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Is Bersih really apolitical?

 | June 25, 2011

Ambiga’s biggest task, if the July 9 rally ever takes place, is to convince Malaysians that Bersih is not working under the shadow of Pakatan.

GEORGE TOWN: Coalition for Free And Fair Elections (Bersih) will hold its rally for free and fair elections alright. But is the rally on July 9 really apolitical?

Bersih chief S Ambiga may have said that it was not for PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim to decide to call off the rally. But some see it as a mere damage control attempt by Ambiga to stop swaying tide of public opinion against the coalition.

Anwar also attempted the same by, as usual, blaming the press for misquoting him.

But the fact remains that Anwar did imply to the media he could persuade Ambiga into stopping the rally if Umno and Barisan Nasional agreed to hold free and fair elections.

This raised doubts on the credibility on the coalition’s claim that it was an apolitical rally, solely designed to force the Election Commission (EC) to conduct a free and fair elections.

Penang Gerakan legal and human rights bureau head Baljit Singh said it would be interesting to see who would flank Ambiga when she submits Bersih’s memorandum to the King.

“Are Bersih leaders or politicians going flank her?” asked the lawyer, who will be at the rally as an observer from the Bar Council.

He said Anwar statement that “he can talk it over” has created public perception that Pakatan was wielding strong influence on Ambiga, the former Bar Council president.

Such perception gains validity if one were to refresh memory on Ambiga’s track record on her human rights struggle, if any.

Bayan Baru MP Zahrain was blunt when he told FMT that Bersih 2.0 was a project to suit the whims and fancies of one man – Anwar, the Permatang Pauh MP.

He claimed that the Parliamentary Opposition Leader was fast becoming irrelevant in Malaysian politics due to his personal problems, especially the Sodomy II trial.

“He actually trying to divert the mass attention from his case to a public rally,” said Zahrain, who left PKR last year.

Bersih 2.0 is a sequel to the 2007 Bersih 1.0, which saw a pre-dominantly ethnic Malay crowd seeking free and fair elections.

That rally and another mammoth rally by Hindraf in November that year were widely considered as instrumental in inspiring the political tsunami of 2008.

This year, however, the Bersih rally is expected to have a cosmetic multi-racial outlook with strong participation from ethnic Indians.

With Ambiga at helm, these ethnic Indians, who prefer to wear the fashionable multi-racial caps, are likely to throng the Kuala Lumpur city centre to be in the forefront of the rally.

One can notice the campaign by ethnic Indians in the cyber space, including in the social network Facebook, to galvanise their ethnic compatriots to join the rally using Ambiga.

Ambiga is being portrayed as ‘Indian Joan of Arc’, ‘Iron Lady’ and a gutsy Indian lady brave enough to stand up against the might of Umno and Barisan Nasional.

Cyber logos of Bersih rally are freely exhibited to drum up support.

The tactic to woo Indians using Ambiga in a way has worked.

Who are those behind this Ambiga promotion and marketing cyber campaign?

Hindraf Makkal Sakti, whose own anti-Interlok campaign early this year failed to capture the imagination of these ethnic Indians, said only a completely naïve novice would say that Pakatan was not behind the rally.

An anti-climax?

PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu has pledged that about 100,000 PAS supporters will take past the rally. DAP national chairman Karpal Singh said his party would be in full force on the day.

“This clearly shows it would be a Pakatan rally. Mind you, Ambiga would not be able to woo even 10 people for the rally on her own, if not for Pakatan,” argued a Hindraf observer.

The ruling party inevitably is against the rally sensing that it could inspire another electoral uprising against it. Police have refused to issue permit for the rally.

Umno youth and Malay supremacist organisation Perkasa have also planned respective rallies at the same venue on the same day.

Perkasa already warned the ethnic Chinese stay home on the day. The atmosphere in KL naturally would be at boiling point if all three rallies were allowed as emotions could run high.

Some observers believe that the authorities would take non-comprising pre-emptive actions to halt these rallies, like the tactic deployed to foil Hindraf’s pre-planned anti-Interlok rally on Feb 27.

For all the hoo-hah going on now, it could just turn out to be an anti-climax ending for the Bersih drama.

But Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (Kita) Penang information bureau head Dalbinder Singh said the government should allow the Bersih rally.

On the other hand, he wants the police to take strong action on Perkasa leaders for issuing seditious statement and threats.

He called on Putrajaya administration to address points raised by Bersih for a free and fair election.

The EC has said it was willing to meet up with Bersih representatives on the matter and Dalbinder said it should not be a public eyewash.

“Bersih demands will strengthen and improve the transparency of Malaysians election system,” he said.

Among Bersih’s demands are introduction of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting, abolishment of postal voting, revision of voting roll and fair access for all political parties to state-owned media during campaign.

But Zahrain rubbished Bersih’s demands as utter nonsense. He cited that Pakatan won five state governments and denied BN its parliamentary two-thirds under the current electoral system in 2008.

Indeed, he called on Pakatan elected representatives, including state governments in Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor, to resign immediately if they thought the electoral process was not fair and free.

“I challenge them to do it … will they?” he asked, adding that Bersih was the NGO version of Pakatan.

Whether Pakatan is behind the rally or not, it is now up to Ambiga and company to prove that the Bersih coalition is apolitical.

Ambiga’s biggest task on July 9, if the rally ever takes place, is to convince the people that Bersih would be for, by and with Malaysians, not merely representing Pakatan interests.


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