Bersih then and Bersih now

Patrick Lee | April 27, 2012
Free Malaysia Today

This time everyone who missed out on last year’s rally wants to be in on the action. While the usual suspects in the opposing camp are rather muted.

PETALING JAYA: Though same in demands, the Bersih rally this year will be a different ball game compared to its predecessor.

The eight demands to reform the electoral system, the yellow T-shirts, the boasts of tens of thousands coming and even all the usual suspects are still there.

But a couple of things set 2012′s Bersih apart from the 2011′s Walk of Democracy. Here’s five.

1. Why?

In May last year, election observer Ong BK was kicked out of Sarawak for trying to dig up dirt on the state’s elections the month before. Angered, Bersih’s organisers decided to kick off its July 9 rally.

This year, however, the group was annoyed after Parliament approved its select committee (PSC) report on electoral reforms with little debate.

According to them, the Election Commission either (a) hadn’t done enough to fix the voter rolls, or (b) wasn’t listening to them.

2. Merdeka where?

In the run-up to Bersih 2.0, the group chose Stadium Merdeka after the King told them that it was a bad idea to have it on the streets.

The government was of course, aghast. How dare these people desecrate the site of Independence with their demands for fair elections?

Go have it somewhere else, they cried. The stadium is too small to fit your hundreds of thousands of screaming yellow-shirters.

Plus, it’s also bad for business. Think of all the traffic you’ll cause!

Bersih of course, disagreed with these reasons, because if KL traffic is any indication of rallies, you’d think that there were protests everyday.

These factors however went out the window this year, when Bersih called for Dataran Merdeka to be opened for tomorrow’s rally.

We’ll even give you Stadium Merdeka, even though we said it was off-limits before, the authorities cried. Heck, take the Cheras, Bukit Jalil and Titiwangsa stadiums if you want, but leave that square alone.

But Bersih said no. We want Dataran and we want it now. It’s really close to public transport and it’s culturally significant.

3. Let’s get crackin’

When the police heard about Bersih last year, they reacted with an efficiency unheard of in most government agencies.

The authorities also came down hard on people with T-shirts, arresting everyone dressed in yellow. No one, not even DiGi’s mascot, was safe.

A few unfortunate socialists with Chin Peng T-shirts were accused of waging war against the King, even if none of them had any weapons on them and were armed only with posters.

Bersih was then declared illegal because they never really registered themselves.

Temporary bus permits to KL were denied and many parts of the city were locked down by the police as the date drew close.

This year, however, government reaction to the group was noticeably muted.

No one had been arrested for wearing T-shirts, nobody had been called in for questioning, ministers are relaxed (in comparison), and police aren’t really warning anyone.

The only authorities caught in a bind this time was KL City Hall (DBKL), who oddly enough was very quiet last year.

4. Battlefield Kuala Lumpur

With all the fuss over Bersih last year, you’d have thought the country was going to war. Some even went to the extent of calling Bersih’s co-chairperson S Ambiga an enemy of the Muslims.

Over 2,000 police reports were lodged against the “illegal” coalition; a record worthy of the Malaysian Book of Records.

Annoyed over the call for reforms, a silat grandmaster warned that 50,000 fighters would come out to fight Bersih on the streets if need be.

Whereas Umno Youth and Perkasa said that they would flex their muscles as well, even if the latter was nowhere to be found that day.

Both Ambiga and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin found themselves hit with death threats.

In terms of build-up, this year was boring, if you could call it that.

Death was not referenced in threats. No police reports (maybe one or two, but we haven’t really heard of any) were made. No martial arts-fighting on the streets either.

Heck, even Ibrahim Ali seems relaxed this year.

5. Bersih, Bersih everywhere

In July 2011, Kuala Lumpur was the coolest place to be for protests. In fact, it was so happening here that nothing else (Bersih-wise) happened anywhere else in the country.

Even so, a few overseas Malaysians decided to join in on the action and held smaller rallies all over the world, though most of them were found in Australia.

This year, everybody, everywhere wants to be a part of Bersih. With 93 locations worldwide (and Malaysia), you might accidentally walk into a rally around the corner.

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Friday, 27 April 2012 - 9:12 pm

    Dataran Merdeka I am strongly advised is now surrounded and manned by many, many men in dark blue. City Hall workers are putting up banners to announce to all law abiding and respected citizens that there is no demonstration tomorrow at that place. There were also a lot of plain clothes men around and some members of the press.

    Other than that, the place is very quiet with no cars or tourists around. The only things on the field I am told (they sent me a photo) were a massive flock of black crows who were having a good time for once. Maybe a sign for tomorrow. I will be up early tomorrow on my internet to see how things are progressing. Then later in the day, I will be in action !!

  2. #2 by sheriff singh on Friday, 27 April 2012 - 10:12 pm

    The Dataran is now surrounded / protected by RAZOR SHARP WIRES.

    Goodness me. This is too much.

  3. #3 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Friday, 27 April 2012 - 11:17 pm

    What the heck is going on, perkasa? You mean no machettes with yellow Ts were found in some bushes nearby those party spots? Awwwww. Go on. Look harder. Maybe you can find some.

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