Why Malays were underrepresented at Bersih 4

Farouk A. Peru
The Malaysian Insider
9 September 2015

By now the dust settled on the greatest show of defiance Malaysia has ever seen. Despite the typical strong arm tactics by Umno politicians to discourage Bersih 4, Malaysians came out in force to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

However, from the very beginning of Bersih 4, given the racial make-up of its participants, the inevitable question was asked – where were the Malays?

This is actually an unfair question and I am sure the government along with its racist supporters would so love that Bersih 4 would be bereft of Malay presence.

This is of course not the case. I happen to know some Malay participants and I highly doubt that those whose pictures were taken while praying and the many women who wore headscarves were photoshopped in!

No, of course there were Malays but the question is, were the Malays proportionately represented in Bersih 4? I do not think so.
At Bersih 4 London, I made it a point to count the number of Malays who attended. Out of the three hundred odd people who turned up, I could not find more than twenty or so people who looked Malay.

We must calibrate this hypothetical proportion with the fact that looks can be deceiving. At least two Malays at Bersih 4 London would have passed off for South Asians (one of them being yours truly). By and large though, I would say the count shows that Malays were in fact underrepresented.

Why was this the case? In Kuala Lumpur, one can pinpoint a number of reasons.

Perhaps the biggest reason is that the currently embattled PAS had chosen to stay away for really hollow-thin reasons.

PAS is currently trying to plug up the holes in its sinking ship, thanks to the emergence of Parti Amanah Rakyat (Amanah). Although I cannot really see any substantial difference between Amanah and its parent, the novelty of Amanah is currently winning over the Islamist masses.

PAS therefore had to hedge its bets with Umno. Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Datuk Haron Din made great overtures towards Umno in recent weeks, claiming that the money in Najib’s account needed four witnesses to validate its legality.

PAS depends on these puerile statements in order to stay relevant, unfortunately. Its politics will never grow and develop beyond this superficial nonsense. In any case, the lack of PAS support helped keep Malay numbers down in Bersih 4.

In London, I believe that there is a massive support for the issues raised by Bersih. Certainly, when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim gave a series of talks a few years ago, the turnout was massive. Yes, there were Chinese and Indian Malaysians back then but the majority, in my observation anyway, were Malays.

Anwar’s undeniable charisma, notwithstanding his flip-flopping on issues, helped attract Malays to the events.

Back then, there was still the possibility of him becoming the PM. Pakatan Rakyat was still in its infancy and there was hope still that it would find its way to Putrajaya.

Anwar’s political skill to make even excrement smell like roses helped keep that hope alive, despite the fundamental contradictions between the ideologies of DAP and PAS. Reformist Malays came in droves, the threats to their financial aid by the government notwithstanding.

However, in the case of Bersih 4, the pros simply did not outweigh the cons. Losing one’s financial aid for an afternoon of “tunjuk perasaan” probably did not seem like a good trade-off, despite Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan’s urging the week before.

Now we come to the real reason behind the Malay’s underrepresentation. I am sad that this is what I logically deduce to be the main reason, but only when we are truthful can we begin resolving the situation on the ground.

To me, the real reasons are tribalism and racism. It really is as simple as that. We are not talking about the Umno Malays who are ultra-racists nor the PAS Malays who are the worshippers of the Hadi cult.

We are talking about reformist Malays. Malays who are anti-government and not necessarily pro-PAS either. I believe the reason they stayed away was due to Bersih 4 being portrayed as a non-Malay movement.

It is sad but there still is a racialist consciousness among these Malays. On Facebook, you can see these reformist Malays, even very liberal ones, hating Bersih 4 and certain political parties because they seem to be threatening the Malays’ “special position”.

It is a pity that few Malays realise that this “special position” is only a paper tiger which Umno uses while it loots the nation, including the Malays themselves.
While these reformist Malays may reap some benefit, by and large this pernicious policy is bleeding the nation and depriving it of racial harmony.

Of course Umno does not have the intelligence to figure this out and if it did, maybe it does not want to. However, until the Malays realise this and that their true political future lies in an egalitarian Malaysia, I fear there will be no real reform in Malaysia. – September 9, 2015.

  1. No comments yet.

You must be logged in to post a comment.