Transcript – Bersih Rally 101 EAST Forum– Events on 10th Nov 2007; Police actions, Press Freedom, Interpretation Democracy, Institutional reforms
Many of you have seen the Video Clip on the forum discussion and if you have missed anything, here is the chance to reread and confirm in the transcript. A ten hour almost labour of effort to catch very word of what was said on a 50% playback in speed
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What Nazri said and his definition democracy and his mustering of 1 million supporters are nothing new. DPM Najib had said the same thing about the one million supporters. And in the extract from the NST interview, he has even provided more details. This has always been the perception of the Government they have the backing of the rural voters who may not be stupid but are easily swayed and manipulated by promises of gifts and aids which are without fail implemented. This rural development is well worth the money spent in return for lasting power unless and until they are awaken from dreams and it might take a few generations.
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As for what the SIL says,
“plethora of changes that have taken place by the election commission to make election process in.his boast of the changes in the Election Commission is indeed hollow and superficial changes that can make the elections look free but NOT fair.
more free. Transparent ballot boxes, indelible ink being used to make sure the voters do not vote twice, trying to erase away from the electoral roll people who have passed on and things like that" Malaysia
Now what about the behind the scene moves in transferring voters and all the gerrymandering to divide a geographic area into voting districts so as to give unfair advantage to one party in elections? Look at the Malaysian Parliamentary & State constituencies – all differing widely in size or population because of gerrymandering.
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Programme moderator Teymoor Nabili:Joining us in the studio to talk on the events that happened on
Khairy Jamuluddin, who is UMNO youth leader and son-in-law of the prime minister; Government Minister, Nazri Abd Aziz and Human Rights defender Malik Imtiaz Sarwar
Thank you Gentlemen for being with us today
Teymoor Nabili: Lets us begin if we could by getting an idea on what happened on that weekend. There were many different perspectives on what exactly was going on
Nazri: I was in my constituency. I was told that the Police from the paper that I read the Police had a few police blocks outside the city to prevent people from coming in. For this reason the fear that there might be weapons which may be used by irresponsible people not necessary the demonstrators. And I was told there was a group of people sparsely distributed in so many areas trying to come into KL
Malik what was your interpretation?
Malik: As early as Friday night, the Police started screening entry into
Do you think it was handled well either in a political or policing way?
Khairy: Firstly the policing was absolutely well handled by the Royal Malaysian police force in terns of restrain in terms, in terms of crowd controls, in terms of managing the traffic flow. Imitiaz said that the traffic was not caused by the people participating in the demonstration. But the police, but the police that were doing the road blocks were handling the road blocks precisely because there was a demonstration. (I always get back to that)
Imtiaz, let me come back, just to respond to the point that you just made, was it well handled?
Malik I have mixed feelings about that, I think I heard stories of how some Police officers assisted marchers as they moved towards the Agong’s palace. But I have also information of what happened in Masjid Jamek. I also read some use of force, some say unnecessary use of force in Jalan Mahajalera. My sense of is fairly mixed
Government Information Minister has accused Al Jazera of wrongly saying that force was used and in next breath said only water cannons and tear gas was use, and where is the line between force and non-force?
Nazri: Well you know, you have to disperse the assembly. There are no other means to do so. And the only legitimate mean is to use the water cannon and also to use the tear gas. And I know the Police have not use any force because for obvious reason you know, the world has known that there is going to be a big rally on the 10th. And we were under Public Scrutiny not just
When 20, 40, 60 thousands people descend upon the central town, at what point do you decide that the rational way is to try to get them to away rather then just say “OK, get on with it, get it over with it and let’s move on”
Nazri: The point is they can’t do this because you know we have Section 27 of the police act which does allow for this and we also have section 141 under penal code which also does not allow this for obvious reasons becus..
The law allows marches (Nazri No) it is merely (NO) a matter of political decision, this one is Ok, that one isn’t.
Nazri: We don’t allow for this because we have historical background. We are a multi ethnic country….
My point being let say if UMNO had apply for a permit to the Police to go King’s House and present a petition, do you think that would be granted?
Khairy: Can I, can I just answer your original question about when the police decide is on how to handle this. I think they decided to handle precisely how you describe it which was after a while, the demonstrators, the protesters which were gathered there were allowed to King’s residence, Palace and hand over the memorandum. That’s is precisely…
After a while after the water cannon & tear gas..
Khairy: The water cannons and ter gas were confined to a particular area which Imtiaz referred to earlier, but the others as he said were allowed were given free passage to the Palace to hand the memorandum. These are all standard Police operating procedure
The characterization of people who are demanding at least suggesting political changes as somehow being dangerous to the environment, how do you respond to that?
