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Bersih 2.0 FAQ – Answering concerns about Bersih 4

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Bersih 2.0 answers some of the common questions about the Bersih 4 gathering this weekend.

You claim to be apolitical. Why then are you calling for the Prime Minister to resign?

A Google search for “define apolitical” returns the result “not interested or involved in politics.” We are not apolitical, since much of what we do involves politicians and the political process. However, we strive to be non-partisan. This means we do not align ourselves to any political party.

Initially we called for the prime minister to take leave while he was investigated for allegations that he received over RM2.6bn in donations in order to retain a majority in parliament. We think what the PM did is morally wrong, as the government will be beholden to the donors.

When the prime minister ignored our demands and instead took steps to stifle the investigation, we asked him to resign. We changed our demand from “take leave” to “resign” because we demand moral uprightness in leaders.

In previous rallies Unit Amal were crucial for crowd-control. Will Pas join Bersih 4?

We have invited all political parties, and those who are in the process of forming political parties, to join Bersih 4.

Pas has indicated they will not mobilise their members to join Bersih 4. We are grateful for the support Pas and Unit Amal have provided for past rallies.

Your FB page is called “Bersih official” because many others claim to be Bersih. This shows people can easily be fooled. How will you ensure protesters get accurate information?

We cannot prevent people from claiming to represent us. We know that some unprincipled persons even clone phone numbers and send messages purporting to be from us.

As a countermeasure, we are disseminating links to our official pages. Also, our leaders have social media accounts which the public know about. Therefore, we are confident that confusion arising from provocateurs will be minimal.

Click here for our official Facebook page.

Click here for our official website. (This appears to have been blocked by certain internet providers! Never mind, use Facebook and Twitter.)

Click here for our Twitter page.t their own thing? Firecrackers have been set off during recent rallies, and caused those present to panic. How will you respond to such disruptions?

In any mass gathering there will be people with their own agenda and low tolerance for leadership. We ask all groups, including the government, not to incite people to deviate from Bersih’s stated aim of a peaceful assembly.

We ask all participants to ignore those who have an alternative agenda. Our experience from previous rallies is that goodwill prevails, especially if the authorities play their lawful role.

Previous rallies occupied about half a day. Bersih 4 occupies 34 hours. Why?

We expect attendance to peak between 2 and 8pm on 29 August. We chose 34 hours as a response to requests to provide more opportunity for deeper interaction between participants. 34 hours is sufficient to share each other’s struggles, goals, strategies and techniques. We have organized programmes to help foster this interaction, and to centre it around Bersih 4’s demands.

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What time should I come?

We urge you to come at 2pm.

Bersih 4 is to be held in KL, KK and Kuching. Where will people sleep overnight? What toilet and bathroom facilities will be available to them?

Demanding reforms involves struggle. Struggle involves hardship. Just as in fasting, there is value in personally experiencing the hardships faced by others.

Those who choose to stay overnight and continue the next day have been asked to bring sleeping bags. They are also free to stay with friends, book hotels or sleep out.

They will be able to use toilets in many restaurants in the cities. We have made arrangements for portable toilets and for water for drinking and washing (for prayers).

Our ability to make these arrangements a reality depends upon co-operation by the authorities. Also, if the authorities respect the people and the constitution, they will arrange to keep public facilities open during the period. We are willing to pay reasonable charges.

What are the contents of the programme over 34 hours? How will you keep people from boredom? Will there be speeches? Who has been invited?

Due to the history of interference and harassment by the authorities, we have chosen to withhold information about the programme. We can however reveal that a group of people have worked and continue to work vigorously on it, and it will include a variety of events.

In previous rallies politicians gave speeches and incited the crowds – a barrier was breached. What’s to prevent politicians from doing the same during Bersih 4?

Politicians will be politicians. We have invited politicians from all sides to join us. We have told them that they must follow our rules – which means their speeches must be short, their topics must be relevant and they must focus on peaceful, lawful actions. Bersih will control the microphones and guide the people.

You released your demands for institutional reforms several weeks ago. Who has responded to you? How will Bersih 4 change their response?

NGOs have been very positive. Many have applauded us for crystallising what needs to be done, including the establishment of a transitional government.

No political party has criticised our proposals. Neither has any political party offered to take up any of our proposals and add them to their current action plans and manifestos. Bersih 4 will help the parties take the pulse of the people and respond appropriately to our demands.

A major problem during rallies is the public address system. Often people can’t hear what the leaders are saying. What measures have you taken to address this problem?

The authorities continue to treat the exercise of the constitutional freedom to speak or assemble as something to be curbed rather than facilitated. Therefore rally organisers have to find creative means to address crowds. Since we do not wish to make it easier for the authorities to harass the people, we have chosen not to reveal details.

