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Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Ambiga: Government declaring ‘war’ on polls reform with anti-Bersih flyers
UPDATED @ 08:40:29 PM 10-07-2012
By Debra Chong
A copy of an anti-Bersih leaflet purportedly distributed by the government to taxi drivers as part of a public awareness campaign. — Pictures courtesy of Ambiga Sreenevasan
The back of the leaflet. — Picture courtesy of Ambiga Sreenevasan
KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — Putrajaya
has declared “war” on Malaysians keen for electoral reform, Datuk Ambiga
Sreenevasan said today after several anti-Bersih flyers bearing the
Information, Communication and Culture Ministry’s official logo were found in
the backseat of a taxi.
prominent lawyer-activist had sent out pictures of leaflets purportedly
distributed by the government to taxi drivers that paint the electoral reform
movement as “pengacau”
(rabble-rousers) despite two ongoing public inquiries into the chaotic April 28
rally in the capital city.
“I’m surprised and appalled by the continuing
attempts to demonise Bersih. It is improper in view of the ongoing inquiries,
both Suhakam’s and their own.
looks like the government has declared war on Bersih. That means they are
effectively declaring war on the rakyat,” she toldThe Malaysian Insider over the phone.
The former Malaysian Bar president, who heads
Bersih with national laureate Datuk A. Samad Said, said she found the leaflet
objectionable because it presented a lopsided take on the events that took
flyer featured photographs of Bersih supporters dressed in the signature yellow
T-shirts attacking police vehicles on one side, with the words “Hidup Biar Beradab Bukan
Biadap!” (Live Civilised, Not Like Savages!).
the flipside, the flyer stated: “Fikir-fikirlah dan jangan meyokong kumpulan pengacau yang degil
dan jangan diperalatkan.” (Think carefully and don’t support stubborn
rabble-rousing groups and don’t be manipulated).
Ambiga blasted the Najib administration for
leaving out all mention of the authorities’ use of extreme measures against the
demonstrators, evidence of which has also been recorded.
“The leaflets are wholly misleading and an
irresponsible act,” she said.
She said she believed there were some policemen
on duty that day who had handled matters professionally, but added there were
groups that had targeted Bersih supporters and assaulted them.
“I think we cannot deny and they cannot deny, by
their own disclosure, 960 canisters of tear gas were fired into the crowd. To
me, that is violence.
“Why is there no mention of this?” she asked.
She added that the leaflets were likely produced
using public funds.
She also questioned the timing of its
from the publication code printed on the lower half of the page, the leaflets
have been in circulation since May this year as part of a public awareness
On July 5, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak
had launched a government programme touting taxi drivers as the country’s
“ambassadors”, saying they could help boost the country’s image through their
daily interaction with tourists.
“If taxi drivers are polite, courteous and
customer-friendly, speak good things about the country and show a positive
attitude, tourists will feel welcomed.
“Tourists meet thousands of taxi drivers and
through their interactions, tourists’ perception of Malaysia is formed,” he was
reported as saying by The Star newspaper at the launch of the Taxi Tourism
Ambassadors programme in Putrajaya.
The April 28 rally that saw tens of thousands
gather at six different locations before heading to Dataran Merdeka was
peaceful until about 2.30pm when Bersih chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan asked
the crowd to disperse.
But her announcement was not heard by most of
the crowd who continued to linger around the historic square, which the courts
had already barred to the public over the weekend.
Just before 3pm, some protestors breached the
barricade surrounding the landmark, leading police to disperse the crowd with
tear gas and water cannons.
Police then continued to pursue rally-goers down
several streets amid chaotic scenes, which saw violence from both sides over
the next four hours.
Several dozen demonstrators have claimed that
they were assaulted by groups of over 10 policemen at a time and visual
evidence appears to back their claim but police also point to violence from
rally-goers who attacked a police car.
The police car then crashed into a building
before some protestors flipped it on its side.
Najib has weighed in on the April 28 rally and
labelled it an attempt to overthrow his democratically-elected government.