@ 07:25:11 PM 29-06-2011 By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 — Bersih 2.0 activist Maria Chin Abdullah issued a bold challenge to the government today, saying that even if all the coalition’s committee members were arrested, the controversial July 9 march would still proceed.
Speaking to reporters after recording a statement at the Dang Wangi district police headquarters this evening, the activist pointed out that the rally was not about Bersih’s members but the people’s demands.
“They can use preventive measures, they have given that threat but the rally is not about the individuals in Bersih ... it is about the people.
“Even if they take all Bersih steering committee members, the rally will still go on,” she declared.
She added that the widespread arrests of activists across the nation, the questioning of at least 40 suspected Bersih supporters and the latest raid on the Bersih secretariat’s premises at the NGO Empower’s office in Petaling Jaya today would not stop the spread of yellow on the capital’s streets this July 9.
“It is not going to stop us, any kind of intimidation will not stop us. We will continue with the rally to show that the people are in charge and the government is not in charge,” she said.
Maria Chin, who is also Empower’s executive director, condemned the arrests of seven of the NGO’s staff members, including one volunteer, and the raid on its premises.
“I am very concerned for my staff ... I think that this action needs to be seriously condemned by every Malaysian because what they have done is unacceptable,” she said.
According to the police, 314 yellow, 90 orange, 136 cream Bersih T-shirts and banners were seized during the noon raid carried out by some 20 policemen, at least one of whom was armed with an assault rifle.
All Bersih-related materials are now deemed illegal as they are said to be promoting the illegal July 9 rally.
Despite this, Maria Chin said there was no need for Bersih to order a change in its colours for the rally, saying the authorities would only move to extend its ban.
“So you can choose any colour ... They can declare anything illegal,” she said.
She reminded the authorities that Bersih’s plan could not be thwarted as its goals were shared by many.
“It has gone very big and it is now the citizens’ call to ask for electoral reform. It has gone beyond Bersih members,” she said.
Election watchdog Bersih along with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) component parties are gearing up for a rally this July 9, the second such gathering calling for electoral reform. Among others, the group is demanding that the government ensure a clean and fair general election, reforms in the postal voting system and an extended campaign period of at least 21 days.
The first rally, also organised by Bersih, was held in 2007 and saw some 50,000 people take to the capital’s streets. The gathering eventually descended into chaos when the police deployed tear gas and water cannons on demonstrators