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Malaysia: Planned Rally Calling for Fair Elections Banned

The monumental 2007 Bersih rally in Malaysia is going to have a sequel. Bersih (The Coalition for Fair and Clean Elections), a Malaysian NGO advocating clean, free and fair elections, has organised Bersih 2.0, to be held on the 9 July, 2011, where supporters of the cause will march through Kuala Lumpur before handing a memorandum to the King.

The government’s reaction to the rally has been to immediately ban it. Government officials have warned their supporters that joining the illegal rally would cause more trouble; the Home Minister declared that the Bersih T-shirt is illegal because it ‘is related to an illegal assembly’; the Tourism Minister has said that it would only disrupt the economy; and the Women, Family and Community Development Minister said that Bersih 2.0 is ‘trying to do a “Tahrir Square” in Malaysia’. Already, 14 people wearing the T-shirts have been arrested. In addition, police have raided Bersih's secretariat and arrested 7 staff.

Bersih rally in 2007. Image by Flickr user wormy lau (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Bersih rally in 2007. Image by Flickr user wormy lau (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Janatharni Arumugam reacted to the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Jalil’s attack on Bersih 2.0’s president Ambiga Sreenevasan, writing in popular blog Loyar Burok:

Ambiga’s ability to lead has been proven during her tenure as a Bar Council President, when lawyers took a strong stand and called for reforms of the judiciary. She has consistently been part of initiatives which promote human rights and social justice. She is also a wonderful role model to women, as a professional who has risen to become the President of the Bar Council.

As a woman I feel enraged and saddened to see women pitted against each other to further a patriarchal supremacist agenda.

Malaysian women, I urge you to walk with BERSIH 2.0 come 9 July 2011. We have much to be unhappy about, as the state has failed to protect our rights as voters and citizens when it manipulates and buys our votes to hold on to power.

Let them hear the voices and witness the strength of women in bringing about the much needed changes to our beloved Malaysia.

Glam also does not see anything wrong with the rally, and thinks that the Government is not doing the right thing by declaring it illegal:

Have the authorities not learnt anything at all? Recall that when police used high-handed tactics to subdue fifty thousand demonstrators in 2007, BN lost five states and the two-thirds majority in Parliament. if police persist in this same stunt – come GE13, who knows, it may be all over for BN. Stop being the tyrant. Listen to the people. For the country's sake!

However, most of the activities are currently being generated through Facebook and Twitter. Bersih 2.0 already has a Facebook page and Twitter account, and has attracted thousands of supporters already.

Below is a video calling for Malaysians to support the rally:

On Twitter, most people are Tweeting support for the rally:

@hsinish: Why #bersih ? I don't want to see our fear today becomes our tear tomorrow. FREE & FAIR electoral system.

@sivamsubang: The Govt is elected 2 serve.If it doesn't, voted out of power after 5 years.In the interim,it's d job of citizens 2 protest misrule

@FunKyDoGxxx: I like Malaysia to be BERSIH (clean) rather than having POLITICS KOTOR (dirty politics) by the powers-to-be. Return rakyat's money. Support @bersih2.

@_earth: Bersih isn't about toppling a government. But many in BN (Barisan Nasional, ruling party) think it is.

@eitoabdulhalim: As far as I know @bersih2 is a peace marching group to hand over the memorandum, no riot or whatsoever. Then, why worry?

@Isaakjohn: Why #Bersih? In a clean environment, there is transparency.

Bersih’s demands include updating the list of eligible voters as some are no longer eligible, abolition of postal votes and providing equal access of the media to political parties – government or opposition.

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