Malik I don’t agree wit the characterization that way. I think you could have been a different way to handle it. There could have been negotiations and we heard no information of an attempt by the Police to negotiate with leaders of groups that were marching in. And I think if the whole point is to shunt them to Agong’s Palace. That could have happened; there is no need to open up the water cannon. There is no need to spray water which we know is laced with Chemicals
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Were UMNO decide to hold a rally in support of the Government, will it be baned by the Polis?
Khairy: Well, Umno have held and the opposition have held rallies in the past before. In particular context and settings, they are allowed. I just want to get back to what Imtiaz said just now, on how the police viewed this particular demonstration on Saturday.
The only other precedence we had with Bersih (Nov 10 rally organisers) was the coalition that has the rally on Saturday was a rally they had in September in Terengganu and that descended into violence. So you can't blame the police for thinking that this would happen the same way.
My point here being is: It seems the tendency to put a ban on opposition voices is much greater than anything else –no w Khairy's point Not withstanding - let's look at the local newspapers the following morning. The coverage of what happened on Saturday was minimal. The response of the local media was simply to take the government line.
Nazri: I don't think the papers were taking the government line. I got all my information from the newspapers...
Well let's look at the papers here - (New) Sunday Times - instead of responding to what has been the biggest public demonstration in Malaysia for more than ten years in which the police felt they had to use water cannons and tear gas, and you expressed an enormous fear of trouble, the newspapers here have put on page 4, 'Illegal gathering causes traffic chaos in city'.
Nazri: Well, if you think what Al Jazeera reported is the true source which is properly true., I think the newspapers are free to report anything.
The Minister said you could report on anything, is that true?
Malik:: Obviously here the media is controlled. You have permits which control medi houses. All these permits controlled by the Government So I can’t necessary agree with the Minister statement that the media here is free enough to not sit with the Government on certain key position. I can’t say for a fact whether there was directive to publish a limited amount of content for this event. I wouldn’t be surprised if that would be the case ultimately if found out to be true
Khairy: You speak about voices not heard; let us go to the core of what Saturday is all about. Saturday is about free and fair election If these people have not have the voices herd. Then you would not have seen the plethora of changes that have taken place by the election commission to make election process in
Malik: Saturday is actually I think the most important thing is that it is a strong sign from civil society that there is a need for institutional reforms. I think that civil society is saying that the kind of reforms that have been introduced have not been enough.
Nazri: we have a system here, you know if you have any grouses. Our system is we channel it through the ballot boxes. And we have elections every five years or less. Now it is difficult for us to say this is not the best solution. I mean what is the point, you called 50,000 to come out we can acll 1 million. Does that mean I am right? So this is not our way to decide on many issues I have always said it is not falling on deaf ears. You know when you…
It Seems a lot of the country say it is
Nazri: Listen, what I am try to say what you demand d is not right. At the end of the day we will decide. At the end of the day you must never understand the will of the people.
Sure the essence, one of the essence of democracy is that the government listens to the voice of people; that Prime Minister Badawi cane into office promising exactly that. There will be more response and more attacks on corruption and more responses to the idea what people have a say to how the country is to be governed.
Khairy: Firstly, I think you cannot use Saturday as a barometer for what the general Malaysian public feel. It was a protest; there were a lot of people there. But to say that, that is the sum collective of the Malaysian political consciousness, I think it's a stretch. (interrupt ..It's a voice), It is a voice but it's a stretch.
How loud that voice is, how big is that voice, I'm not quite sure. You cannot base it on that. Secondly, I would say there a lot of changes afoot. If you talk of election changes as I said, the Election Commission has been very responsive. They met opposition parties and take some of their some of their suggestions – like the ballot boxes, postal voters. A lot of changes are happening.
If you talk of the media, for the firt time the prime minister said at the speech at the Umno general assembly last week that in the near future, the media would be able to regulate themselves. Now, this is a mark departure from previous policies. To say that you can regulate yourself oppose to the Government regulting the media, that is something for the future.
Is there a need for institutional reforms for the Government?
Nazri: No. because you know, what do you mean by people? Are you saying that I don’t represent the people? Are you saying that the Government does not represent the people? We are elected by the people. What people are you talking about? What is democracy? Democracy means listening to the majority. I mean that is democracy. What else can we do. You can't say that we're not listening to the people because we represent the people.
It’s a fact people are politically motivated, a reason to say therefore their views are irrelevant?
Nazri: Are you saying that we don’t listen to the people whereas we represent the people. (I didn’t say you are not listening to the people, I say …)
What do you mean by not ..not eh..…at the end of the day there is democracy. You know democracy means majority of the people will decide. So that's it.
Malik: But the majority does not mean majoritarianism [...] And I think the concern is in the push towards appeasing the majority. If that is in effect what is happening here. I have my doubts as the majority that we are talking about are in the heartlands, who do not necessarily understand the issues that are happening here.
