THE violence and chaos which broke out during the Bersih 3.0 rally last Saturday, could have been avoided if the organisers had taken up the government's offer to have it at Merdeka Stadium.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the gathering would have been peaceful if it was held at Merdeka Stadium, a venue Bersih organisers had previously requested.
"We wanted to avoid street demonstrations. If only the organisers had listened to us, this would not have happened and nobody would have been injured," he said after chairing the 24th Putrajaya Committee of High Performing Government Linked Companies meeting here, yesterday.
This was the first time Najib had spoken on the issue since the April 28 incident which saw over 50 people, including journalists, injured following a clash between protesters and policemen.
He said the government had always maintained that it could not control street demonstrations and what had occurred was not confined to Malaysia but also with countries such as Britain and America experiencing similar incidences.
He said the government was in favour of free and fair elections and the organisers should have observed the "principle and spirit" of the Peaceful Assembly Act.
The act tabled last year allows the public to assemble peacefully at stadiums and open areas as part of the rights enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
Najib said the incident would not affect the decision on the date for the upcoming general election.
On the setting up of the independent panel to investigate allegations of police brutality against journalists and protesters during the rally, Najib said the names of the members would be announced.
In declaring his support for the panel, Najib said the panel would be made up of "credible, experienced individuals who are respected by society and understood the workings of the police force".
When asked if he would be keeping an eye on the police investigations into alleged brutality, Najib said: "Yes, the whole government is. So is the public."
When asked about opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's statement that he was willing to be DAP's lackey if that would secure a win for the opposition, Najib said it merely confirmed the people's suspicion that DAP was the dominant partner in the loosely-formed coalition.
"This is a confession which reflects the views of many people."