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Thursday, April 26, 2012

AdilanClub: The mayor’s Bersih 3.0 headache

Sulaiman Kamal | 6:44 PM | Best Blogger Tips

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Kuala Lumpur Mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail, who likened the current deadlock over the use of Dataran Merdeka for the Bersih 3.0 sit-in rally on Saturday to the popular game theory, said that City Hall (DBKL) has already conceded defeat.

“If this was a chicken game, we [City Hall] have already chickened out, because we want to avoid chaos. But they [Bersih 3.0 organisers] are so hardcore. What if anything untoward happens? They’ll blame the government, ” Ahmad Fuad told FMT in an interview last night.

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Yesterday, Bersih organisers met with Ahmad Fuad but remained hell-bent on using Dataran Merdeka to hold the protest despite the government’s suggestion to use four different stadiums (Stadium Cheras, Stadium Titiwangsa, Stadium Bukit Jalil or Stadium Merdeka) as alternatives instead.

Ahmad Fuad confirmed that City Hall officers could make arrests if protesters go to Dataran

Merdeka. However, the chief of the city’s local authority took pains to explain that he was, and is still, trying to avoid such a confrontational situation.

“I don’t want to use the word arrest, it’s a very strong word. Plus, I don’t want to pre-empt what’s going to happen on Saturday. Maybe we can still try to talk them out of it, there may be those who are not so kepala batu (stubborn),” he said.

On what to expect on Saturday, Ahmad Fuad said “just wait and see. What will happen… I believe there will be a confrontation. We will take action then.”

He again questioned why the organisers were so adamant in sticking to one location despite his offers to negotiate.

“I told them not to rally but they argued that they can guarantee it to be peaceful. When I asked them how ‘can you really guarantee safety? Anything can happen’. They claimed to have 6,000 personnel who will manage the crowd.”

“But at the same time when we suggested four other alternative locations, they say there’s not enough time to inform their people, and that it’s hard to explain to their people and they can’t control their people. Aren’t those two statements contradictory?”

Distorted information

“They said it’s too late, but we replied on the same day we received their letter. They said they announced it much earlier in the media, but to me, it’s like I told everybody I have a kenduri but I don’t state the venue and time and don’t send out invitations,” he said.

“I’m not convinced by their argument; it’s full of distorted information,” said Ahmad Fuad.

“Why not Stadium Merdeka? They say that Dataran Merdeka is chosen because of its historical relevance, but Stadium Merdeka was where Tunku Abdul Rahman shouted ‘Merdeka’, that’s where you have the spirit of independence,” he argued.

Ahmad Fuad lamented that the organisers turned down his offer of an alternative site despite his willingness to work with the police to help manage the crowd, provide ambulances, parking spaces at the stadium, and even to announce together with Bersih to the media.

“But they insisted [on Dataran Merdeka]. They said that if we don’t agree, they will sit on the roads.”

“Is that what you call peaceful? You would disturb others if you sit on the road; cars could ram into you or would have to avoid you. It’s causing fear. DBKL’s responsibility is not to disrupt the daily lives of people, including those who are not interested in Bersih,” Ahmad Fuad said.

“Why do you want to do things that would cause trouble? Why do you want to break the law? Does it mean that [just because] you have a massive crowd, you can do illegal things en masse? Is the law like that? Unless we [the authorities] close one eye and ignore it,” he said, referring to the Local Government (Dataran Merdeka) (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) By-Laws 1992.

The by-law specific to the iconic site prohibits assemblies at the premises and violators can be fined up to RM2,000 or jailed for a year, or both.

He also pointed out that there is the new Peaceful Assembly Act, which officially came into force on April 23, though the enforcement of the law comes under the police.

Racial incidents

Ahmad Fuad said there are those who called him “barua” (idiotic) but he dismissed it, saying: “Yes, I’m a government servant, but you think I have no principles? There are laws. And I’m in charge of enforcing them. If you think the laws are no good, when you [opposition] take over [the government] you can change it.”

“The 1992 by-law is not new. Nobody questioned it. Now suddenly you tell me it’s an irrelevant law or merely a ‘undang-undang kecil’ [by-law]. A small law is still a law,” Ahmad Fuad said.

“I’ve been a career officer for 36 years. My job is to make sure the city is bersih [clean]: how to beautify it, how to keep business going, how to make it work fast. Anybody who takes power, I will do the same thing. There is no difference.”

“Why am I doing all this? I feel responsible, I don’t want unwanted things to happen. You say there won’t be a repeat of racial incidents like we’ve seen in the past, but maybe now it’s not the races clashing but two sides with all races – Malay, Chinese, Indian – who don’t see eye to eye,” he said.

“How can you guarantee there won’t be outside forces? There may suddenly be people who come and sabotage your gathering. Someone start throwing punches, people get angry… We never know and we hope this won’t happen,” he said.

Ahmad Fuad said there are people who are opposed to the Bersih rally, including traders and taxi drivers, and they are the “majority”.

“For me, you need to think of the traders, the person who sells fish. He doesn’t earn much in a day. Rich people never mind, they aren’t affected, but the fish seller would lose his day’s earnings,” he said.

Ahmad Fuad said the gathering would also cause traffic havoc along roads going into the city like Jalan Kuching and Jalan Raja.

‘Don’t provoke people’

“It’s very straightforward, but they [Bersih organisers] are manipulating it. We’ve talked with the advisory council, and as far as we’re concerned, it’s a no for Dataran Merdeka.”

Referring to the Occupy Dataran movement, Ahmad Fuad said that if he had allowed students and activists to stay there, there will be ‘tonnes’ of homeless who will start to sleep at Dataran. “Very syok [nice] you know, then what shall we do?”

He said the same applied to Bersih. “If we allowed this [sit-in at Dataran Merdeka], then all the other NGOs would want to start assembling there. We had actually turned down the anti-gay and Perkasa protests and didn’t even give them any alternative sites.”

Ahmad Fuad also dismissed claims by Bersih that it was apolitical, saying: “You see posters saying we must bring down the government, is that not political?”

“Don’t provoke people. It’s not healthy and not good for the country,” he said.

“But if they are stubborn, we are also stubborn. Everyone wants to show how powerful they are, but ordinary people who don’t want to get involved are affected,” he said.

Ahmad Fuad also described the current situation as “lose-lose”.

“It’s like the prisoners’ dilemma… where two person plotted and stole chickens and both got caught. If they cooperated together, both sentences can be reduced, but if both betray each other, it’s a lose-lose situation. We wanted to avoid this lose-lose situation, but…”

“They [Bersih organisers] claim this is for the rakyat, and that there are over 80 NGOs, but there are other rakyat who are against this. I don’t care if it’s the whole world you represent… you can’t do something that goes against the law. There are repercussions if you break the law. If we don’t care about it, then there might as well be no government,” he said.




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