By RK Anand
PETALING JAYA: Pursuing the civil suit against Bersih chairperson S Ambiga is both futile and counter-productive for Barisan Nasional, said a MIC leader.
Furthermore, S Vell Paari argued it would open a Pandora’s box with regard to similar legal actions.
The MIC central working committee member added that the move also provided more fodder to the opposition to discredit BN.
In view of this, he urged the government to consider withdrawing the suit.
The suit was filed against Bersih’s leaders seeking RM120,000 for the damage to police vehicles during the electoral watchdog’s April 28 rally in Kuala Lumpur. Ambiga had since counter-sued the government.
However, Vell Paari pointed out that others could choose a similar legal recourse, for example those who were hurt in the recent drag racing mishap during the youth gathering in Putrajaya.
“Should those injured in the accident take legal action against the government and the other organisers for not ensuring their safety at the event?” he asked.
Citing other examples, the MIC leader said whenever the annual Thaipusam festival was held in Batu Caves, which drew millions of Hindu devotees, there were bound to be accidents and injuries.
“Do these people sue the Batu Caves temple committee?” he asked.
Similarly, Vell Paari said during the haj pilgrimage in Mecca, there were also reports of people, including Malaysians, getting hurt in stampedes and so forth.
“So do we drag Tabung Haji or the Saudi Arabian authorities to court for failing to provide adequate safety measures to the pilgrims? That will be ridiculous!” he added.
The point was, he said, during large congregations of people, the situation could spiral out of control and the organisers cannot be blamed if instructions were not heeded.
“I believe that the case against Ambiga is not only a waste of taxpayers’ money and the courts’ precious time but is akin to shooting oneself in the foot or in this case, BN’s foot,” he told FMT.
‘Engage Ambiga as a friend’
Vell Paari said that it was also pointless to continue denying the influence of Bersih and the damage its mammoth rally had inflicted on BN.
“The protests held outside Ambiga’s residence had hurt BN’s image further, especially with the Indian community. The infamous butt exercise was not a protest but an outright harassment of a woman. The whole episode also took a racial slant.
“By not acting against these protesters, the authorities set a dangerous precedent that it is fine to put up stalls and conduct vulgar exercises outside anybody’s house,” he added.
Reiterating the need for the government to engage Ambiga as a friend instead of a foe, Vell Paari once again called on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to meet with the former Bar Council president.
He said Najib should not allow certain forces to undermine his good work and must take the initiative to hold a face-to-face meeting with Ambiga.
“We cannot pretend that Bersih is just an opposition tool. If it has valid grouses about the conduct of elections, then these complaints must be taken into account.
“Since Najib also stressed the need to embrace evolution as opposed to revolution, then the first step in this evolutionary process should be a dialogue with Ambiga.
“We have a PM who has shown that he is willing to listen to the people. He is someone who dares to be different and is courageous enough to apologise for BN’s shortcomings.
“For the people’s sake, this is something that he must do. He must meet her!” he added.
Vell Paari also said the government cannot blame Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and Pakatan Rakyat for hijacking Bersih since that was the nature of politics.
“Anwar is a master politician; he sensed that Bersih will be huge and he capitalised on it. He did the same with Hindraf in 2007.
“We cannot accuse a politician of exploiting an event for mileage. Such is the nature of the political beast,” he added.
Vell Paari also revealed that his stand on Bersih had raised eyebrows in BN circles but he stressed that dissent should not be confused with disloyalty.