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An international fact-finding mission on the Malaysian election also notes that the mainstream media is biased.

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KUALA LUMPUR: An international fact-finding mission on election found that the Bersih 3.0 rally yesterday was peaceful until the police acted provocatively.

Speaking at a press conference to present a preliminary report on the rally here today, independent Senator Nick Xenophon from Australia said: “It was peaceful [until the protesters were provoked].”

He also criticised the one-sided report on the rally in the mainstream broadcast media.

“The mainstream media is biased and unfair. We saw more of Prime Minister Najib (Tun Razak) in Sabah on television than the largest political expression in Malaysia,” said Xenophon.

Another member of the seven-men team, India Times editor MJ Akbar, said the participants were actually in a festive mood.

“The crowd had ample time to turn violent if they had wanted to. [But] there was a festive mood until the provocation happened,” Akbar said.

Senator Hasil Bizenjo of Pakistan was surprised that transport services to Kuala Lumpur were crippled yesterday.

“In other countries transport is provided for people to attend a rally. Here some people told me that they had to walk 20km to attend the rally,” Bizenjo said.

The other members of the team are writer Nasir Tamara of Indonesia, Clinton Fernandes of University New South Wales, Dean Amado Valdez of the Philippines and Juliane Schmucker from Germany.

Recalling a conversation the group had with Umno secretary-general, Tengku Adnan Mansor, Fernandes said:

“He [Tengku Adnan] stressed the importance of ‘avoiding racial strife. He also said improvement on election is not needed because the people here are immature.”

Fernandes also quoted Tengku Adnan as saying: “One of the problems with Indonesia is that there is too much freedom.”

However, Akbar said that “democracy needs freedom from fear and freedom of assembly”.

“It is unfortunate that some voices believe that this nation wants to exercise harmony without democracy,” he said, adding that he believes Malaysia deserves democracy.

The preliminary report also highlighted the mission’s concern over the integrity of the 240,000 election workers, and the lack of free and fair elections.

Bizenjo pointed out the weakness of Malaysia’s democratic institutions.

“The Election Commission looks so backward… It needs to improve. Even Pakistan has moved to electronic voting,” he said.

The members also declared their independence even though they were invited by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim to witness the rally.

“We don’t care who wins. I am not a Malaysian,” Fernandes said.