The lack of Malay participation and unsuccessful rallies in East Malaysia actually showed the Government to be steps ahead of the opposition
By Tajuddin Rosli
The 29 and 30 August of 2015 saw a big street rally in Kuala Lumpur city. Bersih organisers claim that about 500,000 people participated in the 34 hour rally. Pro-opposition media called it a huge success while pro-government media deemed it a failure.
So, was it really a success?
First of all, the objective of the street gathering itself was unclear. Was it a gathering to call for clean and fair elections? Clean government? Or was the rally held to call for Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s resignation? Pro-Opposition supporters would say all of the above.
Some people would say the objective does not matter. The point is, however, that allegedly half a million people gathered on the streets of KL to protest against the government. Is that really true?
Pictures circulating around the web showed that some participants had gathered to propagate gay rights and others for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s release from prison. The Opposition used it as a vehicle to spread their propaganda. While the public applauded the presence of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, it is equally important to note that Mahathir himself said he was not there to support Bersih or street rallies. Neither was he there to topple the government. You will note that he did not wear a yellow top. He specifically said he went there to join in the voices asking for Najib’s resignation. That means Mahathir appeared to further his own personal vendetta against Najib, not for anything else. He does not support Bersih nor does he condone the idea of toppling the Barisan Nasional government.
All this simply means not everybody who gathered there came together for a common cause. This in itself is a dent in the supposed success of the rally.
How does the rally attendance stack up against the population?
Klang Valley is reported to have a population of more than 7 million people. If we accept that the attendance was 500,000 as reported, participation in Bersih 4 still comes up to less than 10% of the population of Klang Valley.
So what about the remaining 90 plus percent?
It is also important to note that of those who attended, not everyone was from Klang Valley. The rally attracted representatives from all over Peninsular Malaysia. How many percent of the residents of Klang Valley participated in the protest against the government?
With such low numbers, why should the demands of Bersih be met?
The majority of the participants were ethnic Chinese. Compare this with the first Bersih rally where about 70-80% of the participants were Malays. The number of Malays who participated in subsequent Bersih rallies has continued to decline and this time it was the least. Does this mean that support for the BN among the Malays is increasing slowly? Interestingly during the Merdeka weekend, Port Dickson attracted more Malay visitors than did the Bersih rally in KL. Even the Ops Blackout in 2013 had significantly more Malay support than this edition of Bersih.
This brings us back to the earlier question. Why should the government address Bersih’s demands?
What about Bersih in other states?
If you recall at the initial press conference of Bersih, the organiser mentioned that three locations were the focus of Bersih this time around – Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. However, during the entire course of the rally and the post-event, nothing much was reported about the status of the rally in Sabah and Sarawak.
There was a reason for this. We all know that East Malaysia has been BN’s backbone and the Opposition coalition has been targeting that part of Malaysia for the longest time. As such, the rally was meant to highlight the uproar in Sabah and Sarawak against the government and strike fear in BN. Was the objective met?
In Sarawak only about 1000-1500 people attended the rally held in the Song Kheng Hai ground. This despite the Chief Minister of Sarawak giving the green light for the gathering and despite the fact that the Member of Parliament for Kuching is a representative of the DAP. Sabah had a similar scenario and also a poor turnout. The gatherings in the East Malaysia locations did not even last 24 hours. People came in stages, spent some time and went back home. This clearly shows that Bersih was rejected outright in East Malaysia.
After the Bersih rally, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz mocked the entire event. Although netizens ridiculed and condemned them for making such statements, deep within the BN they were celebrating the failure of Bersih. What set out to strike fear and unrest within BN did not materialize. BN had the last laugh.
The final outcome of Bersih 4.0 showed us how many steps ahead the government is compared to the Opposition. While the Opposition slams the government for racial division, it was Bersih and the Opposition who fell into their own trap and caused a racial split. More such street rallies will further widen the split between races. Is it any wonder that BN representatives are requesting that Bersih be an annual event!
Tajuddin Rosli is an FMT reader.