The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) Sabah proposed occupation of Kota Kinabalu’s Padang Merdeka for the Bersih 3.0 gathering on April 28, when it was first announced, was met with silence by Kota Kinabalu City Hall.
The City Police then announced that they were to hold a practice drill exercise at the same venue at the same time.
The Bersih 3.0 organisers said that they would just sit around the perimeter terraces of the field to enjoy the afternoon performance by the police.
Other organisations like Bela Tanah Rakyat Sabah (Tabah) are also expected to participate.
Subsequently the City Police and the Kota Kinabalu City Hall said the Bersih gathering could be held at the Padang Merdeka after the Sabah Bersih organisers said they would organise a gotong-royong to clean up the area after the planned peaceful event.
Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said the police will ensure the organisers comply with all the procedures and regulations as stipulated under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2011.
“Our personnel will be present at the rally to control traffic flow at the venue and to ensure public safety is assured.
“We will provide the facilities to the organisers but they must remember that they are not allowed to conduct any illegal street demonstrations and only gather at two identified locations,” he said.
After the national news agency Bernama issued an article inferring that the opposition was exploiting the Bersih 3.0 activism, Kota Kinabalu City Hall’s Director-General Yeo Boon Hai said, “We have not given any approval for the Bersih gathering on April 28 at Padang Merdeka.”
This DBKK stance is identical to that of DBKL over Dataran Merdeka. All the opposition parties in Sabah announced their backing for the Bersih 3.0 gathering.
On the other hand, Umno Penampang division lodged police reports over the planned gathering.
Yeo said at short notice that City Hall would also be holding a Safe City programme at Padang Merdeka the same day that will include exhibitions on crime prevention, fire safety, health and anti-drug.
He said there would also be ‘demonstrations’ by the police and Fire and Rescue Department.
“As the organiser, City Hall views public safety and public orderliness seriously.
“As such, City Hall hopes that the public will participate in the Safe City programme accordingly,” he said.
In addition to the standard Bersih demands, Bersih Sabah 3.0 has called for a “Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Granting of Malaysian Citizenship to Aliens and the Presence of Illegal Immigrants in Sabah.”
A representative of Bersih Sabah 3.0, Andrew Ambrose said the increase in the population in Sabah has been extraordinary since the 1970s.
He said the Population Distribution and Basic Demographic Characteristics 2010 report published by the Department of Statistics, Malaysia revealed that more than one in four residents in Sabah are not Malaysian citizens, or 27.7 per cent.
“This is a chance for the Barisan Nasional government to clear its name,” he said.
“This is why Bersih Sabah 3.0 calls for a Royal Commission,” he said, adding there has been a unanimous and overwhelming support for the establishment of this Royal Commission.
He noted that on Aug. 21 last year, Prime Minister Seri Najib Tun Razak had asked them not to doubt his sincerity for polls reforms.
“We are waiting, anxiously,” he said.
So will the clamouring crowd come this Saturday April 28 and as usual thereafter, all over Sabah and Malaysia for fairness and justice?