Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bersih rally: People on the street speak

By goodtimes.my 
Still talking ... The July 9 Bersih rally is still a hot conversation topic. EPA photo

The government, opposition parties, Bersih and its supporters, and independent special-interest groups have all said their piece – and are continuing to do so – about the Bersih rally held last Saturday, July 9. But what do ordinary people on the street have to say?

GoodTimes.my conducted a simple street poll in four specific areas in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya to get a feel of what people are thinking and talking about on this issue. The team split and approached whoever would speak to them in PJ State, Sunway Pyramid, Giant Mall in Kelana Jaya and the SOGO area.

We asked three questions and the responses of the people are below.


1. Should Bersih have been allowed to hold its rally without hindrance?

wan azli
Wan Azli ... Bersih rally is the Opposition’s activity.
“It should be allowed but it should be held at a venue, maybe Stadium Shah Alam. Not Stadium Merdeka because that is an icon. For me, I see Bersih as an Opposition’s activity.” - Wan Azli Wan Abdul Ghani, 33, customer service officer

“I was there. They should have given the people the stadium or better still, the whole KL. This is a novel cause for clean and fair elections.” - Sam Tee, 56, retiree

“Yes, definitely. We call ourselves a country that gives freedom of speech. It was supposed to be a peaceful rally; people should have been allowed to gather in a peaceful manner.” - Vidya Madhavan, 29, senior copy editor

“Yes, because we are a democratic country. The rally was very peaceful at first but the government made it worse.” - Bavani, 32, assistant manager

“The government should let them hold the rally because they (the rally organisers) are right. It seems the government do not listen to them and the Elections Commission only listens to one side, not the rakyat.” - Diana Marof, 45, homemaker

2. Should Bersih have been declared illegal?

“They should have registered themselves. Malaysia is a democratic country. If you are legal and the police stop you, then you can sue them. But now it is difficult for them to apply for registration because they have done something illegal and affected businesses. A lot of my colleagues at the call centre could not go to work because of that. We had only about 10 workers at work instead of over 100 and the next day, customers called and scolded us with the ‘F’ word.” - Wan Azli Wan Abdul Ghani

“It should not have been declared illegal. (Bersih chairperson) Ambiga (Sreenevasan) said it’s a coalition of 62 (registered) NGOs.” - Sam Tee

Vidya ... the government should not be so defensive.
“They should never have been declared illegal. They just want the government to hear them out, that’s the least the government can do. They were not there to create a ruckus.” - Vidya Madhavan

“No, because they were not saying anything against the government. My question is, 'Why are they illegal?' ” - Bavani

“No, because the government should listen to the rakyat’s views also. I am not pro-government nor pro-opposition.” - Diana Marof

3. Do you have suggestions on a better way of handling such rallies?

“I could see on the TV and Youtube that police handled the rally professionally. If it were under Hosni Mubarak, the police would have shot them already. The police had the right to arrest people in an illegal assembly like this but they didn’t. Our police already did what was best.” - Wan Azli Wan Abdul Ghani

“Give people the right. No shop was burned, no car was smashed. The police were the only aggressive ones, though there was no body contact. I saw the (rally) marshals with red armband cleaning up the street. The police must have been disappointed there were no violence and no rubbish lying around. Even God “bersihkan” (cleaned) the chemicals on us by sending the rain.” - Sam Tee

“Give them permission and a location to hold the rally. Tell them to stick to the venue and don’t go out. Keep it contained. And the government should not be so defensive; it really shows they are insecure. The government should give them a chance to speak and be there to listen to them.” - Vidya Madhavan

“Just give them (rally organiser) the permission to do it.” - Bavani

Diana ... government didn't handle the matter properly.
“The government and opposition parties should co-operate and not listen to one side of the story only. Then hear the rakyat’s views. The way the government handled the matter is not right – they say they can use the stadium but refuse to give the permit. They say have it outside KL, but what’s the point? The rakyat already gave assurance that it will be a peaceful gathering. The police said they found weapons and Molotov cocktails but I don’t think it’s the work of Pakatan Rakyat. From what I read in the newspapers and on the Internet, it looks like the government is trying to do whatever they can to make themselves look positive.” - Diana Marof


1. Should Bersih have been allowed to hold its rally without hindrance?

“The government should not have interfered at all because it only worsened the situation. In fact, at least four of the eight lists in the (Bersih) memorandum should have been implemented instead of ignored.” – Ulil Aidi bin Mohd Raimi, 24, property sales consultant

“The Bersih demonstration should be prohibited because it disrupted public order as well as our businesses. Protest rallies and demonstrations might be a good idea in bringing up justice in this country but to me, this (Bersih) rally was not the way.” Pak Hassan, 46, taxi driver
Nazarul … the rally has tarnished the image of our country.

