Bersih: A racist rally?

– Nur Adilah
The Malaysian Insider
20 September 2015

At the mention of “bersih”, the thing that comes to mind is all that is good. And that is according to how it is literally understood.

Putting “bersih” in the Malaysian context, however, will get us to a different meaning with various connotations.

On one hand, Bersih is held in high regard, while at the other spectrum, Bersih is shown in a bad light.

I say that Bersih is not just about wearing yellow; it carries a strong message to the government in power – to change or to be changed.

The reason the Bersih 4 rally was made illegal was, perhaps, because of the call for our prime minister to leave office. The call was said to be unconstitutional, thus the banning of what appeared to be a peaceful demonstration.

The demand to remove the prime minister from the Cabinet probably stood out from the rest; if all the manifestos are compiled in a book, the said demand would be highlighted in neon yellow.

Truthfully, what Malaysians seek for is honesty. We want to have an honest government.

Conflict is part and parcel of life, thus Malaysia, too, cannot escape conflicts. We know for a fact that, right now, we are in a huge conflict, thus as concerned citizens, we want to know everything there is to know about the conflict that the world is talking about.

However, much to our dismay, we are deprived of such information – available sources from which we can gain insight about the conflict are barred as they are seen as weapons that can wound up our nation. That, is the same reason used to delegitimise Bersih.

But we know all too well that such is not the case. Peacefully demonstrating for the right cause will not jeopardise our country – if anything, the demonstration might jeopardise the existing government.

‘Honesty is the best policy’

That, is actually the only plea from the demonstrators – to see honesty reflected in every policy taken by the government. The demands to have free and fair election, transparent government, the right to demonstrate, a truly parliamentary democracy system, improved economic status – all of them rely on honesty as the precursor of change.

The government has been mum on a few subjects, and that is a portrayal of dishonesty. We demand to have a closure for each and every national issue for it involves us, our forefathers and our future generations. Instead of receiving solid answers, we are expected to buy mere denials.

“No, the allegation is not true. We are free from the blatant accusation.”

If “no” is accepted as an answer for every dispute, verily, any criminal can bail out themselves by a mere denial, which is apparently a legitimate method to clear up their name, and misconduct.

But conscious-minded Malaysians do not take “no” as an answer. If the accused are innocent, then facts and figures that can prove their innocence must be presented.

In the case of our national crises, we can see more denials than justifications. Denial does not help in making our image any better – if anything, it tarnishes our face even more.

The national scandals that we are witnessing can only be resolved through honesty. The grave effects we are experiencing might be beyond repair, but at the very least, proper justification must be made.

It seems that the moment of truth has started to unveil itself, and Bersih is seen as one of the driving factors that can press the government to come up with the real answer.

If God wills, soon, we shall seize the real culprits. But in a world full of mysteries, anything can happen. It is very possible that an innocent man under threat may have to be made a scapegoat.

But returning to the point of Bersih, I personally feel that there’s nothing wrong in the demonstration, as I have no knowledge of the covert agenda, if there’s any. And I don’t think the mass demonstration was race-centric, though it was joined by a large majority of Chinese, surpassing the Malay.

The ethnic disproportion shouldn’t be used to racialise the rally because as far as I am concerned, the rally was colour-blind, meaning, anyone of any race could join the rally.

Although I didn’t participate in the rally, I could see Malaysians who did not define themselves based on their races. Instead, they defined themselves as Malaysians.

But there was a group who might be hiding behind the crowd of protesters who was feared by the large group of Chinese. They feared that the rise of the Chinese would be the death of their privileges, which should not be questioned. And that introversion led to a rally dominated by a majority belonging to the same race. Let us not get into that.

The way I see it, Bersih attempted to fight for every citizen’s right, and that race was a non-issue stirred by those who feel that Malaysians are not all the same. Race becomes an indicator whether we are eligible to become a Malaysian in its truest sense, so to speak.

What Bersih did was to try to break the wall among races by inviting all Malaysians to strive for their rights. But the issue about race, which is not new, has always been brought up over practically every issue; racism has been living with us since time immemorial. And that is why we tend to describe people based on the label of their race. I suppose we have forgotten that we all came from the same root, thus we are inherently the same.

So, it is up to us whether we still want to play with the racial card. And it is up to us if we insist on racialising Bersih. But no matter to what race we belong, remember that we are all humans, and that we should be united to fight for the betterment of the human race as a whole. – September 20, 2015.

* Nur Adilah Ramli reads The Malaysian Insider.

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