Can Bersih win Malay hearts, asks S’pore paper

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PETALING JAYA: A commentary in the Straits Times newspaper has cautioned the reform group Bersih that the need to win over voters in the Malay heartland was greater than a symbolic presence of Malay participants at Bersih street rallies.

Shannon Teoh, the Singapore newspaper’s bureau chief in Kuala Lumpur said Bersih hoped to overcome accusation of being anti-Malay by holding a seven-week campaign of ceramahs in the rural heartlands from Oct 1.

The reform group hopes to hold a street rally in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 19 to further press its demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Teoh wrote that “whether rural Malays will be convinced enough to take part” would depend on “more than just a few speeches by yellow T-shirted Bersih activists”.

Bersih’s massive street rally last year gave rise to accusations of being a Chinese-dominated affair, after Pakatan Rakyat broke up, causing PAS to hold back support and “its obedient and well-drilled party machinery”,

He said questions remained, such as whether there was any viable alternative to the ruling Barisan Nasional. However, he said Dr Mahathir Mohamad was still held in high regard by rural Malays, and might be able to convince some to join the KL rally, if he was able to go on the ceramah circuit.

“It should be remembered that for poor rural Malays, a day trip to KL is a costly affair. So while some may heed the call to make their presence felt on Nov 19, it will be no more than a symbolic gesture,” Teoh wrote.

“The real test of Bersih’s success will be when Malay villagers make the shorter trip to the ballot box at the next (general) election – and whether or not they vote (for) Najib.”