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We can however say that we have incorporated lessons learned from previous rallies into the planning of Bersih 4. We expect the problems with the PA systems to be less than in previous rallies.

How will the public identify Bersih organisers during the rally? How many people will you have doing security duty? How will people identify them? How have they been trained? If hundreds of thousands of people show up, how will Bersih manage the crowd? Who are the experienced professionals in your crowd management team?

The organisers and volunteers will be identified by distinctive markings.

Security arrangements are being handled by a committee comprised of those who have experience in crowd management. We will have over a thousand trained crowd managers. They are organised and have clear lines of authority and communication.

What lessons have you learned from previous rallies which you think will make Bersih 4 safer, more orderly and more effective?

The biggest lesson we have learned is that we can be more confident of the goodwill of the people than of the authorities. We have learned to be prepared for surprises designed to wreak havoc with our plans. Therefore we have developed contingency plans to anticipate last minute changes. We believe we are better prepared.

How will people feed themselves during the night when shops are closed?

We expect 24-hour restaurants located near the protest areas will do a booming business. Some who intend to participate have informed us that they will bring their own food and water.

Have you booked any hotel rooms at the venues?

We have made arrangements for rest areas for volunteers who will provide medical aid, security, and programme events.

What medical support have you arranged?

Each venue will have a team of trained medical professionals on standby for the entire duration of the rally.

What communication have you had with the authorities and what’s your assessment of their response to-date?

We have spoken with the police. We have reminded them of their obligations under law and their previous failings. We have called their bluff on various points they raised.

We have also discussed with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Suhakam, and others. They have agreed to arrange for independent observers to document all potential issues and intervene as appropriate.

Many who’ve attended previous Bersih rallies have said they will not attend Bersih 4. What message do you have for them?

We are grateful for their previous support. We understand and even share some of their frustrations. We remind them that change is never easy and requires persistence and flexibility.

We try not to be dismissive of others. We try not to belittle others. We ask them to share our values.

What if I get tear-gassed? 

If the authorities fire tear-gas, you should do the following:

  • Hold your breath.
  • Do not touch tear gas canisters, as they can be very hot.
  • Close your eyes if possible (or put on goggles/sunglasses if you have them).
  • Leave the area as quickly as possible; move to high ground if possible.
  • Don’t panic – breathe as little as possible, close your eyes, leave the area.
  • Take out your contact lenses or wash your glasses if you wear either.
  • You may need to rinse your eyes – use LOTS of bottled water.
  • Air out your clothes – walk with your hands outstretched; change clothes if you can.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Keep your clothes dry.
  • Take a shower as quickly as possible.
  • Wash your clothes separately.
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What if I am exposed to water from a water cannon?

Wash yourself, including your clothing, as quickly as you can in any water source. Change into fresh clothes as soon as you can.

What if I get arrested?

The Bar Council has some excellent materials you can review. The following is a quick summary:

Police stop you.

Only a uniformed police officer or someone with a police authority card can stop you.
Note the officer’s ID number and his/her vehicle number plate if applicable.

Police question you when stopped

Only give your name, ID number and address.
Politely ask if you are under arrest.
You are under arrest if he/she answers “yes,” refuses to let you go or handcuffs you.
The police cannot arrest you just because you are a potential witness and they want you to give a 112/Witness statement.

Questioning by police without arrest

If the police think you can provide information useful to a case they are investigating, they may examine you and take down your answers (112 statement).
If they informally ask you to make a 112 statement and the time is convenient, cooperate. If not, tell them you will do so at a convenient place and time.
You are advised to ask a lawyer to accompany you when giving a 112 statement.
You can remain silent if you think answering any question may expose you to a criminal offence. Make sure you understand questions carefully before answering. Take your time.
Read carefully before signing the 112 statement. Don’t sign if it is not accurate. You have the right to make corrections.

Police arrest you

Ask why you are under arrest.
Do not resist arrest.
Ask which police station they will take you to.
You have the right to make a phone call to a relative/friend and a lawyer.
SMS your FULL NAME, NRIC no and location of police station taken to (if known) to Bersih’s Urgent Arrest no. 018-3160 214, 018-3907 780, 018-3135 988 OR Bar Council/LAC Urgent Arrest Numbers 018-3211506 and 011-12140877
You may be detained for upto 24 hours in a police lock-up to “assist” in investigations.

Your rights after arrest and during detention

Exercise your right to consult a lawyer.
You are allowed to have one set of clothing with you in the lockup.
The police will record and keep all your personal belongings for return to you later.
You are allowed two baths a day, medical attention and food/water.
The police can only detain you for 24 hours. A magistrate must approve longer detention.

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