Bersih 3.0 and the art of 'tai-chi': Najib already lining up scapegoats
Make no mistake. Prime Minister Najib Razak is worried sick about Bersih 3.0 - an April 28 rally organized by free and fair elections movement Bersih and supported by other activists including the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The memory of the botched Bersih 2.0 rally held on July 9, 2011 is still fresh on his mind and he must squirm in embarrassment each time he recalls the madness that gripped him and his government as they panicked, literally like headless chickens to the extent of even banning the wearing of yellow T-shirts. Yellow is of course the signature colour of the Bersih logo.
Given his nature, which Malaysians are familiar with as he has been in the political limelight since he was in his 20s, Najib would like nothing better than to run away as far as he can from having to handle Bersih 3.0, and taking the rap for the repercussions that are bound to reverberate. In fact, many opposition pundits are expecting his office to soon announce an overseas working trip that would take him and wife Rosmah Mansor clean away from Dataran Merdeka, where the sit-down protest will be held, and Malaysia where the political heat is getting to hot for the first couple to handle.
But they are counting on fraud and cheating, that's why
Yet resolving Bersih 3.0 is the simplest thing. All Najib has to do is to order the Election Commission to open its dubious electoral roll to an independent check, and give the green light for several other measures so as to further cleanse and protect the balloting system from being attacked by fraud and deliberate cheating.
But sad to say, Najib and his BN coalition are counting on fraud and cheating to pull them through the 13th general election. Their 5-year mandate will end in March 2013, and GE-13 is expected to be the most hotly-contested ever with the Pakatan having more than an even chance of winning.
So, no way - Najib could never accede to the demands for best practices and electoral transparency. Not only will the warlords from his own Umno party string him from the nearest tree, even the MCA - which to its everlasting shame protested the loudest to giving overseas Malaysians a chance to vote - would straightaway rebel.
There is no way out. Najib must show some authority in facing Bersih 3.0 and he knows it. He is after all the prime minister of the country. So, what to do? According to long-time government watchers, Najib has already begun his'tai-chi' (Chinese martial arts based on deflecting movements). Yes, those close to him are already keeping a wary eye and trying to stay discreetly out of sight.
It's not easy to find good scapegoats anymore
After the enormous fiasco of Bersih 2.0, no one in the government, Umno or BN is foolish enough to raise their hands and volunteer bright ideas or offer to help. Whoever does so can be sure that if it fails, Najib will immediately swivel round and blame them. That's a certainty with a capital C.
Cynical? But that's Najib. In his book, the first rule has always been to protect and cover his own butt. He does this by preparing the scapegoats well in advance.
First on the list is the hapless Election Commission. Najib has already begun pushing the Election Commission to take responsibility. Either reject the Bersih 3.0 call for reforms all the way, or accept all the way. But the EC knows better than to take Najib's bait. They are not smart but they are completely stupid. So as far as the EC is concerned, they will pass the ball back to Najib and push everything over to Parliament. They have no power to decide anything!
So, not achieving the results he wanted, Najib decided to order de-facto Law Minister Nazri Aziz to step in and tell the people that it is illegal to hold the gathering at the Dataran Merdeka because it is one of the restricted areas stipulated in the recently-passed Peaceful Assembly Bill.
But this information proved to be incorrect and Nazri, who is already up to his neck in scandal over his recalcitrant son, was duly roasted for talking through his hat.
Hisham and the police
Still empty-handed, Najib turned to his trusty cousin - Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
Now, Hisham was the one who banned the Bersih 2.0 movement, ordered the police crackdown and was also the one who came up with the wild plan to scare-monger Malaysians with a Communists-are-taking-over plot that landed 6 Parti Socialis Malaysia members in jail. This time, Hisham has decided to play it smart - he is also going to 'tai chi' and 'delegate downwards'.
So without saying a word - that's right, not a sound from the Home Ministry yet on Bersih 3.0 - Hisham has thrown the file into the police in-tray.
