Malaysia's mass rally organizer gives in and opts for stadium gathering

09:31, July 06, 2011      

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The organizer of a mass rally scheduled on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur changed their plan on Tuesday to hold a gathering at a stadium instead, giving in to calls by the government and the Monarch to abandon the street demonstration.

Activists of Bersih 2.0, the group which planned the rally told reporters they have informed the King about their decision.

"We have informed the King that we have accepted the offer of the government that we will have the rally in the stadium, therefore the rally on the street will not take place," Ambiga Sreenevasan, the steering committee chairman of Bersih 2.0 said as she exited the palace.

"Under the circumstances, we think this is the best way forward since the government has offered us the stadium we will proceed with the stadium," she added, without revealing further, including whether the rest of the activists who have been gearing up for the rally since several months ago would pay heed the new plan and proceed to the stadium.

Malaysia's supreme head of state Mizan Zainal Abidin issued a statement on Sunday condemning the street demonstration, saying it "brings more bad than good" regardless its intention.

"It is important that I, as the King, do not want to see this country with a plural society in a situation where there is animosity among them or a section of the people being enemies with the government, on any grounds," said the statement issued to state news agency Bernama.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators were expected to take to the streets of the country's capital Kuala Lumpur in the mass rally that targets an electoral reform in the country.

Bersih 2.0, a non-governmental organization that advocates a clean and fair election, made clear their demands: a cleaner electoral roll, the use of indelible ink for voters identification, free media access and an extension to the campaign period among others.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak warned on Monday against those who intend to join the rally.

The country's Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein outlawed Bersih 2.0 and closed its doors for any negotiations with the organizers as they had earlier refused to heed advices to bail their plans.

Police made a string of arrests that intensified over the weekend to crackdown on those who expressed support for or instigate others to join them.

Among the arrests last week, six were detained under the Emergency Ordinance a law historically enacted to deal with riots in the 1960's.

Many others arrested were politicians and members of the parliament and state representatives from the opposition camp.

They were said to be distributing the symbolic yellow T-shirts and pamphlets inciting the public to support the rally.

The organization held a similar rally with a crowd of an estimated of between 10,000 to 40,000 people in 2007 that dealt a major blow to the ruling coalition, who lost five states to the opposition during the 2008 election.

Source: Xinhua
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