BERSIH is losing its shine

November 22, 2016

BERSIH is losing its shine

by Scott Ng

Image result for Bersih in 2007

BERSIH November 2007

BERSIH demonstrators no longer get a lot to show for their patriotism. An album of Facebook photos and a sunburn make for the only souvenirs one can take from the protest. This is a far cry from the first BERSIH demonstrations (2007), when FRU trucks sprayed jets of water and tear gas grenades were chucked into the milling crowd.

Robbed of resistance, the protest merely lingers on the streets, with thousands doing the best they can to listen to barely audible speeches and thousands more just sitting and waiting.

In such a stalemate between the authorities and the protesting elements of society, there is no catalyst to elevate the cause into a reason for a large enough section of society to come out in protest.

One of the interesting stories to come out of BERSIH 5 says that while the majority of Malaysians are in favour of BERSIH and its goals, many are electing to stay home. Another story concerns a former protestor railing against the seeming futility of sitting on hot gravel as politicians puff up their feathers before an audience.

Image result for Bersih in 2007

BERSIH 5.o hijacked by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Opposition Politicians and checked by the Red Shirits

This comes back to the accusation that BERSIH is far too cozy with the opposition, and it’s not a totally unfair judgement. Political parties have been co-opting protest movements since time immemorial and this practice has continued despite increasing distrust of politicians in the Information Age. There is a chicken and egg argument here. Who feeds the rally its core demographic if not those with similar or aligning interests? There is, after all, no point throwing a party if no one attends or knows about it.

Image result for Bersih convoy

It should be noted that despite the clashes with the Red Shirts, the BERSIH 5 convoy was very important in getting the message out. This is an example of BERSIH’s actual potential. The clashes with the Red Shirts were also essential in creating public sympathy for BERSIH given the unruly behaviour shown on the countless viral social media videos detailing the exploits of Jamal Yunos and his merry men.

Image result for Bersih convoy

BERSIH 5 can still be considered a success. It is no small achievement to be able to drag tens of thousands into the streets, and with an increased Malay participation this time round, the organisers can say that the protest cannot be convincingly labelled “Chinese”.

But after five iterations and two elections, patience is wearing thin as there seems to be little to no change. Furthermore, in between these five protests, the opposition has been exposed just as flawed as the rest of us.

BERSIH as a movement must now ask itself: What next? Do we march every year till BERSIH 10? It’s not all that far off. It’s just another Najib term away and the voices questioning BERSIH from within its own ranks will only grow in that time if nothing changes. Certainly, Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz’s suggestion that BERSIH enter the political arena may be feasible, but support for the movement will take a blow among those simply sick of politics, and there will be those who will say an entry into politics is merely a mad dash for power.

As great a tool as a protest is, it is clear the BERSIH banner is starting to fray a little at the edges. The movement needs to change in some essential ways. A street protest is only one tool in the playbook of community organising, and the BERSIH movement can perhaps do far more good in varying the ways of spreading its message rather than just baking under the sun as politicians drone on.

13 thoughts on “BERSIH is losing its shine

  1. I guess we would expect too much for one to go through many documents to figure why Selma was successful.
    But, in the movie, one critical change portrayed is that MLK Jr did aim for a moment of conflict. I guess the administration figured that out, and denied that moment for the people.

    Nonetheless, I did have a change of mind. What I was worried was not that Bersih was not successful, but that it is so successful in toppling current administration, but it gets replaced by a messed up lot.

    I have a change of heart seeing how Tan Sri Muhiyiddin spoke.
    Dr Bakri is right, I know nothing. Bersatu could indeed lead.
    Do it again. But this time do it in the heartland. Do it in Johor, with the letter of rayuan to be sent to Johor Sultan. Do it on bridge that connects Singapore and Malaysia.

  2. What a load of vomit..So much peacock display of what the writer does but not do his job at all.

    If Hadi’s PAS died and Mat Sabu takes over as leader of political Islam, the words would be very different here.

    The issue is Hadi’s PAS and political Islam and too many too gutless commentators around.

  3. Okay, Scott Ng, give some alternative suggestions if you have, wise guy. You sound like you are on Najib’s payroll to write something to disparage the Bersih movement and to demoralize its supporters.
    Like you, I note that Scott Ng is leaning towards Najib Razak. Soon he will be kissing the man’s feet.That said, BERSIH is being used by opposition politicians.–Din Merican.

