The Bersih 5 rally and counter-rally last Saturday, Nov 19, 2016 saw an estimated 15,500 Bersih or ‘yellow-shirts’ and 2,500 ‘red-shirts’ protesters on the streets, according to official figures by the police.
Safety and security concerns were a key focus for the organisers, government authorities and general public as numerous fracases between followers of the red-shirts movement with Bersih supporters and the authorities were reported leading up to the rally.
Bersih 2.0, the organisers of the Bersih 5 rally, faced critical setbacks, with the police chief classifying both rallies illegal and the authorities choosing to effectively disable the rally with road closures that sealed off their intended venue and the seizure of their mobile stage platform.
With crowd control, security, and communications seriously jeopardised, the organisers with their security team faced a huge task of facilitating tens of thousands of protesters gathered.
In the previous Bersih rallies, contingents of voluntary corps detailed in key security roles such as crowd handling and marshalling included the Unit Amal of PAS, Amal Relief Malaysia also known as ARiF of Parti Amanah Negara (previously known as Gerakan Harapan Baru), Unit Tindakan Khas of DAP and Skuad Angkatan Muda Keadilan of PKR.
The Unit Amal PAS unit pulled out from the Bersih 4 rally in 2015. Back then, different voluntary corps donned different coloured shirts in order to differentiate their political affiliation. This year, a surge of purple-clad volunteers were in charge for the safety and security of the Bersih 5 rally protesters.
In a media statement on Nov 17, 2016, the deputy chairperson of Bersih 2.0, Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari, announced that the Bersih 5 Security Team had been briefed to deploy members of the voluntary corps at the three rally assembly points namely at the Bangsar LRT station, Masjid Negara, and Dataran Merdeka to assist in all possible incidences of confrontation, violence and general security matters throughout the rally.
The Bersih 5 Security Control Team, or simply known as the ‘Bersih Security Team’ is the new face of a unified voluntary corps from ARiF (500 members), Unit Tindakan Khas of DAP (300 members), Skuad Angkatan Muda Keadilan (350 members) and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) Tiger (50 members) with a total of 1,200 members led by a chief commander from Bersih.
Citizen Journalists Malaysia interviewed the chief secretary of ARiF Nasional (ARiF), Baharuddin Abu Kassim, designated as the ground commander for ARiF, to gain some insights on the Bersih 5 Security Team.
“Each and every member of the team are volunteers from their respective parties and do not receive any form of allowance,” Baharuddin said.
The Bersih 5 Security Team was formed in early November 2016 after a mutual agreement between different voluntary corps from Parti Amanah, DAP, PKR and PSM.
“We have decided that there was a need to come together under a common platform and thus a common uniform which was the deep purple-coloured T-shirt was agreed upon, provided by the Bersih 5 organisers” said Baharuddin.
Among others, some of the main concerns for the organizer were provocations, crowd control, traffic management or marshalling of protesters and most importantly to ensure the safety of protesters throughout the rally.
“We have held several meetings in order to prepare and strategise together as a team in order to ensure the safety and security of the Bersih 5 participants during the rally by taking proactive actions in order to avoid and prevent any possible clashes with the red-shirts and comply fully with orders by the police.
“Preparatory training was also held at the respective state levels. Volunteers from other parties also held joint trainings with us. For example, ARiF had joint training sessions with the Unit Tindakan Khas DAP” said Baharuddin.
Baharuddin was glad that the different voluntary units could come together under a common entity under the main organiser for Bersih 5.
“Every member of the Bersih Security Team was obedient and able to follow the orders of the chief commander with full dedication. We attribute this to the success in diverting the crowd of protesters and marshalled them towards KLCC despite the lockdown and diversion of roads.
“Moving forward, we would like to also propose to the organisers, Bersih 2.0, to consider basic training programmes for security volunteers. Perhaps we (Pakatan Harapan) could assist in programs under the Pakatan Harapan umbrella in the near future before the 14th general election” he added.
Baharuddin also suggested that further improvements could be made such as continuous training provided by the respective parties in order to ensure uniformity and preparedness is always in place. Among some of the improvement opportunities observed, he hoped that volunteers would turn up more appropriately groomed or dressed such as black long pants, shoes and caps.
In concluding the interview, Baharuddin thanked members of the security team from ARiF, Unit Tindakan Khas DAP, Skuad Angkatan Muda Keadilan and PSM Tiger. On behalf of Parti Amanah Negara and ARiF he also thanked the organisers for their trust in leading the security team throughout the Bersih 5 rally.
BAHARUDDIN ABU KASSIM is a Citizen Journalist, and is also a security professional and the founder and owner of JK Global Frontier Sdn Bhd. This article first appeared here.- Mkini