WITH just hours left on the clock before thousands of Malaysians descend on the capital city’s streets to demand reforms, local authorities have rounded up two key leaders behind the impending protest dubbed “Bersih 5”.
Maria Chin Abdullah, who is Bersih 2.0 chairman and Mandeep Singh, the group’s secretariat manager, were rounded up Friday after police raided their office in Petaling Jaya, a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur.
In a statement condemning the raid and police action, Bersih 2.0 or the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (“bersih” means “clean” in the Malay language), said both leaders were detained and taken to the police station for questioning.
Chin is said to be held under Section 124C of the Penal Code for activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy while Mandeep is being investigated under Section 147 for rioting and 511 for acts punishable with imprisonment. Under Malaysian law, the two can be held for 24 hours before a remand order from a magistrate must be obtained to keep them longer under lock and key.
Bersih 5 is scheduled to begin at 10am Saturday and last through to 6pm.
Penangkapan Maria Chin Abdullah dan Mandeep singh dan di bawa ke IPD Petaling Jaya. Seruan terakhir mereka untuk rakyat.
Posted by BERSIH 2.0 [OFFICIAL] on Friday, November 18, 2016
However, the group said in the statement that the protest will go on, despite the setback.
“If the authorities hope that this act of pure intimidation will scare us into submission, it will not happen. Instead, it has strengthened our resolve to continue with the Bersih 5 rally,” said the joint statement signed by the coalition’s steering committee members.
“Maria’s and Mandeep’s arrest have changed nothing. Bersih 5 will go on as planned and we hope that this heavy-handed action on the part of the authorities will spur Malaysians into coming down to the streets tomorrow not just to demand for institutional reforms but to protest injustices happening in the country,” it added.
Earlier in the statement, Bersih 2.0 claimed that 10 policemen from the Malaysian police headquarters in Bukit Aman raided their premises, using as grounds a section of the law pertaining to its funding sources. It has long been claimed that the group has been receiving funds from the Open Society Foundations linked to American business tycoon George Soros.
Police is stopping our lawyers. Cant go in. At BERSIH office pic.twitter.com/HoHlK0cP6p
— BERSIH 2.0 (@bersih2) November 18, 2016
The group alleged that the police refused to produce a warrant for the raid or explain what they were looking for. They claimed the authorities were rude and rough, and behaved like “thugs”, even pushing its treasurer Thomas Fann at one point.
In total, 10 laptops along with its chargers, pen drives, hard disks, payroll files, bank statements and documents were seized during the raid that went on for two hours until 5.15pm.
“Bersih 2.0 condemns the raid as a blatant abuse of power and pure harassment and intimidation. No warrant or legitimate reason for the raid and arrests could be provided.
“The authorities have resorted to such desperate measures in a vain attempt to stop the Bersih 5 rally,” the group said.
The mass protest planned for tomorrow is expected to draw tens of thousands of Malaysians to the streets, much like the previous four protests organized by the same group.
This year’s protest will be demanding, among others, reforms to the election process, an end to systemic corruption and Prime Minister Najib Razak’s resignation. As its name suggests, this is the fifth such gathering to be organised by the pro-reforms group, which detractors have accused of being fueled by a foreign political agenda to topple the prime minister.
The “Red Shirts”, a pro-establishment group that claims to defend the honour of the Malays who form the majority of the Malaysian demographic, plans to hold a counter rally also in the city, setting the stage for what could turn out to be a violent gathering.