The Bersih that was, the Bersih that isPosted: May 1, 2012
By now, anyone who has access to this blog posting would also have had access to all kinds of news of the Bersih 3.0 rally that happened last weekend. You would have seen videos on Youtube showing violence from either side of the fence. You have read commentaries from various people, attendees or otherwise. You would also have heard of all the “statements” coming from officials within the government, and also the leaders of opposition political parties.
The fact of the matter is, from the first Bersih rally, the numbers have continued to grow. The call for clean and fair elections is probably one of the longest-lasting civil movements that I’ve seen in my time. And while other similar movements would have tapered off by now, Bersih is not only remaining strong, but growing more influential by the day.
I remember a joke a friend of my made just after the July Bersih 2.0 rally last year. He told me, “The police have lost their senses. They don’t react in any way to anything. But just say the word ‘Bersih’, and they all go berserk. It’s like a magic word!” And in all honesty, though he meant it as a joke, he also had a point.
All other rallies that have been held since Bersih 2.0 have been met with much restraint from the police. Even the Stop Lynas rally that was held in Kuantan, which saw over 10,000 protesters, did not get the authorities’ knickers in a knot. So really, what is it with Bersih that gets all their adrenaline started up?
I wasn’t there at Dataran Merdeka during Bersih 3.0. But I was in KL for most of the month after Bersih announced the “Duduk Bantah”. And I was also there for Bersih 2.0 in July last year. So I do know the significant difference between Bersih today, and Bersih last year.
Last year, it was a walk to tell the authorities that we want clean and fair elections. It was a show of strength – we wanted the BN government to know that they couldn’t just stronghand us into giving in. We wanted to show that a significant number of us wanted reforms.
This year, for Bersih 3.0, it wasn’t just to tell the authorities that we want clean and fair elections. It wasn’t just merely that anymore. This time, we had numbers to show just how unclean and unfair the elections would be, if they were to be held without reforms. We had proof that the EC (Elections Commission) is anything but transparent and accountable. We had sufficient reason to be pissed at how the parliament conducted the “debate” for the PSC’s findings.
Bersih 3.0 was not asking the government to give us free and fair elections. Bersih 3.0 is demanding that as a right. We aren’t asking for pittance. We are demanding that we have what is rightfully ours.
Sure, Bersih has been used by certain political parties for their own gain and mileage. Which political party has not hijacked a civil movement and claimed ownership of it and its successes? And while I myself do not approve of this political hijacking, we must look at issues according to their priorities.
Bersih is about clean and fair elections. There’s nothing else to it. I take ownership of Bersih, as Bersih is a civil movement, and I am a member of that civil society. So if and when the opposition takes over the Federal Government, Bersih, the civil movement, will not stop in demanding that we continue getting clean and fair elections, regardless of whether there is support from any political party.
Bersih 3.0 was marred with violence, they say. It was not as peaceful as it was supposed to be. People breached the barriers and forced their way into an area that was condoned off. But I say, so what?
Bersih is not just about the rally that happened first in 2007, second in July 2011, and third in the past weekend. Bersih is not just about coming out into the streets to challenge the authorities for clamping them down. Bersih is not just about braving the water cannons and chemical-laced water and tear gas canisters.
Yes, the Bersih rallies are about that. But the Bersih movement is not.
And while we’re not rallying today, or tomorrow, or the day after, Bersih’s demands are our demands, and they continue even while we go about our daily business. Bersih is about demanding that we have our rights as citizens of our beloved country. Bersih is about demanding that we get clean and fair elections.