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Friday, August 31, 2012

TIME'S UP FOR BN: Thousands attend Janji Demokrasi countdown despite police ban

TIME'S UP FOR BN: Thousands attend Janji Demokrasi countdown despite police ban
UPDATED Thousands of Malaysians defied a police ban to attend a countdown to the nation's 55th Merdeka or Independence Day, proving once again that Prime Minister Najib Razak's BN government could no longer hope to rely on authoritarian and violent crackdowns to cling to power.
The Janji Demokrasi (Promised Democracy) event planned for Thursday had been banned at the 11th hour by the police. Organized by Gabungan Janji, a coalition of 47 NGOs, sister-countdowns were also held at various states and cities around the world, with overseas Malaysians keen to join in the celebrations. Malaysia celebrates its Independence Day anniversary on Friday, August 31.
"This is a real show of love for the country. If not for the drizzle, the crowd would have been even bigger, so who says Malaysians are not patriotic? They love the country and without wishing to politicize the event, I think it is clear they know BN is bad news and must be removed from power," PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
"You can feel the sense of unity of purpose tonight. This is a people uprising Malaysian style. It is very peaceful but it is a revolt no less, BN has lost the hearts and minds of the Rakyat."
Sea of yellow: HIDUP RAKYAT!
Together with colleague Fuziah Salleh, the PKR MP for Kuantan, Tian had joined the crowd that thronged the Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.
Blowing vuvuzelas, Malaysians from all walks of life had slowly trickled in hours before the 11pm start of the countdown in the historic square where Independence Day was declared 5 decades ago.
Most of those who came wore yellow to show their support for free and fair elections as requested by the organizers, who also distributed yellow flowers to the attendees.
"It was a good showdown. Hidup Rakyat! Merdeka Rakyat!" said Fuziah.
Earlier this afternoon, there was dismay after the police declared the event as illegal and warned Malaysians not to attend. However, given the past experiences with the Bersih 2.0 and 3.0 rallies, where the police had brutally attacked the crowd, few Malaysians were really surprised by the latest autocratic announcement.
"We did not expect this but we can't really say we are surprised either. We are just shocked at how silly the police and Prime Minister Najib Razak are making themselves over this issue of public demonstrations. It goes totally against Najib's own promise of greater freedom to peaceful assembly and confirms yet again what a sham the government of the day has become in Malaysia," PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng told Malaysia Chronicle.
Too late, thousands still came despite ban
Janji Demokrasi organiser Maria Chin Abdullah had confirmed receiving a letter from Dang Wangi district police chief Zainuddin Ahmad that the gathering was against regulations and should be cancelled.
"I received the letter around 2.15pm by hand. A few policemen came," Maria was reported as saying on Thursday.
However, it was too late to stop the crowd from showing up in a show of solidarity to pressure the BN government for greater democratic space.
The Umno-controlled media had tried to tarnish the gathering by linking it to Bersih as Maria is also a committee member in the coalition of NGOs for free and fair elections.
"We support their right to take such action [in organising the gathering] and we support their demand to improvise our democractic system," Bersih had said in a statement to clarify that it was not involved in organising the event.
On Monday, Maria and the Preservation of Jalan Sultan Committee (PJSC) had held a two-hour meeting with Dang Wangi police chief Assistant Commissioner Zainuddin Ahmad. The Janji Demokrasi event was planned specially to take advantage of the long weekend break to give the people time to get together and show their support for key causes.
PJSC chairman Yong Yew Wei had pledged that their event called ‘Merdeka March for Jalan Sultan’ would be "harmonious, peaceful and joyous". The Merdeka March, which is to garner support for the preservation of heritage buildings in the country, is due to start from the Gospel Hall in Jalan Hang Jebat at 8.30pm.
According to Yong, his group will not carry placards, banners or leaflets in strict compliance with the police advice. The same goes for Janji Demokrasi, with Maria confirming there would be no speeches during their event, except for a poem to be presented by national laureate A Samad Said.
Don't politicize? Janji di CAPATI!
Oddly, the Inspector General of Police himself had a day ago promised that the gathering could take place. “There will be no issue as long as they follow the rules to gather peacefully,” IGP Sri Ismail Omar told the press.
However, Ismail was ridiculed for his comments that Malaysians should celebrate the day without politicising it. “We should celebrate the day in peace. There should be no room for indifferences and political agendas,” Ismail had said.
His comments were derided because Najib himself had chosen for this year's Merdeka celebration the theme ofJanji diTepati or Promises Fulfilled in a bid to ramp up public sentiment for his government ahead of general elections which are widely expected to be called soon.

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