Festival-like mood at rallies in Kota Kinabalu, Kuching


KOTA KINABALU - There was a carnival air over the Likas Bay Park beach here as hundreds of people streamed in for the Sabah Bersih event.

Amid sounds of native Kadazandusun gongs, the participants walked several kilometres carrying the national and Sabah flags, with some shouting "Bersih!"

With police keeping a close eye on the ground, air and sea, the participants, mainly comprising youths and Opposition leaders from the DAP and PKR, seemed to enjoy the scenic view and sea breeze.

"We drove from Sandakan (300km from here) before sunrise to make it here for the march," said an office manager who identified herself only as Lim.

"I participated to show my support for Bersih. My boss does not know I came," said the 38-year-old.

Speeches and entertainment continued till late evening but many dispersed by 9pm.

Kota Kinabalu police chief Asst Comm M. Chandra said the ring leaders would be summoned to give their statements for offences under the Peaceful Assembly Act.

In Kuching, the police made no arrest, except seize several banners.

Kuching police chief ACP Roslan Bek Ahmad declared day one of the gathering as "peaceful" with no complaints from the public.

"There were a few banners brought by gatherers that we found inappropriate. We seized those but that's about it," ACP Roslan told reporters yesterday evening.

About 1,000 plainclothes and uniformed officers were on duty yesterday. Bersih 4 in Sarawak was the only assembly in Malaysia with council and police permits.

"It's a bit weird for everyone to be praising me," ACP Roslan added, referring to rally organisers and Opposition members who thanked the police publicly and privately for approving Bersih.

The Song Kheng Hai rugby pitch (also the venue of July 22's Sarawak for Sarawakians rally) turned into a sea of yellow - there were both Bersih 4 shirts as well as the state's yellow, red and black flags.

They marched from four approved gathering sites - car parks and hotel assembly points - alongside the police.

A dozen speakers featured, ranging from DAP and PKR members to civil activists like former Radio Free Sarawak presenter Peter John Jaban and his wife Karen Shepherd, who gained fame recently for slamming a state minister for labelling her a meddling foreigner.

By 4pm, some participants had returned home. By 6pm, even the public announcement systems had been disbanded.