By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — The Bar Council today said that Saturday’s Bersih 2.0 rally had shown that the “bogeyman” of the May 13, 1969, race riot has been buried and will no longer be feared by Malaysians.
Its president Lim Chee Wee told a press conference here that although the spectre of the violent racial clash had been raised prior to the rally, Malaysians had still dared to gather in the streets of the capital here to march for free and fair elections. While stressing that the council was apolitical, Lim observed that the thousands who thronged the city on Saturday had not instigated violence against one another or turned the gathering racial.“The outcome of the (Bar Council’s) monitoring exercise demonstrates that people in Malaysia are mature and peace-loving when championing a cause they believe in.
“The rally participants generally behaved in a peaceful and calm manner; most importantly, we witnessed that people from a wide variety of backgrounds across Malaysia participated in this rally withut any conflict.. this is contrary to the fear of possible racial disharmony or riots, expressed by certain irresponsible figures,” he said.
Before the rally, Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali earned much criticism from the opposition when he told the Chinese community to stay home and stock up on food on Saturday.
Lim noted that chaos had only broken out on the streets of the capital when police launched tear gas canisters and water cannons at protestors to break the crowd, a move which he said was unwarranted.
“They must recognise that Malaysians are by nature a peaceful group. We have moved far ahead of 1969... the bogeyman of 1969 has been buried. It does not exist in the minds and hearts of Malaysians today.“Which is why all eyewitness accounts say that Saturday was peaceful,” he said.
Bersih 2.0, the now-outlawed coalition of 62 non-governmental organisation, held at march on Saturday to call for free and fair elections and drew a mixed crowd of thousands to the city centre.
Chaos however broke out at about midday when the police fired tear gas and water cannons to break up the crowd and made random arrests of over 1,600 people, saying that they had wrongfully participated in an illegal rally.
Mixed sentiments have emerged from the tumultuous event with the Najib administration playing down the turnout and saying that the police had acted lawfully, while Bersih 2.0 and the opposition declared it a successful rally that drew nearly 50,000 people.
On social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, thousands of people have been posting up comments in support of the rally and sharing their personal accounts, pictures and videos of the event.