PETALING JAYA, Aug 18 — International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) reminded Malaysia’s top policeman today that the freedom to attend the upcoming Bersih 4 rally was an intrinsic human right so long as it was held peacefully.
The organisation’s Asia Division’s deputy director Phil Robertson also said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar should also desist from painting the street rally to take place in the national capital at month end as disruptive to businesses there.
“People have the rights to peacefully assemble. I assume Bersih 4 will be a peaceful assembly,” Robertson told a news conference at the Shah Village Hotel here after awarding HRW’s courage prize to controversial political cartoonist Zunar.
He added that he sees no issue for the traders as they may benefit from the crowds of rally-goers expected to descend on August 29.
“People have to go the rally one way or another. They’re going to go in taxies, they are going to buy T-shirts or they are going to buy food from street vendors. Some of the vendors are selling things to the crowd, so I do not know why the IGP is thinking some groups of vendors are more privileged,” he added.
Khalid has labelled the organisers of the Bersih 4 rally “selfish”, claiming the overnight rally would disrupt public activity, including the businesses of street traders.
The Bersih 4 rally is scheduled to take place at five points in the city, with participants camping at the iconic Dataran Merdeka — the site of the annual Independence Day parade on August 31.
However, City Hall has refused the organisers the right to camp on the square, saying rally-goers are restricted to the sidewalks.