“I think the Bersih rally should have stopped because we live in a peaceful country. Bersih has affected our business, and given us a lot of hassle, especially the roadblocks.” Nazarul Asrie bin Mohd Ashyraf, 21, telemarketing executive

“If we really are a democratic country, Bersih should have been allowed to hold its rally without interference. It will be letting truth and justice prevail in this country.” – Junos M.K, 29, teacher

“The Bersih rally should have been allowed because it had a good intention – to call for free and fair election for all parties as well as free access to all media.” – Chandrabass, 34, senior executive

2. Should Bersih have been declared illegal?

“Absolutely not because according to our country constitution, we as the rakyat (citizen) have a right to assemble. This is a democratic country and thus, they (government) should have given us a chance to march peacefully.” – Ulil Aidi bin Mohd Raimi

“It should be labelled as legal as long as public properties were free from vandalism and there was no disruption of peace, comfort and safety to the public.” - Pak Hassan
“Yes, because the Bersih rally has tarnished the image of our country.” - Nazarul Asrie bin Mohd Ashyraf

“It depends. It’s illegal because the rally was against the ruling. However, obviously the authority has abused that power to control the citizens. Thus, it makes no difference whether it‘s legal or not. When people get educated, the question of illegal does not matter anymore. Their demand is merely to have a free, fair and clean election and that was why someone has to champion that cause.” – Junos M.K

Chandrabass ... everyone has a right to get his voice heard.
“No it shouldn’t. Bersih was formed with good intentions and the government should have legalised it instead. This is a democratic country and I believe everyone has a right to get his voice heard.” – Chandrabass

3. Do you have suggestions on a better way of handling such rallies?

“The Bersih committee members should have just given the memorandum to the King without going through the peaceful rally which eventually led to the chaotic situation. Compromising between government and opposition is the best solution to prevent the Bersih demonstration.” – Ulil Aidi bin Mohd Raimi

“Don’t demonstrate. Just live peacefully.” – Pak Hassan

“I think they (the Bersih committee members) should have just taken up the offer by Selangor MB (Khalid Ibrahim) to use of Shah Alam Stadium.” – Nazarul Asrie bin Mohd Ashyraf

“Frankly speaking, there is no proper and best way to handle Bersih. We cannot control how people respond to justice because when people get treated unfairly, they will surely react – you (the government) cannot shut people forever. There was a proper method to handle it initially but what happened in Bersih was beyond that ideal way and it had certainly passed the point of diplomacy in solving the problem.” – Junos M.K

“The government should have allowed Bersih to hold its rally in the stadium without any interference from the police. But look what happened instead? When they blocked us from gathering at Stadium Merdeka, we were left with no choice but to go to the streets instead.” – Chandrabass


1. Should Bersih have been allowed to hold its rally without any hindrance?

“Yes because they did it for justice and it was just a democratic process. The people just wanted to have their rights upheld.” - Vincent, 32, businessman

“Yes. We are a democratic country, not communists, so I don’t understand why the government made such a big deal of it. All Bersih was asking for is clean and fair elections.” - Pei Yin, 27, NGO worker

“Yes, absolutely because it is about the freedom of speech. We’re now in the 21st century, so excuses like ‘it’s not part of the Malaysian culture’ are no longer valid. We are changing and becoming more global.” - Jasmine, 43, customer service manager

Hidayat ... we pay taxes. We pay the government's salaries.

“Yes. It was just a call for improvement within the (electoral) system. The people just wanted to be heard. Another reason is that we pay taxes – we pay the government’s salaries. Therefore it is our right to voice our opinions.” - Hidayat, 28, banker

“Of course. They weren’t given any other avenue to voice their opinions.” - Francis Tan, 58, retiree

2. Should Bersih have been declared illegal?

“No. I think the reason the government was so against this is that after the 2008 elections, they made a great loss.” - Pei Yin

“No. We have the right to express our opinions and should be given a choice on how we want to do so. It wasn’t right for the government to suppress the public’s opinions or to instil fear in people.” - Jasmine

“Bersih was declared illegal even before the rally took place. The government was going on a preemptive that it would turn violent and that was not right. In other countries, when the people want to protest, the government give them a space to do so and the police will be there, not to stop them, but to protect the people and control the crowd, and the people would be allowed to protest. It’s their right.” - Zaidi, 28, bankder

