Feeling nervous in the run-up to Bersih rally in Malaysia: Sin Chew Daily columnist

Bersih members drumming up support for their movement in Gelang Patah, Johor.
Bersih members drumming up support for their movement in Gelang Patah, Johor.PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

By Azmi Sharom

Sin Chew Daily/Asia News Network

Nov 19 is coming up and I must admit that I am feeling a little nervous.

Over the years, Bersih has become the primary forum for people to show their feelings against things they feel are wrong in the country by assembling in large numbers.

And once again another Bersih event is upon us.

In the past there were always concerns, usually it was about arrests by the authorities.

During Bersih 4, there were rumours that there would be trouble makers who would disrupt proceedings.

It never came to pass and the event went on without incident.

Detractors of Bersih always try to paint Bersih rallies as disruptive and violent events.

In my experience this is simply not true.

The very few acts of vandalism have been committed by a handful of people and the Bersih organisers have always been quick to support their being brought to justice.

When things get out of hand, it is usually because of heavy-handed tactics by the police.

When tear gas and water cannons are used, there will inevitably be scenes of chaos.

But when the police act in a moderate fashion as they did during Bersih 4, then we see what a peaceful assembly is about.

This time, however, it is different because the red shirt thugs are truly out to cause as much trouble as they can.

They have been assaulting people for weeks now by attacking Bersih roadshows and convoys.

They have acted violently and there does not appear to be any serious attempts by the police to take action.

Of course they have a right to assemble, but our Constitution does say that we only have a right to assemble peacefully.

These creatures have no such intention.

This means that when Saturday comes, I feel certain that they will be there and will be itching for a fight. I can only hope that the police will at least keep the two groups apart.

But more than that, I hope there will be so many people coming to support the demands of Bersih that they will be too outnumbered to cause any havoc.

There is strength in numbers and we must be brave.

I am not afraid of scuffles or even fights but with the way things are, I am not confident that even if I were acting in self defence, I would be treated fairly by the law.

That said, I must put my fears aside because the demands of Bersih are just and fair and absolutely necessary.

We need clean and fair elections, good governance and a country free from corruption.

There is too much at stake here to be frightened.

We must stand up for what we believe in. I hope you agree with me.

* The writer is a law lecturer at Universiti Malaya.