Bersih rally organisers face questioning by police

Protesters sorting out trash for recycling during last weekend's Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur. A government minister said yesterday the rally organisers will be billed by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry for the cost of clea
Protesters sorting out trash for recycling during last weekend's Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur. A government minister said yesterday the rally organisers will be billed by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry for the cost of cleaning up public areas.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • The organisers of a massive weekend demonstration demanding the Malaysian Prime Minister's removal over corruption allegations said yesterday they had been summoned by police, after the government earlier threatened they could face charges.

Several protest leaders were ordered to report to the police and give statements today, said Ms Maria Chin Abdullah, chairman of Bersih, the coalition of Malaysian non-governmental organisations and activist groups that staged the huge rally.

"It's an absolute waste of time. They want to intimidate us but they won't succeed," she told AFP.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also Home Minister and in charge of domestic security, warned over the weekend that the rally organisers may face charges under sedition, illegal assembly or other laws.

Malaysia's long-ruling government takes a tough line against dissent, frequently levying various charges at its political opponents.

In a statement on Monday, Human Rights Watch criticised Datuk Seri Zahid's threat.

"Malaysia should recognise that its people have the right to voice their political views, even if the government disagrees with what they have to say - and that violation of that right will have serious consequences for Malaysia's international reputation," it said.

Meanwhile, a minister was quoted by Malaysian media yesterday as saying Bersih could be slapped with a RM65,000 (S$21,800) bill for the post-demonstration clean-up.

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan said his ministry will send the bill to Bersih organisers this week.

Some of the rally participants reportedly urinated in the open, such as into flower pots, behind buildings, under staircases and in drains.

Mr Abdul Rahman said the bill would not include the cost of damage to public property. "We will leave it to Kuala Lumpur City Hall to send its bill to Bersih," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Bersih rally organisers face questioning by police'. Print Edition | Subscribe