Some protesters had shown disrespect when they turned gung-ho and breached the barriers of law.
Like its predecessor, yesterday’s Bersih 3.0 too revealed some ugly truths; for one, the rakyat have yet again openly declared their dissatisfaction and frustration with the Barisan Nasional (BN) establishment which is reluctant to clean up the corrupted electoral roll.
Yesterday’s protest also revealed the fear of leaders Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin in dealing with the situation back home. Like he did last year during the Bersih 2.0 “Walk for Democracy”, this time too Najib was “missing in action”, having left for Sarawak on April 26 for a three-day visit while Muhyiddin, according to Kota Belud MP Rahman Dahlan’s tweet, was visiting “my constituency”.
Still, Najib was all fiery in attacking Pakatan Rakyat, accusing it of masterminding yesterday’s protest and trying to tarnish the country’s good name.
However, Bersih 3.0 steering committee chairperson S Ambiga, who declared the protest a “success”, garnering a turnout of 250,000 people, has always made it clear that the electoral reform advocate was not in partnership with any political party.
Addressing supporters at Central Market before marching towards Dataran Merdeka, she heralded yesterday’s gathering as a victory.
“This is already an achievement. Today is our day. No one can take it away from us. Today, we speak with one voice. We want a clean election,” she said.
She also called on the protesters not to break through the barriers erected at Dataran Merdeka.
“We will gather where they allow us to gather,” she said, urging those present to follow the rules.
“We are peaceful Malaysians and will not listen to anyone’s provocations. We will not reach Dataran, we will walk to where they allow us to and sit there.”
But the mammoth crowd paid no heed to Ambiga’s request and instead did the regrettable – breaking down the barriers, and making their way to Dataran Merdeka which had been declared a “No Entry” zone. This led to the police firing tear gas and spraying water canons at the protesters.
While some protesters regarded the Bersih 3.0 as “serious business”, there were others who unfortunately were out to “have fun”, giving a damn to the do’s and don’ts made clear by Ambiga.
Right the wrongs
The Bersih 3.0 rally was prompted by the Najib administration’s indifference in dealing with the demands put forth by Bersih, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, to reform the electoral process. The Parliamentary Select Committee set up to report on electoral reforms left the coalition dissatisfied, leading to yesterday’s protest.
Contrary to allegations that Bersih has political agenda, the coalition has one main objective – that of getting the ruling BN government to clean up the electoral system, which has for a long time been privy to corruption, nepotism and cronyism.
Notwithstanding the chaos that erupted, the BN government cannot run away from addressing the “one voice” that wants to know why the BN leadership is reluctant to reform the electoral system.
Yesterday’s rally was sending out a very clear message – that all is far from well where elections in the country go. Until the federal government comes clean on this, the people will continue to voice out their unhappiness, in one way or another.
Just like the authorities, Ambiga, the former president of Malaysian Bar, was also upset with the disrespect shown by some protesters who turned gung-ho and breached the barriers which cordoned off Dataran Merdeka.
If that was not bad enough, police also claimed that protesters had overturned a police vehicle near Sogo and snatched a pistol belonging to one of their personnel outside the Sogo shopping complex.
However, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein later tweeted that the weapon had been recovered.
“Latest update, two policemen injured and admitted. Snatched pistol was recovered,” he said.
While Bersih 3.0 needed the numbers to pronounce their protest a success, the huge attendance also brought with it massive problems like vandalism and violence.