Despite the string of arrests and dire warnings from the police, the Bersih 2.0 committee today sought to make peace with the men in blue and asked for their help to make the July 9 rally a peaceful event.
Bersih 2.0 chief S Ambiga said they had a "very friendly" half-hour meeting with Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar, where the latter expressed his concerns for public safety if the rally were to go on as planned.
"We told him that we will do everything we can to make sure it is peaceful...
"That is why we suggested that the police decide on the route we should take and we will follow their directions," she told journalists at the Bukit Aman police headquarters after the meeting with Ismail.
Ambiga, who was accompanied by Bersih steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah during the meeting, said the IGP was silent on their suggestion, but she remains cautiously optimistic.
She said they urged Ismail to consider their proposal, and also asked for a second meeting with the top cop next week to follow up on their request.
“He didn't say no, and I think I'm free to call and make an arrangement to meet with the IGP next week.
"We made the suggestion and asked them, the police, to consider it.
“We have asked them, the police... you choose, from one point in KL to Taman Jaya or whatever. You choose, we will follow.”
Ambiga, who has since received a death threat and been questioned by the police on possible sedition in relation to the Bersih rally, noted that their discussion with Ismail did not touch on the recent police crackdown on the coming rally.
She pointed out that the meeting focussed on the event proper, and she repeatedly stressed that they gave their guarantee that they would keep their rally peaceful.
'We are clear on the law'
Ambiga said she also stated clearly to Ismail that they are very clear about the legal basis of their rally, that it was well within the right of Malaysians to take part in a peaceful gathering and that they are not doing anything illegal.
She also handed over a copy of the International Human Rights Manual for Lawyers, detailing the Freedom of Assemby and Association under the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 11), stressing that the police are duty-bound to protect peaceful rallies, while also taking action against those who plan otherwise.
Ambiga added that as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Malaysia, and its police force, only stand to lose credibility internationally, especially if the police continued to engage in actions such as the recent crackdown on Bersih activists.
“Our discussion focussed on the basic rights (to) freedom of assembly. What is the meaning of this right if every time someone wants to have an assembly like this, police immediately say no.”
Ambiga also denied that the rally is an opposition movement aimed at toppling the ruling government.
Claiming she has no idea who was behind a batch of alleged Bersih 2.0 car stickers that state the march aims to topple the government, she stressed that “there are many out there” seeking to take advantage of the rally.
“It doesn't matter who the government is. What matters is that the government wins through free and fair elections, and this is good not only for Malaysians but also for the government.
“Don't take those car stickers, even if they are given out free. This is the work of some very naughty people,” she said.