Bersih chants ring out at Najib’s London speech

Stephanie Sta Maria | May 15, 2012
The prime minister was left red-faced when hecklers interrupted his speech with chants of 'Bersih'.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s decision to hold a meet-and-greet session with Malaysians in London just two weeks after the Bersih 3.0 rally backfired when Bersih supporters shouted him down during his opening speech.
Despite initially ignoring his hecklers, Najib was forced to abandon his speech after 25 seconds to ask that they stop their chants of “Bersih! Bersih!”
“Can you please stop it? Can you please stop it,” he said.
A member of the audience shouted back something inaudible, to which Najib replied, “I know, I know but can you stop it? You can meet with me later, ok. Please, can you stop it?”
As the chanting persisted, another participant shouted, “I want to vote…why you don’t allow me to vote?”
An unidentified individual had also taken the hecklers to task, asking them to “show some respect” for the prime minister.
The heckling finally ceased and Najib was able to continue with the rest of his speech.
The event, “An Evening With The Prime Minister”, was held at the prestigious indigO2 Arena in the Dome Peninsula, a venue that would feature as a key location for the Olympics in July.
Organised by the Malaysian High Commission in London, the free event offered food, drinks and cultural entertainment.
‘Free transport and provisions’
According to Sarawak Report, the high commission also arranged for free transport and provisions to attract students from all over the UK to the event.
The website obtained an insider email which revealed that the event targeted 1,000 Malaysians and that travel by coach to London was provided as well refreshments on board.
“Students from as far away as Edinburgh University up in Scotland have been urged to attend in a highly organised effort by diplomats.”
“The roundup is presumably designed to avoid too many empty front row seats that might otherwise be picked up by cameras beaming back pictures to the censored media in Malaysia.”
On April 28, close to 1,000 Malaysians and supporters had gathered in London for the Bersih 3.0 rally in support of clean and fair elections.
In Kuala Lumpur, on that same day, some 80,000 people took to the streets for a peaceful protest which later took a violent twist when police fired tear gas and water cannons.
The police and the government blamed the protesters for breaching the barricades at Dataran Merdeka but Bersih, the opposition and civil society groups accused the police of using unwarranted excessive force.
Scores, including policemen, were injured in the incident.
Bersih’s previous rally last July and the most recent one, had both tainted the image of Najib’s administration.
‘Najib acted like a statesman’
Meanwhile, Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah commended Najib for displaying “real statesmanship” in handling the situation.
He noted that Najib had realised the hecklers consisted of a mere few and the bigger majority were civil and wanted to listen to his speech.
“So instead of being sidetracked by the few he focused on the majority,” he told FMT.
“But true to his statesmanship not only did he not scold the hecklers, he in fact told them that he was willing to see them after the programme,” he said.
Saifuddin added that he was currently awaiting further information regarding the incident and would wait to see what follows.
Commenting on the matter, Bersih 3.0 steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah said that overseas Malaysians were expressing their frustration over the continued ambiguity of their eligibility to vote in the upcoming general election.
“This is a question that neither Najib nor the Election Commission has answered yet,” she stated.
“Despite setting up a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms to look into the issue of overseas voters, nothing has really happened,” she added.
In February, the PSC said that the Election Commission was still reflecting on the “sets of conditions” on allowing overseas Malaysians to vote.
Overseas Malaysians were currently not included in the category of postal voters unlike civil servants, full-time students and their spouses living abroad.

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