No wonder the Inspector General of Police Ismail Omar was stressed out and has begun demanding that the people trust the police and not question their word.
Of course, Ismail has not said what would happen if the people insisted on asking questions or demand that he listen to their demands instead. But the threat in Ismail's words is clear and just a step away. The only thing remaining to be seen is to what extent he will carry it out. Maybe Ismail too realizes that the people's patience is wearing thin, and how far he goes will actually be how deep he is digging his own grave.
So, this time in Bersih 3.0, the police will play the middle ground. They will rely on subterfuge rather than force, so they plan. The rally will be allowed to go on, but of course Ismail won’t let more than a few thousand people to reach the Dataran Merdeka.
The police are banking on better blockages at the various entries to pull the rug from under Bersih 3.0. They plan to double or even quadruple the number of blockades set up during the previous rally. This way, they won't have to seal off Kuala Lumpur and invite another firestorm of criticism.
Of course, Bersih organisers have anticipated this, which is why they planned for the rally to take place nationwide. But to the police and Najib, KL is still the main show and the symbol of the face-off between the incumbent government and the Opposition.
Then the clowns and the media circus
Another scapegoat lined up by Najib is Perkasa, the ultra Malay rights group. Realising that time is short and nobody wants to take responsibility for Bersih 3.0, Najib has run to the group founded by Pasir Mas MP Ibrahim Ali. Perkasa has already fired its first salvo. It has 'commanded' the Malays not to attend rally.
Perkasa Youth chief Irwan Fahmi Ideris has even called Bersih co-chairman and National Laureate A Samad Said a "traitor". But already having won itself a reputation for being a fringe lunatic group, it is unlikely that Perkasa - like all good comedians - will raise anything more than a few rude giggles and snorts.
Next, Najib's favorite tool and dogsbody - the mainstream media. Yes, Utusan, Bernama, NST, the Star and so on will be called on to demonize Bersih 3.0 as they did in Bersih 2.0.
Just recently, Lim Kit Siang, the DAP adviser, called on the Malaysia media - which rightfully should function as the 4th pillar or estate of the country - to revolt, mutiny against the horrendous falsehoods perpetrated by the Najib administration in its desperate bid to cling to power.
But of course, the MSM will disappoint Lim and themselves. Already, the Utusan has said,” “The public should understand that Bersih 3.0 is to show the strength of the opposition alliance, apart from damaging the country’s image abroad.”
"That's the Umno-BN thinking and it is outdated. They are actually creating their own bogeyman, it is quite silly. All that Bersih and Pakatan hope for is to take message to Malaysians in all the states that they must not allow the BN to cheat at GE-13," said Batu MP Tian Chua, who PKR party, has expressed support for Bersih 3.0.
"What is wrong in getting the electoral system correct and cleaned up? What is wrong with an audit of the electoral roll for that purpose? If BN is innocent, they would also benefit, so if they want to create trouble, they must have their own ulterior motives."
The Anti-Bersih websites funded by the Umno-BN are also busily grinding out all sorts of propaganda on why responsible and moral citizens must avoid Bersih 3.0.
But Malaysians have seen all these before. Bersih 2.0 was just a reminder. It has happened before many times in various forms over the past decades where the form of suppression may have been more subtle as Malaysians were then more compliant. But for sure, they have seen it once too often and this time, whether Najib clamps down or not, they will rebel. They will mutiny.
In spirit, Malaysia is poised to break free. In intellect, the chains that have sought to weigh them down are ready to snap. One way or another, resistance from the BN establishment or not, victory is theirs because they WANT it.
Maybe, Najib should try to understand this. It is simple and he is not so unintelligent. It is simply time to face the truth and stop hiding behind ridiculous lies that only make the people's blood boil even more. It really is wiser to let Bersih 3.0 proceed peacefully and better still to carry out the electoral reforms proposed by the movement as these are justified.
Otherwise, no, Mr Prime Minister, sir - this time not even Rosmah's skirts will be voluminous enough to hide you!