Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Food, trees, overtime top City Hall’s claims from Bersih

Barriers are seen at Dataran Merdeka on the eve of the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur April 27, 2012

The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) wants electoral watchdog group Bersih to pay for its officers’ meals and overtime claims on top of damaged trees and barricades used to block off demonstrators from taking part in the April 28 peaceful sit-down protest at Dataran Merdeka.

These were among the compensation charges totalling RM351,203.45 the local authority had demanded in an official letter sent out yesterday to Bersih chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and steering committee member, Maria Chin Abdullah.

“Due to the Bersih 3.0 assembly, the Mayor had incurred the following losses, to which you are responsible as the organizers of the assembly,” the letter of demand dated June 18 said.

A digital copy of the letter, signed by DBKL director-general Datuk Salleh Yusup, was made available.

Top of the list was the RM57,850 demand for landscape and recreation damages, including to trees DBKL valued at RM16,702.50.

DBKL priced the iron barricades used to block off public access to the historic square on the rally day at RM19,654 and listed RM5,900 as the damages to its signboards and other barriers.

It also demanded RM174,240 for its enforcement officers’ overtime allowance; RM45,000 to feed them; and RM5,000 for their transport.

The remaining RM26,856.95 of the “losses” it is seeking to recoup cover transport charges and allowances for workers from its mechanical and electrical engineering department.

DBKL warned Bersih to pay the full amount, including a RM100 fee for the cost of the notice, within 14 days of the letter or be sued in court.

Ambiga confirmed she had received the letter of demand yesterday morning and has referred it to her lawyers for the next course of action.

“Even though you were not allowed by the KL Mayor [and] police to organise the Bersih 3.0 rally in Dataran Merdeka, and even though there was a court order dated April 26... (both of you) still went ahead with the rally on April 28, which went out of control and caused chaos and destruction of public property,” said the letter.

The DBKL demand comes just weeks after Putrajaya initiated an unprecedented civil lawsuit to claim RM122,000 in damages from the group that has been lobbying for electoral reform ahead of the 13th general elections since last year.

Bersih had mounted a similar rally at Stadium Merdeka in the national capital on July 9 last year amid a city-wide lockdown but no court action was taken against them.

Legal observers are questioning the government’s use of the recently-enforced law allowing peaceful assemblies to clamp down on dissent.

Tens of thousands had thronged the federal capital city’s streets on April 28 for the election watchdog’s third rally for free and fair elections.

The opposition-backed protest had kicked off peacefully but turned chaotic shortly after 3pm when several protesters breached the three-tiered barricades surrounding the historic Dataran Merdeka, which had been blocked off to them via a court order obtained by the police.

A parliamentary reply later said the police fired a total of 967 tear gas canisters and grenades at the crowd, which the Information Ministry estimated to be 22,270 according to pictures taken by state news agency Bernama.

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