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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bersih Sarawak: Rally on despite renovation works at venue

After multiple rejections of other venues by local authorities, group says it will hold public rally at Jalan Budaya amphitheatre this Saturday.
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KUCHING: Bersih Sarawak will go ahead with its plan to hold a public rally at the amphitheatre at Jalan Budaya here on Saturday despite renovation works at the site.
Its vice-chairperson Ann Teo said the group will proceed with the peaceful assembly as it had exhausted all other options.
Organisers expect 5,000 people to attend the assembly, held simultaneously with similar rallies in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu which will feature speeches, screenings of short documentaries, music and poetry reading from 4pm onwards.
The group is calling for free and fair elections, as well as to empower voters’ rights in Sabah and Sarawak.
“We like to thank Kuching North City Hall (DBKU) mayor Datuk Abang Wahab Abang Julai for pointing out the renovations works and raising concerns of safety of the participants,” Teo told reporters at the site today.
“However, we are of the view that the works affect only a small area of the amphitheatre as compared to the usable space and capacity of the whole (area).
“One of the priorities as the organiser is the security aspect of people coming to join the rally. To this end we have volunteer marshals to ensure that everything is carried out smoothly,” she said.
Abdul Wahab had earlier rejected Bersih’s application to use the area, saying it would not be suitable due to “unsafe” conditions. DBKU also said the renovation works started several weeks ago, before the city council received an application from the organisers to use the amphitheatre for their assembly.
Earlier, the group had also applied to hold the rally at Song Kheng Hai rugby grounds, which was also rejected by the Kuching South City Council (MBKS) through a letter dated November 2.
Bersih 2.0 had on Oct 12 submitted an application to use Padang Merdeka, but was directed to go to the State Secretary’s Office for permission. The office, through a letter dated Oct 25, approved the use of the state stadium after rejecting their application to use Padang Merdeka.
Bersih rejected the offer to use the stadium on grounds that it was too far from public transportation and that adequate medical facilities could not be provided in case of an emergency.
Meanwhile Bersih 5 Sarawak chief security officer Simon Siah said there would be at least 50 marshals at the assembly, with Suhakam volunteers acting as observers.
“We do not expect anything bad to happen. Everyone is very cordial in Sarawak. To that end, we do not expect any problems,” Siah said.
“This place is a public space. And we have informed DBKU that we are going to use this place. They do not own this place,” he added.

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