parliament Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, who are still detained under the Emergency Ordinance. As the detention order was justified on belief that the PSM six intend to participate in the Bersih rally, I call upon the Police to release them immediately since July 9 is already a matter of history and it is no longer humanly possible for them to travel back to that date.

Saturday’s Bersih rally, which saw tens of thousands of Malaysians defying the government clampdown and rise up to voice their collective concern for free and fair elections, is a clear indication of the rakyat’s ability to join hands across the imagined boundaries of ethnicity and religion – boundaries which have been used by UMNO-BN to divide and rule this country for so long. Also encouraging is the fact that Malaysians and their friends from all over the world gathered in various cities globally to lend support for Bersih’s cause. This is patriotism at the highest level. There is reason for all Malaysians to have hope for genuine multiracial politics in this country instead of suffering under the continued ethnocracy of UMNO-BN. And for that to happen, the rakyat must remember that, despite all odds, the 9th of July was the peoples’ victorious celebration of democracy in Malaysia.

Hidup Rakyat!

Chow Kon Yeow
Member of Parliament, Tanjong.
Penang State Exco Member and State Assemblyperson, Padang Kota.
Penang DAP State Chairman.
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