Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Social activist Marina Mahathir has said that she hadn’t witnessed any provocation from Bersih 3.0 supporters during the massive rally on April 28.

‘No one was provocative during Bersih rally’

Stephanie Sta Maria
  | May 8, 2012
Marina Mahathir also backs Proham's call for an RCI to investigate the violence between police and protesters.
PETALING JAYA: Social activist Marina Mahathir has said that she hadn’t witnessed any provocation from Bersih 3.0 supporters during the massive rally on April 28.
The rally, which turned ugly an hour after it officially began, saw police shooting tear gas canisters and water cannons into the 80,000-strong crowd after a group of protesters breached the barricades surrounding Dataran Merdeka.
In the aftermath, videos and pictures of violence from police as well as protesters surfaced with both sides insisting that the other take responsibility for the rally’s outcome.
In a recent interview on business radio station BFM, Marina recounted walking up to the barricades at Jalan Lebuh Pasar where the police were gathered.
“No one was being provocative,” she said. “There were high spirits, many young people and the police was being very patient.”
“But having said that they suddenly brought out the trucks, and the guys in helmets and shields. We didn’t really understand why. I thought it was an intimidation factor, to just have them standing there.”
Marina added that while word of Bersih 3.0 co-chairperson, S Ambiga’s, directive for the crowd to disperse had spread, many “rally tourists” still wanted to get closer to the barricades for snapshots.
“I don’t think anyone is really going to know just yet who is responsible,” she mused. “We may need a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to get to them bottom of this.”
“The government should feel an incentive to set up such a commission to clear its name, and everyone should support it because everyone has a stake in it.”
Last Wednesday, the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) had also urged Putrajaya to do the same in the light of conflicting reports on the violence between police and protesters during the rally.
No political hijacking
The police have defended their actions saying that the situation would have worsened if they had simply stood aside. Marina however didn’t buy it.
“Horrible things happened (on that day) because they threw tear gas,” she pointedly said. “If they didn’t want people entering Dataran Merdeka then the tear gas should have been lobbed there instead.”

“Why shoot it straight into the crowd? I read one person’s account of being tracked by the water cannon so what’s that all about?”
Another claim that didn’t sit well with Marina was that of the opposition hijacking the rally and being ultimately responsible for the ensuing clashes.
According to her, the supporters were shouting for Ambiga and not for opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim. She also observed that isolated political chants were not taken up by the crowd either.
“So I don’t know whether that’s a fair charge to say about the whole rally,” Marina stated when asked for her thoughts on the rally’s link to the Pakatan coalition.
“They are politicians, that is their gain and that is what they do. If they were BN politicians, they would have done exactly the same thing.”

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