If ever there is a defining moment in the post-2008 political environment, a turning point in which Pakatan Rakyat’s push to wrest Putrajaya from BN turns for the better, it may be the Bersih event.
Ordinarily an event of this nature would not attract nationwide attention and become a household word but BN’s sled hammer approach to quash the citizen’s right to express their demand for free and fair elections has catapulted Bersih to the forefront of national consciousness.
Bersih has been demonized with fanciful charges of Christian funding and foreign funding, of trying to overthrow the government, of being a threat to peace and the ever superfluous excuse of causing traffic jams and losses to shopkeepers. The police have gone on a rampage to arrest any Bersih supporters wearing yellow without any legal basis and have even stooped so low as to point the finger at Bersih for planting parangs and Molotov cocktails when it is obvious that any identifying T-shirts planted with the weapons are suspect.
The Home Minister has declared Bersih an illegal organization for not being registered although it has been pointed out that a temporary umbrella body of legal NGOs does not need to be registered. One wonders what is so illegal about calling for free and fair elections. Is it worse than distributing porn VCDs openly to justify such aggressive persecution?
After a meeting with the Agung, Bersih leaders have compromised by agreeing to hold their rally in a stadium but in a final insult this looked likely to be shot down over Bersih’s supposed illegality. Nevertheless Bersih will proceed with a rally at Stadium Merdeka on 9 July with or without approval.
The public’s initial disappointment over the fanciful demonization of Bersih changed to dismay over the summary arrests of Bersih supporters and turned to anger when there is no let-up in the intensity of persecution even after Bersih’s historic meeting with the Agung. The regime has openly defied the call by the King for dialog and negotiation and still thinks the sled hammer approach is the best way.
Bersih’s objectives are met, thanks to BN
There are no doubt in most people’s minds that elections in Malaysia are anything but free and fair. It has been disingenuously suggested that if elections were not free and fair, the opposition would not have captured 5 states in the last general election. The reply to this is that if they were really free and fair, Najib Razak would be opposition leader now instead of prime minister.
In truth Bersih has scant hopes of forcing the Election Commission to make changes in the electoral system with a street rally. The main objective is to spread political awareness among the populace, to make them aware that their democratic right to choose their government has been infringed upon in hocus-pocus and hanky panky by an Election Commission which sees its loyalty to BN first and the people second. With awareness comes a political will to take part in the electoral process to thwart the perpetrators.
In this Bersih has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams even before any rally took place. BN’s frenzied overreaction to Bersih has spread the awareness far and wide and more pervasively than a street rally could and as a bonus to the opposition has damaged their own credibility.
BN scores its own goals
In their ludicrous handling of Bersih the ruling regime has made a grave mistake. Bersih is not about its leaders or the opposition parties, it represents the will of the people for free and fair elections. Suppressing Bersih is akin to suppressing the popular will of the people. The people’s anger for this high handed oppression will find an outlet in the next general election.
The demonization of Bersih in the state controlled electronic and print media has not worked. Malaysians have long discounted the supine mainstream media as the propaganda mouthpiece of the ruling regime. They now have alternative sources of news and information. The ability of the mainstream media to mould and shape public opinion is all but gone.
BN has done great political damage to itself. It is now seen as a party leery of free and fair elections and willing to bludgeon the people’s will to cling on to power. What fear! What desperation! Bersih organizers have come out smelling like a rose for their willingness to heed the Agung’s advice while the BN regime has come out looking like thugs.
We will see what happens on Saturday 9 July at Stadium Merdeka. If the people’s rally is met with tear gas, water cannons and wooden batons whatever political damage already done to BN will be enhanced. How ironic that in trying to suppress a peaceful rally the regime has helped to fulfill its objectives and turned the people against itself. Thanks to the regime’s thuggish behaviour Pakatan Rakyat may yet get their 5% swing necessary to boot out BN from Putrajaya.
- Malaysia Chronicle