With the aftermath of BERSIH3, however you look at it; the police and the Government must take full responsibility on whatever damages which happened during the BERSIH3 assembly.
PSM is totally convinced that if the Ruling Government had allowed the people the freedom to gather at Dataran Merdeka, then the assembly would have been peaceful and there would not have been untoward incidents.
If the Government allowed Dataran Merdeka to be used, then what would have happened is that the people would have all gathered at Dataran Merdeka and the traffic all around KL would be as normal. There were hundreds of other occasions when Dataran Merdeka has been closed for public activity and there is no problem about it. Even in a scenario where the people walked from 6 points to Dataran Merdeka, it would still be better then what happens when Dataran is completely sealed off. The traffic may be disrupted in these 6 points but that may just be a temporary problem until everyone reaches Dataran Merdeka.
If Dataran Merdeka was allowed, all the speeches could be done in a good Microphone system and the organizers would be able to disperse the crowd after the assembly in an orderly manner. There would not be any rubbish around as the organizers would have told the public to collect the garbage as what happened in Kuantan during the anti Lynas assembly recently.
If Dataran Merdeka was allowed, then the police would not have to run all around KL and police would have had an easier task of monitoring the situation. Our main question here is, why does the Government allow the whole KL city to suffer just in order to protect one rectangle called Dataran Merdeka – Independence Square.
The answer is simple. The Government does not want to see any democratic movement occupy Dataran Merdeka which has its historical importance. Many people spoke about Tahrir square and equate Merdeka square to that. It is perhaps of this one reason that the government used all its might to protect this square. It is because of this that they used excessive force and became paranoid when the Dataran Merdeka barrier was removed by a small segment of the people. The authorities were obsessed to protect Dataran Merdeka at all cost and used all their arsenal to protect this square.
The breach of the barricades in Dataran Merdeka by a small group of the people cannot be used as an excuse to unleash the police terror on the peaceful rally. Because of this high handed and irrational act by the police, it resulted in many problems which otherwise could have been avoided. Until the police attack, the assemble was very organized, peaceful, colorful and very festive orientated.
There has also been lots of speculation on who broke the barricade. It is my opinion that there is nothing really wrong in people breaking the barricades in Dataran Merdeka for the simple fact that the people wanted the Dataran liberated and stand true to its name “Independence square”. This was the popular chant of the people who wanted to gather at Dataran Merdeka. It was a popular demand rather than an isolated one. The police used discretion in allowing the people to rally from six points though initially they said that they will not allow this. In the same manner, the police could have used their discretion in allowing the people to gather at Dataran Merdeka.
Even though Dataran Merdeka was not liberated on 28 April 2012. Nevertheless there would be continues efforts to liberate this public space in the future. Let us not forget the heroic task taken by the students and the Occupy Dataran in the last two weeks in occupying Dataran leading to BERSIH 3.
The people will continue to oppose draconian laws and previously huge demonstrations was done against the ISA, against UPCA and many other draconian laws. Fighting against draconian laws is a democratic right of the people. In this case, the court order was obtained at the eleventh hour and is ex-parte. It is the will of the people which matters in a democratic movement, not the will of the court order obtained through undemocratic fashion and enforced by the police force.
There is no justification at all by the police to use the simple reason of the barricade being removed to go on a rampage on the huge rally. It seems as if the police were waiting for the occasion.
We would like to stress that most of the injuries sustained by the people and the police took place after the assembly, when the police refused to allow people to disperse peacefully. The police in small groups picked on protesters, assaulted and beat them up. They refuse to allow people to leave the area and also since the train service were all disrupted, it was difficult for people to leave. This resulted in people getting frustrated and in engaging in small scuffle with the police. All this could have been avoided if the police allowed the people to disperse peacefully. Instead the police went on terrorizing the people, attacked those who took pictures of their assault and in the process attacked journalist and observers from Human Rights Commission(SUHAKAM) and the Bar Council.
Another question which is bothering is the fact that there were agent provocateurs and some policemen were even wearing the Bersih tshirts. If this is indeed true, then there is no more question or reasoning with regards to the “peacefulness” of the assemble. There were definitely some element who wanted to disrupt and provoke the peaceful assembly to turn unruly.
While we welcome the early release of all the detainees, yet they should not be arrested in the first place. The police high command and the Government must take full responsibility. In their process to defend Dataran Merdeka, they have made a mockery of themselves and made a charade of our democracy. What the people wanted was free and fair election and they wanted to express it in numbers.
The numbers which turned was the biggest demonstration in recent years and BERSIH3 will be remembered by many who participated for two reasons. It will be remembered as a huge show of people’s power and it will be remembered for the unjust violence by the police.
It seems that the police and the ruling Government has yet to reform. In spite of new laws, new slogans and new promises, the peoples’ freedom continues to be trampled upon. The people will continue to rise up against tyranny. This is definitely not the last of the rallies for change.