Bersih reform group activists reported tense moments in Lumut, Perak, when Red Shirts supporters harassed a convoy of cars which were part of a nationwide campaign to publicise the Bersih 5.0 rally next month.
“They shouted Mati Bersih (Die Bersih), and at one point, one of their cars actually overtook us and blocked our car, resulting in a slight knock,” said human rights activist Ivy Josiah.
The Red Shirted driver of the other car got out and began circling their car, but they remained calm and stayed in their car, later driving around the Red Shirts car and proceeding with their journey to Teluk Intan.
She was travelling in a car with Batu MP Tian Chua, his driver and Meera Samanther, president of the Association of Women Lawyers.
Josiah told FMT that the trouble began after the launch of the Lumut convoy.
Police had kept Red Shirts members and Bersih activists apart at the launching ceremony. But when the convoy took to the road, Red Shirts supporters went after the convoy, which consisted of some 12 vehicles draped in Bersih flags.
She said some 40 Red Shirts supporters on motorcycles and in cars began targeting cars in the Bersih convoy, screaming at the occupants and pulling off the flags on the car.
“They were very aggressive and provocative,” Josiah said.
She said that others in the convoy had also told them that they faced similar harassment, with some on motorcycles thumping the car windows with their fists.
Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah told FMT that Bersih activists in Padang Besar, Perlis, had reported that one Bersih supporter had been pelted with a stone, allegedly thrown by a Red Shirts supporter.
She said she was very disappointed with this, adding that there was no need for them to act like gangsters.
Red Shirts leader Jamal Md Yunos told FMT later that he did not care about what had happened – because Bersih’s activities were “illegal” – but stressed that he had never instructed for the use of violence.
“I cannot control the anger of the Red Shirts supporters. What happens, happens,” he said, and claimed that Bersih supporters were going about spreading lies and slandering the government.
He cautioned Bersih supporters of the prospect of more aggressive actions if they continued with their activities. “If they dare to come down (to the ground), gather, then they have to be ready to bear the risk.”
Earlier this week Jamal had launched “Merah V2” — a campaign aimed at countering the Bersih 5 convoys, being flagged off at various towns and cities.
Jamal said members of the Red Shirts movement were set to “descend” on all locations announced by Bersih 2.0.
The objective of the Bersih 5 convoy is to raise awareness of the need for institutional reforms and the severity of the 1MDB crisis.
Robin Augustin@FMT Reporters Online