The proposed March 27 rally must not repeat Bersih's mistakes. 

Zaid Ibrahim’s call for Malaysians to rally this March 27 to pressure Prime Minister Najib Razak to resign is one that has been a long time coming. If it happens the way Zaid wants it, it will be a gathering of people with a clear agenda and a banner unblemished by history and association. It will be unlike the second, third and fourth Bersih rallies.

With due respect to Bersih and the impact it has had on the people of this country, its original agenda became muddled as more causes and parties signed on, to the point where the clean election movement’s goals resembled a laundry list of grievances. The association of Bersih with the opposition parties also hurt its appeal among people who disagreed with the government but were not impressed by the opposition’s ideology and methods.

A campaign led by a known moderate and with a clear goal is arguably the platform most needed by those fed up with the current administration in Putrajaya. It’s amazing that it’s taken this long for the call to be made.

However, the timing seems to be right, considering fresh comments from Wall Street Journal Finance Editor Ken Brown that have put the government on the defensive again. Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Keruak has even gone so far as to say that those who believe the claims were “insulting the country” and bemoaned the public’s rejection of Attorney-General Apandi Ali’s decision to absolve Najib of suspicion of wrongdoing with regard to the RM2.6 billion found in his personal bank accounts.

It’s rather funny that Salleh has called for faith in Apandi when the MACC wants to meet the AG to have him reconsider his decision to close the case on 1MDB, SRC International, and the RM2.6 billion. With the MACC so openly hinting that there is something that’s foul, Salleh’s call may further incense the public.

With virtually every media outlet in the world fielding negative reports on the money and the PM, the shrill remarks coming out of Putrajaya carry a reek that the people can smell a mile away. 

Should the investigations in Switzerland, Hong Kong, the United States and Singapore turn up something suspicious, the Najib administration will find itself under even greater pressure from an already distrustful public.

At that time, the government had better come up with a more respectable response than accusing the people of insulting Malaysia.

But before all this, Zaid’s fledgling movement must avoid the same pitfall that befell Bersih. It cannot be linked to the agenda of any political party. A people-power movement must be powered by the people, and while political parties have the right to get involved, it is not their flags that should fly but the Jalur Gemilang.

With public discontent at an all time high, Zaid could not have picked a better time to announce this meeting of the people. As the word spreads, it will be important to let the grassroots emerge and organise it without interference by political parties.

One major factor that could come into play may be the role to be played by former PM Mahathir Mohamad, whom Zaid has lately been promoting as leader of the anti-Najib forces. Zaid faces the challenge of balancing Mahathir’s agenda with that of a wide cross section of the rakyat, and he would be wise to make sure the call remains clear and concise.


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