Bersih 2.0: Winners and losers

The Malaysian Insider
Jul 05, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — So it is settled, after weeks of harassment and thuggish behaviour by the government, the people for free and fair elections will gather in a stadium on July 9.

This episode has once again demonstrated how fractious and divided Malaysia is with enlightened and liberal Malaysia on one side and almost facist powers on the other.

Some individuals emerge from this episode with reputations intact, others with image destroyed forever. The Malaysian Insider gives our take on the winners and losers.


• The organisers of Bersih: let’s be honest, until a few weeks ago this was a movement at the periphery of most Malaysians. Okay, so some 100,000 people would have marched on the streets on KL. But thanks to the government’s blanket arrests, use of draconian laws and decision to behave like a repressive regime, Bersih became a buzzword. Much to the government’s chagrin, everyone has forgotten about Datuk T, all the wonderful projects under the ETP. Today, people remember Bersih as the people fighting for clean and fair elections, and the Barisan Nasional (BN) government as the people frightened of free and fair elections.

• Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan: She was called names by the prime minister and threatened with having her citizenship revoked by the Malacca chief minister and was under severe pressure from the police and security agencies. But the former Bar Council president did not lose her cool or become rabid like her detractors. She stayed the course and was always civil. Maybe our politicians should take a leaf out of her book.

• The Yang di-Pertuan Agong: his measured last-minute intervention gave the government and Bersih face-saving escape routes from confrontation. This is what Malaysians expect of the monarchy: for them to be honest brokers, not mouthpieces for the ruling party. In all likelihood he was asked by the government to issue the statement on Sunday but it does appear that he was unwilling to demonise Bersih.

• Malaysian public: in the wake of all this talk of riots and tension, the man in the street was unmoved and unconvinced by the fairytale stories of communist plots and Christian funding — a sure sign that the governed are more mature than the government.


• Datuk Seri Najib Razak: he has now agreed to meet Bersih leaders to discuss the venue for their rally. One has to ask why as the PM he did not engage the activists but instead he allowed them to be demonised by his Umno party. The mishandling of the issue also allowed Malaysia’s image to be tarnished and undid a lot of good work done by good men in the administration. He allowed the hardliners in government and his party to call the shots when he should have been leading from the front.

• Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein: where does one start with this major disappointment of a minister? He left many stumped by his illogical statements and his John Le Carre scenarios. He has ambitions of becoming the country’s prime minister. After this performance it is arguable whether he is the best person for the home ministry portfolio.

• Datuk Ibrahim Ali: he has been at the forefront of the attacks against Ambiga and Bersih. And he has also tried to turn the issue into one of race, to protect Malay rights. But it became abundantly clear that Bersih 2.0 had the support of many Malaysians from different races. It was not about race after all but the issue of free and fair elections.

• The PDRM: the police have made a mockery of the law by arresting people for wearing T-shirts. While it is arguable whether preventive action and detention should still be allowed, arresting people for wearing T-shirts was a ridiculous act. Continuing to detain people under the Emergency Ordinance over the rally is also a classic case of abusing the law. In the end the police should remember that if a permit was granted the rally would not have been illegal. The police must not act as if the country is under siege from its own citizens.

  1. #1 by voice2009 on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 12:12 am

    With the blessing of AGONG

    BERSIH should extend their activities beyond 9 July

    go on tour from state to state, cities to cities, Kg to kg to promote BERSIH get more Malaysians to support it

    For the good of Malaysia future and next generation

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 1:47 am

    How could it be said that Najib is the loser? Bersih 2.0 posed a challenge to him. It intended to march in the streets to pressure him to reform the electoral system. If any untoward incidence should happen that precipitates police brutality the people will be incensed against his administration and vote against BN in a major way as what Bersih 1.0 accomplished in terms of 308 tsunami if not demand resignation of himself and his cabinet. In view of the threat posed by Bersih’s march to ruling govt & vested interest his party’s right wingers and ultra warlords would have pressured him to take repressive actions against Bersih or vacate his seat.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 1:51 am

