IN the first weekend of its nationwide roadshow, Malaysian pro-democracy coalition Bersih 2.0 says it has faced harassment from pro-Malay activists, known as “Red Shirts”, in several locations.
On Saturday, in the town of Lumut in the northern state of Perak, the convoy encountered dozens of Red Shirts, which tried to block their way.
“They shouted ‘Mati Bersih (Die Bersih)’, and at one point, one of their cars actually overtook us and blocked our car, resulting in a slight knock,” said Bersih activist Ivy Josiah, who was travelling with the convoy, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today (FMT).
Other convoys also reported facing threats and abuse, from having the flags on their cars torn off to being heckled at traffic lights.
On their end, they have not engaged the Red Shirts or retaliated in kind, said Bersih activists.
The coalition, made up of over 90 civil society organizations, is carrying out the roadshow in 200 towns and villages across the country in an ambitious attempt to gather support from rural communities in its campaign calling for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s resignation over corruption allegations.
Besides that, it is also hoping to raise awareness over the need for free and fair elections, especially in light of the controversial redelineaton exercise proposed by the Election Commission.
The Bersih torch will be handed from town to town, city to city over next 7 weekends before reaching KL for one day mass rally on Nov 19 pic.twitter.com/z3LX1em6TM
— Melissa Goh (@MelGohCNA) October 1, 2016
The roadshow will run for seven weeks, covering over 200 locations, culminating in the group’s Bersih 5 rally in the capital of Kuala Lumpur on November 19.
However, they face strong opposition from the Red Shirts, who have pledged to “thwart” Bersih’s efforts.
Ipoh Timur MP Thomas Su, who backs Bersih, told The Star that the Red Shirts had taken the law into their own hands.
“Our roadshow was meant to be a peaceful gathering to create awareness and garner supporters for when the rally is supposed to take place on Nov 19.
“But what we saw from the red shirts was unruly and threatening behavior. They came on motorcycles and started kicking our cars. They tore down our flags too, ” he said.
— BERSIH 2.0 (@bersih2) October 1, 2016
Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah told FMT that she was “very disappointed” with the Red Shirts’ actions, adding that there was “no need for them to act like gangsters”.
Red Shirts leader Jamal Md Yunos retorted that he was unconcerned over the incidents, as Bersih’s activities were “illegal”, but added that he did not instruct Red Shirt activists to use violence.
“I cannot control the anger of the Red Shirts supporters. What happens, happens,” he said, as reported by FMT.
“If they dare to come down (to the ground), gather, then they have to be ready to bear the risk,” he added.