Bersih 3.0 and Kuala Lumpur Mayor are unable to reach an amicable settlement on the venue for the Saturday rally.
KUALA LUMPUR: Bersih 3.0 organisers and Kuala Lumpur Mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail emerged from an hour-long dicussion this morning still in a deadlock over the use of Dataran Merdeka for the sit-in rally this Saturday.
Bersih 3.0 – represented by S Ambiga, Maria Chin Abdullah and Hishamuddin Rais – told the media at the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) headquarters here that although Ahmad had offered them the use of Stadium Merdeka it was too late to change the rally’s venue.
“We told the mayor that switching venues just two days before the rally would only cause a bigger confusion,” Ambiga said. “So although the mayor has made himself clear, we appeal to him to reconsider his decision.”
“We have already assured him that if he changes his mind we are ready to work together with DBKL and the police on safety issues. As we have said before, we want a peaceful rally.”
Ahmad, who called for an immediate press conference, however, told the media that Bersih’s excuse of a short timeframe did not hold water.
“I even offered to hold a joint press conference with them to annouce that the venue would be changed to Stadium Merdeka,” he said.
“And if all you media present today put that announcement on the front page, even those abroad would know of the change in venue.”
Ahmad also shot down Bersih’s complaint that DBKL had dragged its feet in responding to Bersih’s application for Dataran Merdeka. He produced the application letter dated April 16 which he said Bersih had claimed to have faxed but which DBKL never received.
A copy of that letter was later delivered by hand on April 19 and Ahmad said DBKL had responded to it that same day.
“So we were not slow at all,” he pointed out. “Then Bersih said it had announced the rally on April 4 but that was just a statement in the media so how can we accept that as notification? It’s not official, just a statement of intention.”
Ahmad then produced a second letter by Maria Chin, dated April 24, requesting a meeting with him to discuss his rejection of the use of Dataran Merdeka.
“I was given short notice but I still cancelled my meetings today to see them because I felt it was important,” he stated. “And despite us offering them an alternative venue they still want to use Dataran Merdeka.”
According to Ahmad, three other groups – Perkasa, Puncak Silat and the Lesbian, Gays, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) – had applied for the use of Dataran Merdeka on separate dates even before Bersih had done so and all three had been rejected due to “unsuitable elements”.
He said that if it was freedom of expression that Bersih wanted, then Stadium Merdeka would better fit the bill since the Declaration of Independence had taken place there.
He added that not only was the stadium walking distance from Dataran Merdeka, it was also a convenient drop-off point for taxis and offered ample parking space for buses.
“It is a win-win situation,” Ahmad said. “I have told Bersih that if they agree to Stadium Merdeka, I will speak to the police about protecting the supporters from any untoward incidents.”
“I have already warned Bersih of possible confrontations in Dataran Merdeka but they want to use the venue. And even if they are just sitting quietly, they are inciting feelings of disgruntlement so how can this rally be peaceful?” he asked.
Asked if DBKL would cordon off Dataran Merdeka, Ahmad replied that as its caretaker it would not allow anyone to misuse the place.
He, however, declined to indicate what action would be taken this Saturday against those who attempted to enter the area.
“When the time comes we will know what to do,” he said. “This isn’t our first time. We are ready for them so leave it up to us to do our jobs.”