The Sarawak Bersih 4 fiasco

Dr Kelvin Yii
1st September 2015

The Bersih 4 rally has been catching headlines for the past few days with the crowd in KL swelling to a record number reportedly at 500,000 over the weekend, an unprecedented amount of people willing to stretch it out for 34 hours and sleep on the streets to protest against the corrupt regime as well demand for clean and fair elections, among others.

This commands great pride for me and many other Malaysians who are sick and tired of how corruption and bad governance has wrecked our country. I as a Sarawakian have seen and experienced how corruption and money politics have ravaged our state, and oppressed our people.

The urging for Bersih wasn’t a foreign agenda, neither was it a Malayan concept. We in Sarawak need it more than ever, to stand up against corruption, electoral fraud and bad governance that has left Sarawak as one of the least developed state even though we blessed with the abundance of natural resources.

So I was really devastated reading the news on how Sarawak Bersih 4 turned out and was instead used as a platform to attack the different opposition parties. The organisers have since retracted the statement allegedly blaming Sarawak DAP for the premature end of the rally, and claimed they was misquoted, however this did not stop it from being circulated on social media and blogs, and leaving a bad taste in our mouth.

Sarawak is at an important juncture. We actually hold the key to change not just in our state but the whole of Malaysia. The recent political awakening among our people was clearly seen by the strong turnout in both the Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) rally and Bersih 4 rally in Kuching. It is really unprecedented in Sarawak.

People may argue that S4S is not political, it is about regional pride. However, they cannot refute that the strong sense regionalism was also birthed due to political dissatisfaction, mainly towards a corrupt regime which has sidelined us over the years.

Until we understand we that everything around is political, although not everything may be partisan, nothing will really move forward. If we still are to remain politico-phobic, how can we then push our demands for a better world for us and our children’s children?

Let’s face it, Bersih 4 is political. The urging for clean and fair elections is political. The urging for a clean government is political, and of course the urging for the right to dissent and to save our economy is highly political in nature. Let’s face it, to address these dire issues, we need to address it against the government of the day, which is the cause of such dissent. To urge a fair government is counter-productive if we do not urge a corrupt government to step down.

So I for one do not see an issue with people of Bersih demanding Najib to step down. Political parties from any divide should be bold to address the issue at its core. Maria Chin Abdullah in her opening speech boldly demanded the resignation of Najib Abdul Razak and it is actually in one of the main demands of Bersih 4.

We need to go for the jugular

The result of a corrupt system will birth forth a corrupt leader who in this case ‘justifies’ corrupt practices. The first step in revamping a systemic problem, is to remove the head of the issue. We need to go for the jugular. And we should NOT be apologetic about it.

One of the issues that brought up was how DAP hijacked the event by wearing Ubah (Hornbill) Bersih 4 shirts and some alleged supporters bringing party flags. To be honest, if a flag or a shirt with a bird can hijack a so called ‘people’s movement’, then we are in fact patronising the movement itself and the intelligence of the people. It is as ridiculous as seeing a cross displayed and thus being confused.

In Bersih KL, different political parties, NGOs, and civil society groups donned different versions of Bersih 4 shirts. Isn’t that a beautiful picture? How different people of different societies and background supporting Bersih as a movement and materialising it on a shirt they feel proud to wear.

How it became an issue is beyond my comprehension. If we claim that Bersih is a people’s movement, then please believe in the people’s power and DO NOT treat Bersih as a franchise or a copyright to be protected.

Right now, it seems that the after-effect of Sarawak Bersih seems more concentrated on shifting the blame towards the pre-mature end of the protest. The winner of it all is the corrupt regime that we are trying so hard to stand against.

I would want to urge all Sarawakians to stay focussed. The main core of this movement is to demand for what is rightfully ours; a country and a state free of corruption and injustice, a state ruled by good governance and transparency, and our rights to freedom of speech and expression.

Bersih is a picture of ‘people power’ and people’s unity. What has been hijacked is not an event, but rather the focus of our demands for a better future.

Let us put aside our petty differences. Let’s not cloud the political awakening among us Sarawakians on petty feuds, but instead remind ourselves and directing our focus as the people’s interest is at stake.

The fight goes on to build a Sarawak which we are proud to call our own, and we all have to do it together.

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