Aside from the downpour, the local authorities’ unwillingness to approve a venue for the Bersih 5 rally may have led to the low turnout seen on Saturday.
Sarawak Bersih 5 organisers pointed out that unlike last year’s rally, which was approved by Chief Minister Adenan Satem himself, they had to search for a venue before settling on the Kuching Amphitheatre in Jalan Budaya just three weeks before the event.
“It did discourage the public because, in fact, this is the first time Sarawakians had to come out basically without the blessing of the local councils.
“It was an act of defiance, almost,” Bersih volunteer lawyer Murnie Hidayah Anuar said.
On Oct 12, Bersih 2.0 had submitted an application to use Padang Merdeka, but this was rejected.
An application to use the Song Kheng Hai rugby grounds, the site for last year’s Bersih 4 rally, was also rejected by Kuching South City Council (MBKS).
Sarawak Bersih later decided not to use the stadium, despite obtaining the green light, on grounds that it was too far from public transportation and settled for the Amphitheatre.
Sarawak Bersih vice-chairperson Ann Teo said it did not help matters when the group was also accused to have received funding from controversial hedge fund manager George Soros via Open Society Foundations (OSF).
“The sentiment this time was affected somewhat,” Teo told FMT, adding the coalition was mostly funded by locals.
Teo added that DBKU had been aggressive in its resistance to allow the use of the Amphitheatre, which organisers said was a public space.
The amphitheatre was subsequently cordoned off although Teo insisted she did not receive any notice about it.
On Friday, city council workers had set up barricade tapes around the area, which is half-an-acre in size.
On the day of the rally itself, two lorries were also used to block a public parking space located adjacent to the Amphitheatre.
In a press conference today, Murnie told reporters that Bersih’s legal team was looking at all the possibilities to take legal action against the city council.
Teo said the act of barricading the entrance with lorries and not allowing use of the public space was an attempt to disrupt the event.
“When queried by our person in charge of security and marshalling, the reply was that they were instructed to trim the trees and the Amphitheatre at 4pm,” said Teo, who added that city council officers had told participants they were not supposed to use the place.
On Saturday, Bersih supporters largely ignored the barricade. No police reports were lodged against Bersih for Saturday’s rally.
DBKU had stated that the renovation works began before the city council received an application from the organisers to use the Amphitheatre for their assembly.
Source : Richard T.W.@FMT Reporters Online