“No. The people who attended the rally brought mineral water bottles and towels for their own use. It wasn’t as if they brought bazookas or parangs – so what’s the harm? They say it would harm the businesses in that area, when in fact, the businesses made more profit than usual during the rally!” - Hidayat

Zafran … it is our basic human right to voice our opinion.
“No. It is our basic human right to be able to voice our opinions. It confused the people too, one minute they (the government) say it’s ok, the next they say no.” - Zafran, 25, off-shore engineer

3. Do you have suggestions on a better way of handling such rallies?

“The police didn’t have to be so violent as the rally was a peaceful one.” - Pei Yin

“A lot of tension could have been avoided if the government allowed it in the first place.” - Jasmine

“The government shouldn’t have played the race card. When people ask me, ‘What race are you?’, I tell them, ‘I’m Malaysian and my ethnicity is Malay’.” - Zaidi

“The government should have provided a place and space for people to voice their opinions, and they in turn must be transparent to the queries of the public. I think the government is too proud – they think they hold all the power, but they forget that the power is actually in the hands of the people.” - Hidayat

“The government could have provided a place for them, like, in other countries where people are allowed to protest if they want to. That should be the way.” - Zafran


1. Should Bersih have been allowed to hold its rally without hindrance?

“No, because it caused such a big chaos.” - Hamidah Zuriat, 60, pensioner

“Yes, because we’re a democracy. People cannot voice their problems because they weren’t given a stadium to do so. So, they have to do it somewhere. Why was the PM allowed to walk on the same road (as Bersih participants did) the day after the rally without any hindrance? It’s not fair. There’s no democracy, in a way.” - Jason Choo, 21, sales executive

“If Bersih wants to have a rally, they can but let it be in a peaceful way at a place that does not disturb the public. That day I couldn’t collect my wedding dress because the road was closed. It is troublesome for others.” - Azlin, 30, clerk (Note: Azlin got married on the same weekend as the Bersih rally)

“The government should allow Bersih to have the rally and get feedback. They should not be afraid of it but monitor the situation. You (the government) can set up restrictions but not like the roadblocks. That’s too much restriction.”- Sakinah Alfath Alias, 22, student

Ganesan … they can hold a rally but not in a public area.
“I think the government should stop (Bersih) because it affects a lot of things. Security-wise, business-wise. Foreigners coming in are afraid. They (Bersih) can hold a rally, but in a closed-door stadium, not in a public area where people are affected. That is very bad for the country.” - Ganesan Rajamanickam, 57, senior administrative assistant

2. Should Bersih have been declared illegal?

“I think they are illegal because they are not a registered body under the Registrar of Societies. They’re only an NGO.” - Ganesan Rajamanickam

“No, I don’t think so because Bersih is very harmless. It’s not actually against the government or anything. There are people who have the same political views and they want to see all the supporters in the stadium. But I don’t think that’s harmful.” - Khairina Narawi, 22, student

“I don’t think so because the people from the NGOs gathered to make known their propaganda. The government should not be afraid.” - Sakinah Alfath Alias

"The Bersih rally may not have been good in some aspects. It had its advantages because it allowed people to speak up. We may not know about all these political issues but in my opinion, you shouldn’t say it’s illegal.” - Azlin

“Yes, they should because it’s a nuisance to the country. They are not patriotic.” - Hamidah Zuriat

3. Do you have suggestions on a better way of handling such rallies?

“Maybe the government should have a department where people can complain. Of course, then again, things like this always fall on deaf ears. So perhaps the press can put up a hotline or people can just blog about their views.” - Jason Choo
Khairina … if the government is good, the rally will not affect the government.
“Just let them do whatever they want because if the government is good, the rally will not affect the government.” - Khairina Narawi

“My best suggestion would be that if you want to have a rally, do it at a venue that does not disturb the public. Do it at a stadium where you can assemble the people and at the same time have the media present.” - Azlin

“Maybe they can talk, bring all the people in and talk. That day (July 9) created a lot of problems. We had to take the day off and our salaries were cut. As long as the rally does not cause problems, go ahead.” - Sivamalithy, 25, promoter

“Maybe the government and opposition need to compromise. They need to sit at a round table and talk about it. Malaysian citizens want to live in harmony so the government should be a bit more accommodating. Not a lot, just a little. Allow them (Opposition) to do their propaganda.” - Sakinah

Source:  GoodTimes

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