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Ambiga thanks PSM 6 for taking the heat for Bersih

Bersih 2.0 may have had its fair share of persecution from the authorities, but it was guilt over the detention of six PSM detainees under the Emergency Ordinance which haunted the steering committee days prior to the July 9 rally.

psm thanksgiving dinner 060811 s ambiga
And yet, said the coalition for clean and fair elections' chairperson S Ambiga (right), it was the PSM 6's strength and determination that pushed them through.

“We felt very bad… and then we got messages back from those who were detained, saying: “Carry on with the rally on July 9. We are with you, we are not afraid”.

“(The PSM 6) took the hit and the heat for Bersih, and we thank them for being so strong. We thank them for never wavering and always showing strength in a very critical time,” she said at PSM's thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night.

But while the 300-odd who thronged the Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall had come to celebrate their “superheroes”— Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael D Jeyakumar, PSM deputy president M. Sarasvathy, Youth chief R Saratbabu, PSM Bayan Baru branch president Choo Chon Kai, Sungai Siput branch leader M Sukumaran and branch secretary A.P. Letchumanan —feted last night was the rakyat.

Kicked off on a solemn note with a one-hour vigil for the repeal of the Emergency Ordinance and the Internal Security Act, the celebratory dinner took on a festive note as both lighthearted and touching presentations were given by civil society representatives.

'The people united'
Garnering big cheers was guitar-playing Suaram director Kua Kia Soong who, after introduced as a “famous Latin American singer” got the audience singing along to a song adapted from Spanish, with the catchy chorus: “the people united will never be defeated”.

psm thanksgiving dinner 060811 Sugu and choo chon kaiPeople power was indeed the theme of the night with many speakers reminding the audience that it was the pressure that they placed on the government which led to the PSM 6's release on July 29, after 28 days in detention.

For PSM chairperson Dr Nasir Hashim, the support of the rakyat was both an “inspiration” and an affirmation of the power of grassroots activism in which the socialist party traces its foundations.

“(The authorities) failed to detain (the PSM 6) for longer, because they made a mistake. They thought we were a small party, but we have a history of activism and we have good friends.

“The bail set (for the 24 arrested on June 24) was RM8,000, (a total of) RM192, 000 but we managed to get the money to bail them out because there was a show of solidarity… We are now united, and that if you touch any one of us, we are (all) going to react,” he said to thundering applause.

Also a hit was PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu, who stepped on stage on crutches, having recovered enough from injuries sustained during the Bersih 2.0 rally to abandon the wheelchair.

Pointing to double standards in police enforcement, Mohamad said none of the silat leaders were arrested despite them announcing that they are willing to “spill blood” against Bersih 2.0.

“(The PSM 6) were accused of waging war against the Agong…and what were their weapons? T-shirts,” he said to laughter.

psm thanksgiving dinner 060811 s arutchelvanAlso much celebrated was “fearless” PSM secretary general S Arutchelvan (right), who speakers said would be their top choice as “hostage negotiator” or “freedom campaigner” should they ever get kidnapped or taken in under oppressive laws.

Grinning from ear to ear, however, the indefatigable Arutchelvan who had run a nationwide pressure campaign for the PSM 6's release, only had praises for the people who had “forgotten the word 'fear'” and ignored police warnings against the holding of vigils for the PSM 6's release.

'Nabbed' again
But even Arutchelvan could not save the PSM 6 when they were 'nabbed' again last night—only this time by their party colleagues who surprised them by 'dragging' them on stage in a rib-tickling skit portraying the arbitrary nature of their detention.

In the skit, a man wearing a large sign which read 'Najib', who entered the stage to the song 'Who Let the Dogs Out?' ordered seemingly bumbling 'police' to catch PSM activists.

In their speeches, the six, too thanked their supporters, whom they said gave them strength to stand their ground.

“This is just the beginning of a new movement in Malaysia. I hope that with power of the people we can defend this seedling, so that it can become the tree of democracy that protects all Malaysians,” said Choo. - Malaysiakini

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