The Bersih 5.0 rally and counter-rally last Saturday, 19 November 2016 saw an estimated 15,500 Bersih or ‘Yellow Shirts’ and 2,500 ‘Red Shirts’ protesters on the streets according to official figures by the police.
Safety and security concerns was a key focus for the organizers, government authorities and general public as numerous fracas between followers of his Red Shirts movement with Bersih 2.0 supporters and the authorities were reported leading up to the rally.
Bersih 2.0 the organizers of the Bersih 5 rally faced critical setbacks with the police chief classifying both rallies illegal and the authorities choosing to effectively disable the rally with road closures that sealed off their intended venue and the seizure of their mobile stage platform.
With crowd control, security, and communications seriously jeopardised, the organizers with its security team faced a huge task of facilitating tens of thousands of protesters gathered.
In the previous Bersih rallies, contingents of voluntary corps detailed in key security roles such as crowd handling and marshalling included the Unit Amal of PAS, Amal Relief Malaysia also known as ARiF of Parti Amanah Negara (previously known as Gerakan Harapan Baru), Unit Tindakan Khas of DAP and Skuad Angkatan Muda Keadilan of PKR.
The Unit Amal PAS unit pulled out from the Bersih 4.0 rally in 2015. Back then, different voluntary corps donned different coloured shirts in order to differentiate their political affiliation. This year, a surge of purple clad volunteers were in charge for the safety and security of the Bersih 5.0 rally protesters.
In a media statement on 17 November 2016, the Deputy Chairman of Bersih 2.0 Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari announced that the Bersih 5.0 Security Team have been briefed to deploy members of the voluntary corps at the three rally assembly points namely at the Bangsar LRT station, Masjid Negara, and Dataran Merdeka to assist in all possible incidences of confrontation, violence and general security matters throughout the rally.
The Bersih 5.0 Security Control Team, or simply known as the ‘Bersih Security Team’ is the new face of a unified voluntary corps from ARiF (500 members), Unit Tindakan Khas of DAP (300 members), Skuad Angkatan Muda Keadilan (350 members) and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) Tiger (50 members) with a total of 1,200 members led by a Chief Commander from Bersih.
Citizen Journalists Malaysia interviewed the Chief Secretary of ARiF Nasional (ARiF), Hj. Baharuddin Abu Kassim, designated as the Ground Commander for ARiF to gain some valuable insights on the Bersih 5.0 Security Team.
“Each and every member of the team are volunteers from their respective parties and do not receive any form of allowance.” Baharuddin said.
The Bersih 5.0 Security Team was formed in the early November 2016 after receiving a mutual agreement between different voluntary corps from Parti Amanah, DAP, Keadilan and PSM.
“We have decided that there was a need to come together under a common platform and thus a common uniform which was the deep purple coloured T-shirt was agreed upon, provided by the Bersih 5.0 organizers” said Baharuddin.
Among others, some of the main concerns for the organizer were provocations, crowd control, traffic management or marshalling of protesters and most importantly to ensure the safety of protesters throughout the rally.
“We have held several meetings in order to prepare and strategize together as a team in order to ensure the safety and security of the Bersih 5.0 participants during the rally by taking proactive actions in order to avoid and prevent any possible clashes with the red shirts and comply fully with orders by the police.”
“Preparatory trainings were also held at respective state level. Volunteers from other parties also held joint trainings with us. For example, ARiF had joint training sessions with the Unit Tindakan Khas DAP” said Baharuddin.
Baharuddin was glad that the different voluntary units could come together under a common entity under the main organizer for Bersih 5.0.
“Every member of the Bersih Security Team was obedient and able to follow the orders of the Chief Commander with full dedication. We attribute this to the success in diverting the crowd of protesters and marshalled them towards KLCC despite the lockdown and diversion of roads.”
“Moving forward, we would like to also propose to the organizers, Bersih 2.0 to consider basic training programs for security volunteers. Perhaps we (Pakatan Harapan) could assist in programs under the Pakatan Harapan umbrella in the near future before the 14th General Elections” he added.
Baharuddin also suggested that further improvements could be made such as continuous training provided by the respective parties in order to ensure uniformity and preparedness is always in place. Among some of the improvement opportunities observed, he hoped that volunteers would turn up more appropriately groomed or dressed such as black long pants, shoes and caps.
In concluding the interview, Baharuddin thanked members of the security team from ARiF, Unit Tindakan Khas DAP, Skuad Angkatan Muda Keadilan and PSM Tiger. On behalf of Parti Amanah Negara and ARiF he also thanked the organizers for their trust in leading the security team throughout the Bersih 5.0 rally.
The writer is also a security professional and the founder and owner of JK Global Frontier Sdn. Bhd.