WHILE protestors battled tear gas and road blocks in Kuala Lumpur, hundreds of Malaysians gathered at Melbourne’s Federation Square this afternoon in a peaceful rally for the same cause, Bersih 2.0.
The Melbourne gathering was one of 25 rallies held overseas in support of the NGO-run Bersih movement for clean and fair elections in Malaysia.
Protestors donned yellow t-shirts and held placards outlining Bersih’s eight “demands” for a clean electoral roll, reformed postal ballots, the use of indelible ink, a minimum of 21 days for campaigning, free and fair media access, strengthened public institutions, a stop to corruption and an end to “dirty politics”.
Rally organiser, SABM Coordinator for Melbourne Lutfi Hakim, said the overseas rallies were a way for attention to be brought to their cause on an international level.
“The only reason Bersih is having a demonstration is because going through the proper channels has not resulted in an outcome,” he said.
The Australian Labor Party MP for Clayton, Hong Lim, spoke at the gathering and encouraged the crowd to contact Australian Members of Parliament to generate support.
“We will not let Malaysia be subjected to injustice anymore,” Mr Lim said.
Other speakers at the event included representatives from the Centre for Independent Journalism, Australia’s Socialist Alternative Party and Singapore’s National Solidarity Party.
Mr Hakim stressed, however, that Bersih was non-partisan.
“We allow anyone who shares our beliefs and cause to come on our platform and share their ideas,” he said.
The speeches were interspersed with updates from the rally in Kuala Lumpur with news of tear-gas use and police violence rousing chants of disapproval from the crowd.
For University of Melbourne graduate Shashi Karu, attending the Melbourne gathering was his way of showing solidarity to those affected.
“At least they know people in Melbourne are showing support even if we’re not at home,” Mr Karu said.
He, like many others in attendance, ignored a warning from the Malaysian government advising Malaysians overseas to refrain from participating in Bersih rallies or risk action taken against them by Australian authorities and local authorities upon returning home.
The Melbourne organisers, however, said police and venue security were aware of the rally and had made no complaints.
See our coverage of the Bersih 2.0 Melbourne Rally in pictures.