OUTSPOKEN: The people who criticised Bersih failed to realise that, despite being unable to push through all of the electoral reforms it demanded, Bersih created a high level of awareness, among the public; about our democracy, our electoral process, the power and greed of Umno Baru politicians, and their desperation to cling to power.
As Bersih 4 nears, the Umno Baru supporters and politicians and the Muslim extremist groups are feeling the pressure. The depth of anger, among the Malaysian rakyat, is unprecedented. The rakyat demands that its parliamentarians restore democracy in the nation, uphold the rule of law, and reinstate the independence of its institutions.
Four common myths were shattered by Ambiga Sreenevasan, when she delivered a morale boosting pre-Bersih 4 talk, called "Why Bersih 4?", in London on Aug 23.
On Aug 21, Ambiga Sreenevasan, wrote an article in The New York Times (NYT) about the necessity for Malaysians to take to the streets, in Bersih 4, to reclaim their democracy, lest they be "cheated" in GE14.
She criticised the prime minister for his mishandling of the economy, for allowing a state of lawlessness, and condoning an Election Commission (EC) which kept the ruling party in power, with its redelineation exercises.
Her article infuriated the Cheras Umno Baru Division chief, Syed Ali Alhabshee, who accused her of spreading "malicious lies" and "stirring-up emotions".
He said that "holding the Bersih rally, during the Merdeka celebrations", showed "no respect for the fathers of independence". He alleged that the "real intention was to topple a democratically elected government".
The irony is that Syed Ali's remarks, betrayed him as a man who is scared of the impact of Bersih 4.
Ambiga's response was that he should ask the NYT for the right to reply, on an international platform, and list the malicious lies, that he alleges were uttered.
Ambiga quoted figures, from an independent study conducted by the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) at the University of Oxford, which detailed the gerrymandering of the EC.
The report said, "If Barisan had drawn the borders themselves, they could not have made a better job of redelineation of the boundaries, than the EC."
Soliciting the Agong's help
NGOs, like Bersih, have tried all avenues to demand a clean government, but without success. Malaysians know that they live in a repressive regime, where there is no equality, and people are denied their constitutional rights. One cynic said, "To be truthful, most Malaysians do not know their constitutional rights."
Some Malaysians want Bersih to appeal to the Agong, to help the rakyat and save the nation.
Ambiga said that there was good interaction with the King, in Bersih 2, and he issued a "titah" (royal command) for the Bersih rally to take place in the stadium.
She added, "We have to be fair to the king and sultans. Their position is tough. They are constitutional monarchs and if they were to interfere in politics, it would be unprecedented and would not accord with their constitutional roles.
"To be fair, I don't think it would be right to put the king in a position were we to ask him to interfere in the political process. This is a political issue. The politicians have to work it out at this point."
The fear factor
The importance of student voices is without parallel. They are the leaders of tomorrow.
Overseas students have access to a variety of lectures, which could help stimulate discussion and open their minds, so that they can challenge and be challenged by different ideas; however, many are afraid to attend these thought-provoking lectures, especially if they are not organised by Umno Baru or their cronies, for fear that their scholarships will be revoked.
Ambiga's advice to the students was simple, "We must all work together, to dismantle this process of intimidation. The government had been mean to some students who took part in Bersih rallies, in various countries.
"If the students come out in sufficient numbers, it will be difficult for the government to target them. How many scholarships can they revoke? How many students can they punish?
"Students must be made to know that they will not be alone."
Ambiga was clear that students could mount a legal challenge, if the government were to target them. She said that students must stand up and speak with one voice.
She said, "If any action is taken against them, they must assert their legal rights. They must seek assistance and Bersih will provide that assistance, or put them in touch with people who can help them.
"We have made representations on their behalf, to have their scholarship reinstated. It is not an easy process. It is a nuisance, but it is important to make a legal stand."
The police and Bersih
Various sources claim that the police force is divided, about Bersih 4, and Ambiga had a special message for the policemen.
She said, "This Bersih is one of the most important rallies, in the country. Our systems are broken. Our institutions, like the MACC, the AG's office and possibly Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) are under attack.
"Bersih 4 is fighting, for the police, and the rights of their children, too.
"When we are at the Bersih rally, and you are watching us, please do your job. Please allow us to have the rally. Do apprehend the troublemakers, but please remember that we are the rakyat and we are not the enemy.
"We join Bersih because we love the country."
Mariam Mokhtar is “a Malaysian who dares to speak the truth”.