  4. Yes Din. It’s unfortunate that the last Bersih movement was hijacked by the opposition politicians. It is apparent that the Bersih organization does not have very strong leaderships. A reorganization is necessary. But their ideal is good and their course is right.

  5. Typical naysayer.

    Getting rid of tyrannies is never easy.
    It took the people of the Philippines 14 years to do so (i.e.
    Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and was chased out of
    office in 1986). It took the progressives in South Africa
    almost 50 years to get rid of the apartheid system.

    Hungarian revolt in 1956 — Communist police state only ended in the early 1990s.
    Prague Spring in 1968 — ditto.

  6. There are reports that Obama said the following in his speech at recent APEC 2016 in Peru :

    ” (Leaders) who siphon off development funds into Swiss bank accounts because they are corrupted”.

    MO1 in the audience ……

  7. For creeps like this Ng fella, I guess teargas, water cannons, and blood on the streets is what he wants to declare BERSIH still a meaningful force. Its not enough that the all mighty PDRM and the full brunt of the thieves in the government thought it fit to arrest a defenseless woman for voicing what millions of Malaysia feel.
    Reporters like him will soon be turned over. Najibs lure of dedak must be pretty overpowering. Just like the stench that emanates every time he and band of merry thieves open their mouths.

  8. let’s be honest, bersih just doesn’t make it without the fru spraying water onto the crowd. without that, it’s just a bunch of crowd strolling on the streets in the hot sun. where’s the fun in that? i’m sure everyone was hoping for a big clash between the protesters and the authority that day. if they want to listen to speeches, they might as well held the demo in the stadium

  9. Scott has some points worth considering whats missing in berish otherwise well coordinated action. Of the execution not bear results especially after 5 plus ab few other demonstration surely there is opportunity to examine the strategy, purpose and end result expected.

    At the moment the ground is angry and fatigued. Taking time off to rethink and free marina is what most can do. Bn/najib/polis/ag chamber have the citizens on Blackfoot.

    They also have many fighting differentbattles ie divine them like youngster/adults battling monash when there are bigger gooses to frn. They are smart.

  10. Bersih deviated from its purposeful agenda has deep consequences.
    Missing the forest for the tree.

    Bersih is tainted.
    Bersih is all we need not have, if remains unchanged or un-reinvented.

    BMN had once deviated from its mandated role as financial regulator to speculate in the Forex and lost RM 15 billion or more of the Rakyat’s money.

    BMN became technically insolvent. Much of the public trust and confidence had dissipated. It had taken a long while for BNM to recover.
    All that, was an enormous “constant harping? ” price that the country and the people were forced to pay.

    Those who IGNORE past ‘ harping’ LESSONS, never had learned, REPEATEDLY from the the early 80’s RM 2.5 BMF LOAN SCANDALOUS LOSS that were allowed to be REPLICATED countless times, including 1 MDB, that now had led to this Dire state of affair, are not only at their own risks, their children’s risks, but also the country’s.

    Related to the above,

    Din, in my humble opinion, should also clarify his positions as was reported in FMT on 11 March, 2016—

    Also in one of comments shown below I am very apprehensive about the role of Bersih would played for the interest of the people and the country, after its leaders, declared along with TDM to oust PM Najib.

    ‘’After reading Maria’s piece , I was much relieved that BERSIH 4 ‘s objectives could stay focus on the ” Call for Democratic Reform in Malaysia”, but today Mahathir has hijacked the people’s power, the extent is yet to be measured, but appears quite large, given by The Malaysiakini coverage . My apprehension, unfortunately had become quite real.

    I hope BERISIH Chairman and Committee will re clarify and reiterate its stand quickly that ” BERSIH 4 Clean , Fair and Free Election and Government ” only . Otherwise the people will be confused and misled. BERSIH will be blamed. ‘’

    —– .
    I support the original 2007 and Bersih 4.0. After Mahathir used it for his political ends, I criticised Berish. It should remain a civil society and not ride on the coattails of politicians. That is my position. The treatment of Maria Chin by the authorities is unacceptable.–Din Merican

  11. Btw, ” BMN ” should read ” BNM ” which is Bank Negara Malaysia. Sorry.

    While the leaders of Bersih should take responsibility for being “used or manipulated ” in deviating from its civil society objectives, (I agree) Maria Chin should be treated with civility according to the laws. The two are separate issues.

    Meanwhile ,PDRM is congratulated for having done a good job in keeping order and peace during

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