Nazri: Are saying that the people are stupid?.
Malik: No I'm not saying that, I am not saying that [...] If you look at the quality of information that is being allowed out. The Official Secrets Act which prevent so much information from getting out. We have subjective classification of information by the Government. We have the internal Security Act which is trundled out every so often to give a chill in the air when it comes to civil society discourse. The fact is people are scared. The fact is people aren’t getting information. The fact is, I have my doubts personally as to whether a voter is in a position to make a fair and informed choice when he goes to the ballot box and this is the heart of the Bersih initiative. I also do not agree with the characterization that that Bersih is an opposition initiative because you have about 60 plus NGOs endorsing... (interrupted)...
Khairy: Who gave the memorandum to the King’s representative? Who are the representatives that marched to the gate to give the memorandum? There were the opposition leaders, Anwar Ibrahim, Hadi Awang, Lim Kit Siang - clearly led by the opposition!
The opposition is there to voice an opposition view. Is that view irrelevant?
Nazri: How can they be neutral when they were active participants in the last general election? They cannot be neutral to me.
Khairy: Exactly! If you are saying that these were middle-of-the-road Malaysians with genuine concerns, then I would have expected 80 percent of those present would have been people who had no absolute political affiliations. That would be the case
Malik: If they had not turn around cars at the roadblocks, If they had not restricted access into the city, we may have seen a bigger representation. The point is if you look at the Bersih website, the Bersih press statement issued, it appears there were suppose to have been a bigger delegation. Because the situation ultimately a limited number of people were allowed into the precinct of the palace or at the gates to hand over the memorandum. I don’t It is unfair to say because the presence who ultimately went to the fore were opposition members, this is not a civil this is not a civil society initiative because at the end of the day civil society also comprises agencies or organizations which are linked to the component parties or the opposition. If UMNO is involved, also would be a civil society
Let me get a statement form you, I would tie up what you have been suggesting all along. Is it your view that there is no need at all for institutional reform in
Nazri: They carry no weight. I don't think there is any need for institutional reform because the system has worked well for the last 50 years. You only hear grouses from people who participated in the system and lost. And but I cannot argue further if Imatiaz said that people are stupid to put us in government.
Where there is an opposition voice, you may choose to characterize it as small or you may choose to characterize it as part to handle or crazy as some people have done in parliament . Where the voice is not even being listen to even there is legitimacy as you heard from the Minister is being entirely written off, is there a future for democratic debate under those circumstances?
Khairy: No I don’t think they are not being listen to, I don’t think it is fair (interrupt ..the minister has just stated that there is no validity to any of the demands being made..) No he is saying that there is no need for any systemic institutional changes to be made because we believe the institution and the system is fine. There is nothing wrong with the system and institution
Let me, let me, is there any validity in some of the demands being made, some of the accusations being made about the system?
Nazri: Well to improve the system, yes. But to say the system was unfair.. not fair , I think that is not a correct description. To improve yes.
Malik: I am grateful to the concession from the Minister because there is always room for improvement. And I think you want to argue over it, whether it is improvement or systematic change then you go into semantics. The fact is that there are flaws. Serious flaws, some of us believe are undermining the democratic process of this country. Well start with the fact that you pick up any newspaper, genuinely you do not hear what the opposition has to say about anything. You do not know what the opposition platform is unless you have internet access. Internet penetration is minimal, not getting into the heartland. I didn’t say they were stupid; I did say that voters were stupid. I said that maybe they were under informed or ill-informed on given positions which do not allowed them to make free and fair choices in a way the constitution of this country seems to contemplate. The fact is why the constitution would create the Election Commission as a separate constitutional body; charged the Agong with appointing people to the creation who have the confidence of the people
That is the kind of level of details I think beyond this conversation. To carry on, I just want you to finish with one final comment from you, please a very short one if you would
As a representative of the younger generation of Umno, do you agree with what the minister said or do you think there is room for change within the institutional structure.
Khairy: I agree with what the minister says. There is nothing wrong with the system. There need to be some changes to the process to strengthen it. The institutions are fine the system works and we lose an election, we lost Kelantan we lost before.
Apology E & O E, 98% Unofficial transcript
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Part 1 (Forum 9 min 40 s), Part 2(Forum 8min 02s) & Part 3 (Protest Demo Video, 4 in 11s ) Al Jazeera 101 East Forum on Bersih Rally
= = = == == = == == == = == == = =ABOVE Part 1 (Forum 9 min 40 s)BELOW: Part 2(Forum 8min 02s)
= = == == == = == = == = =BELOW: Part 3 (Protest Demo Video, 4 in 11s )