    If repressive police action were to continue leading to Operation Lallang II or emergency it would discredit all of the PM’s hype about reforms, sabotage all the deals he has hatched and strain his warming relationship with the US, which likely will support freedom of assembly/peaceful demonstrations. He has neutralized all these challenges. He does not have to elect any Hopson’s choice now. The King’s message that demonstration on the street is not the Malaysian way echoes exactly what Najib has all along exhorted. (That is more the forte of the defacto Opposition head, mindful of the big reformasi crowds he galvanized when he was sacked, beaten and charged for corruption/sodomy). In fact Bersih’s standing down on its principal objective of having a high profile march out of respect o the King’s views as regards undesirability of street demonstration is a precedent, which if followed now, suggests there’s no reason not to likewise abide in the future – for the same reasons of respect for the King’s views. This works fine for the PM.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 1:52 am

    PM Najib has in fact staved off a major Bersih’s challenge that either forces his hand to be repressive or become vulnerable to be removed by his own warlords for doing nothing. He has contrived it in a way that he does not have to choose between the two undesirable outcomes. There is no evidence that he has been forced to make any meaningful reform/concessions to change electoral procedures or campaigning style as yet. Allowing Bersih to demonstrate in Stadium is probably something he would have agreed to right in the beginning had Bersih applied for police permit. (There were many Opposition rallies held before in such confined environment). He is clearly the winner in these senses.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 2:08 am

    What it amounts to is that people’s power on streets will not be available to Opposition or NGOs. Because everything they intend one, there would be groups like Perkasa that will counter demonstrate giving the incumbent govt the justification to cite national security as an excuse why it cannot be permitted. Besides respect or the King’s views against street demonstration (due to tension caused by these other groups putting the spanner in the works by deciding to counter march) will by precedent apply in the future as it does now in present instance.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 2:10 am

    Ooops – “…because ‘everytime’ (not everything) they intend one…”

  7. #7 by trublumsian on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 4:27 am

    no, najib is no winner merely because he didn’t reign in his dogs – hesshamefulmoodin, the agp, comical-ali, etc. and when he did hv something to say, he completely knocked on bersih and ambiga claiming she’s out to ruin islam. there are people watching, holding their horses till hell break loose. jibby n bn have been observed n hv showed they’re fools.

  8. #8 by k1980 on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 7:45 am

    Ultimate winner— BN because the electoral process remains tainted with postal votes cheating, phantom voters and so on

  9. #9 by drngsc on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 8:36 am


    I am disappointed.
    The winners must first and foremost be, a better Malaysia, with cleaner, freer and fairer elections. We are fighting ( metaphorically speaking ) for a cause. Ambiga is leading the fight for the cause. I hope that non of us forget that.
    If we lose, it is also the cause that is lost.

    We need to change the tenant in Putrajaya.

  10. #10 by baochingtian on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 8:53 am

    Bersih had to back off upon royal advice, the ultimatum. But Polis, Jib and Hisap pudding brushed off any of these advices, detained people related to Bersih still not released, still going hard on Bersih supporters. Why it’s always one sided game? That someone is blind or for survival sake, can’t help it ???
    When do we rakyat have a breather and have GAME FINISHED ???

  11. #11 by dagen on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 9:03 am

    In malaysia we have only one true opposition party to the people. And that opposition party is UMNO. The one party that opposes and abuses the people’s rights, interest, entitlement and expectations in all sorts of ways, including illegal ones, and for all sorts of reasons, real, imagined, perceived or dreamt of.

    The highly arrogant, illegal and completely irresponsible and ridiculous manner in which umno handled the people’s demand for a rally to voice their concern on unfair election process stamps umno on the forehead with the “devil” sign.

  12. #12 by wanderer on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 3:02 pm

    There are no loosers in a confrontation, only fools become wiser, hopefully!

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