An Australia sociologist describes the royal intervention as a rebuke to Umno and the government.
PETALING JAYA: Bersih earned a spot on Australia’s airwaves today with an Australian sociologist describing the royal intervention as a “rebuke” to Umno and the government and an acknowledgement of the organisation’s legitimacy.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Abidin issued a statement on Monday saying street demonstrations would do more harm than good.
This prompted Bersih to request an audience with him, which he granted with rare speed yesterday. Bersih afterwards announced its decision to move the rally off the streets and into a stadium.
Professor Clive Kessler of the University of New South Wales told ABC Radio that the King may have acted on his own initiative or at the suggestion of the government looking for a way to climb down.
“But it is a remarkable intervention,” he observed. “The last two weeks in Malaysia have been astounding and gripping and Malaysia has, at least for the moment, stepped back from the brink.”
Despite many Malaysians lamenting that a stadium rally would reduce Bersih’s impact, Kessler said the coalition had made its point.
“The government stigmatised Bersih and said they were unreasonable and violent, but the King himself appealed to the reason of his reasonable citizens,” he said.
“This was in a sense a rebuke to Umno, a repudiation of the government’s position and that in itself gave face and legitimacy to Bersih as an organisation.
“The arguments that they have made that the Malaysian electoral system is irrevocably broken and lacking in credibility have now more than ever been made and that argument has now greater legitimacy that before.”
Kessler also said that the spate of arrests over the past two weeks actually boosted Bersih’s credibility and legitimacy.
By launching an assault on Bersih, the government had effectively buried itself and now appeared to be backing down, he added.
“The great winners in this have been Bersih, its head Ambiga Sreeneevasan and the King, who has come out as healer and a broker of the nation’s best interests,” he declared.
“The great losers have been the government, particularly the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, and also the Malay ethno-sectarian pressure groups that have been driving the government to take a very strong anti-Bersih line.”
Kessler also said that although the march had officially been called off, a large number of people could be expected to turn up this Saturday since their presence was no longer forbidden.
He also speculated that the rally would be held in Stadium Melawati in Shah Alam. Bersih wanted to hold the rally in Stadium Merdeka, but its request was turned down by the stadium management today.
“Holding the rally in Shah Alam would mean that it not will come under the KL police, but the Selangor police,” Kessler said. “This gets all the police who have acted very stridently in the last week or so out of the action.
“And people will have to walk there, because they’re not going to be able to drive or get there by public transport. So, in some sense the march will go ahead, but not in Kuala Lumpur.”