Friday, April 13, 2012

Bar Council to monitor Bersih 3.0 for violence

Police officers arrest attendees during the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur, July 9, 2011

The Bar Council will deploy a team of monitors during Bersih 3.0 to watch for any incidents of violence and assist those who may be arrested during the April 28 rally, its president Lim Chee Wee said today.

He would not say if the council would participate in the event, Bersih’s third since 2007, but noted that the Bar “respects and protects” the right to assemble under the Federal Constitution, provided it stays peaceful.

“The Malaysian Bar Council is not a member of the coalition of NGOs making up Bersih 3.0,” he said in a statement to The Malaysian Insider today.

Lim expressed hope that the police would offer assistance during Bersih 3.0, pointing out that they had done the same for the rallies after Bersih 2.0 last July 9.

The July 9 event had seen riot police use tear gas canisters and chemical-laced water to disperse thousands of protesters after the government declared it illegal gathering.

“These mistakes have been confirmed by the Suhakam Inquiry proceedings examining the events of Bersih 2.0 where police officers themselves commented that it was a peaceful rally and that there was indiscriminate use of non-lethal force by the police,” Lim said.

As such, he noted that participants of the upcoming April 28 rally who fall victim to the same police action may seek legal representation from the Bar Council’s team of lawyers.

“In any event, so far as legal representation is concerned, the National Legal Aid Foundation established by the government will also ensure legal representation is available without any fee to any person arrested,” he added.

Bersih 2.0 announced recently its third rally for free and fair elections, which will be held from 2pm to 4pm at Dataran Merdeka this April 28.

The government has given the green light for the event, promising to adhere to provisions in the just-passed Peaceful Assembly Act 2011, but have urged the election watchdog to negotiate with the police for a more suitable location.

But Bersih 2.0 has remained adamant on using Dataran Merdeka, the historic square where the Malayan flag was hoisted for the first time after independence.

On Wednesday, Bersih 2.0 co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the group would notify the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) of its intention, agreeing to take the advice of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.

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