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Try rallying a crowd without money or power, Ambiga tells PM

Published:  |  Modified:

Former Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan has outlined the difference between rallies organised by the government and the electoral reform group.

She was responding to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak who claimed that only 20,000 participants attended Bersih 4 and the government could mobilise a larger crowd if it wanted to.

"Of course they have the money and power to assemble any number of people.

"The true test is doing it without money and power, and relying entirely on the goodwill of the people. And there lies the strength of Bersih.

"Participants come there voluntarily and have to pay for t-shirts, food and transport themselves. Yet they are willing to make the sacrifice for the country," she told Malaysiakini .

The former Bar Council president also took a swipe at BN strategic communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan, terming his comments on Bersih 4 as "disingenuous".

"It shows a lack of leadership. No leader worth their salt would scoff at the voices of hundreds of thousands of people," she said.

Bersih has claimed that 200,000 people attended the rally yesterday whereas Malaysiakini estimated the figure to be 100,000 during its peak based on ground reports and aerial footage.

However, the police claimed that the figure was around 25,000.

Mahathir has come around

As for the argument that BN still remains in power despite the rallies, Ambiga challenged the ruling coalition to hold free and fair elections.

"We will see what happens then. Staying there (in power) by flawed elections is nothing I would boast about," she said.

Ambiga also commented on former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad's double appearance at Bersih 4.

"I think we have come some distance when Mahathir who ruled with an iron fist has come round to the point of view that the rakyat have a right to assemble and make demands of the government.

"He now appreciates that when the rakyat are frustrated at the failure of the leadership to respond to serious issues they have no choice but to rally and show their displeasure," she said.

However, Ambiga said it was a shame that Mahathir stated he does not support Bersih's demands.

"Although Bersih wants the PM to step down, it is pointless without institutional reforms taking place at the same time.

"I appreciated what Siti Hasmah said about people power. I am glad that they came down twice to be with the people," she added.

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