It is anyone’s guess whether the government propaganda against Bersih has had the effect it desires on rural folk, but citizens of Kuala Lumpur do not buy it, if a random FMT survey is anything to go by.
Indeed, the sustained BN condemnation of the April 28 rally appears to be strengthening the call for another rally—a Bersih 4.0—because it raises a suspicion that the government is not interested in reforming the electoral system.
“I am not confident SPR (Election Commission) will fulfil Bersih’s demands and I feel that Bersih 4.0 may be necessary. I will support it if they decide to have it,” said Hidayah Ismail, a 24-year-old graphic artist.
This sentiment was shared by Ayie Andrian, also 24 and also an IT professional. “I’ll wait and see if Bersih 3.0’s demands are met. If not, then there should be another rally.”
Engineer Muthiah Maria Pillay, 64, took issue with statements coming from BN leaders that there are no independent election commissions “even in western democracies”. He said this was calculated to mislead Malaysians.
“Even Indonesia has free and fair elections,” he said. “And India too, despite the elections there being a bit messy.
He said “even ordinary policemen” he had spoken to agreed that Berish 3.0 was necessary to call attention to the need for free and fair elections in Malaysia, “but not the higher ranking officers”.
Michelle Cheah, 40, a hawker in Segambut, said she did not take part in last month’s rally but described herself as a member of the “silent majority” that supports Bersih’s cause.
She said three of her nieces were in the rally. “From what I heard from them and the news I have read, I believe this BN government will not change. I have seen the videos of police beating up people. I have no confidence that the government will accept Bersih’s demands.
Insurance consultant Richard Yap, 53, said he too could not make it to the rally but had read “all about it” on “all the blogs and news portals”.
“The top SPR officials should resign if they can’t meet Bersih’s demands,” he said.
A 70-year-old man who gave his name only as Solomon said he had voted in every general election since he came of age and was looking forward to elections “that are really clean and fair”. He said the government had no valid reason to reject Bersih demands. “If they still won’t, I would say to Bersih, ‘Go ahead and have another rally.’”
These remarks were typical of those coming from the dozen others interviewed for the survey.
But one man differed. William Lim, 57, said news reports gave him the impression that the Election Commission (EC) was trying its best to clean up the electoral rolls. “I would say no to Bersih 4.0,” he said.
Judging from the comments on the news portals, not many Malaysians share Lim’s confidence in the EC or in the sincerity of the Najib administration.
Indeed, these writings seem to indicate that confidence in the ruling regime has sunk to its lowest depths in recent years, which makes BN’s claim of public support for its “political transformation”—as reported in the official media and in controlled publications such as Utusan Malaysia—sound embarrassingly hollow.
The violent handling of people merely demanding honesty in the handling of elections showed up not only the indiscipline and incompetence of the enforcement agencies, but also the regime’s stubbornness in clinging to authoritarian methods when faced with a credible challenge to its power.
To the hundreds of thousands of brave Malaysians who went to the rally—and especially to those who suffered from police brutality—the Bersih event surely must have confirmed their voting choice.
“Natural justice lies in
the hearts of men,” says a Chinese proverb. Thus the conscience of the ordinary Malaysian will know right from wrong in all that happened during the Bersih rally and all the events spinning off from it.