KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 — The High Court today rejected an application for an injunction to stop Bersih 5 and a counter-rally from taking place in the capital city this Saturday.
Justice Nanthan Balan said the application, filed by three city Malay trader groups, failed, among others, to provide a credible explanation as to why the suit was only filed at the eleventh hour when Bersih 2.0 had already made it known that the Bersih 5 rally was to be held within the Dataran Merdeka vicinity since September this year.
Justice Nanthan also noted that the plaintiffs had failed to provide any evidence to support its claims that previous Bersih rallies had led to damages to their shops or assets.
“The delay is inordinate and the plaintiff failed to provide any credible explanation as to why they have filed for the injunction at the eleventh hour.
“The plaintiff said they have lodged a police report (against the defendants) yet there is no evidence of a police report. The plaintiff said they suffered from damages every time the defendants held rallies, yet there is no evidence of monetary issues,” Justic Nanthan said his ruling.
The three groups, the Modern Malay Bazaar Trader Association, the Trading Premise Renters Association and the Traders and Stall Owners Associations, filed for the interim injunction only yesterday on grounds that the two rallies would affect their business.
Their lawyer, Mugunthen Vadiveloo, in his submission said the three associations represented some 1,000 members. They claimed the rallies could cost each trader at least RM800 to RM1,800, adding that the weekends are where they make the most money.
Earlier on the counsel representing Bersih 2.0, Gurdial Singh, during his submission argued that no private citizens or groups have the power to prevent the public from exercising their constitutional right to assemble.
He said only the authorities or the state can impose restrictions only if the assembly is deemed detrimental to national security.
“Are the plaintiffs here to serve the function of the authorities? And they are doing so on a spurious grounds that they have suffered damages in the past without any evidence attributable to the defendants.
“It is for the state to impose restrictions, not a private group or citizens,” he said.
Bersih 2.0’s counsel also stressed that Peaceful Assembly Act only gives the authorities power to regulate the assembly to prevent any untoward incident from occurring, not banning the rally all together.
The poll reform co-chairman Maria Chin speaking to reporters after Justice Nanthan delivered his ruling said Bersih 2.0 understood the concerns raised by traders, but said the last Bersih rally took place peacefully and actually helped boost business.
“We appreciate their concern but Bersih 4 made businesses soar. Some of their businesses increase four fold from what traders told me,” Chin said.