Saturday, July 16, 2011

One week after Bersih 2.0

JULY 16 — It’s been a week since the Bersih 2.0 rally took place on July 9. We have read many accounts of this historical event through various channels and platforms. There were mixed sentiments that came with it. Bersih 2.0 was dubbed as the rally of the social media age.

When the government-controlled mainstream media proved to be lopsided, most of us turned to independent news portal, blog sites and social media platform. #Bersih became a global trending topic on Twitter during the period leading up to the day and long after it.

As expected the international media picked up the news on Bersih 2.0 and gave a balanced view of the situation. Some had also compared the present Malaysian administration to that of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was toppled not too long ago. I will not go so far but yes, anything is possible with a strong and clear conviction. Power to the people.

Speaking of conviction, a day before the rally I had a conversation with a good friend about Bersih. While he quietly supported the cause, he lamented the fact that most Malaysians will not go beyond this rally to see the true desired outcome. He has witnessed too many of us who speak about our heart’s intent passionately but when it comes to crunch time, few would have the conviction to lead and most would just be mere blind followers. The manifestations are often shortlived and disappear slowly. There is no consistency to support progress. What we normally see are political opportunists who piggy-ride on the popularity of a people-based mass movement to push their political agendas. Distasteful yet all too true.

Do we blame the Bersih 2.0 organisers for opening the doors for opposition parties to join the rally? Do we blame them for thinking that by opening the doors it could bring the much-needed “mass” to the rally last Saturday? Perhaps.

You might have heard that this rally brought together Malaysians of all races, religions and backgrounds. It was absolutely true. I was there and what I saw was beyond anyone’s expectations, let alone the government’s. And I truly have reasons to believe that the people who marched had no political party affiliations. They were there on their own conscience and conviction, coming together in a single act of solidarity.

How many you might ask? I am no mathematician to gauge numbers but yes, they came flocking by the thousands, flooding the roads of Kuala Lumpur. A sight to behold indeed.

Ten years ago this phenomena was probably unheard of, especially when the government declared such rallies illegal. They were not willing to risk their careers and families as they could be caught by the authorities.

I am proud to say that Malaysians have changed their mindset today. July 9 was testament to this. As I walked down the streets of Petaling Street and the adjoining streets, I bumped into CEOs, professionals, homemakers, activists, NGO workers, young and old — Malaysians who walked because they believed their conscience. It was a choice that they made and they did not judge others who decided to stay home.

In the past week, I have indulged myself in the post-rally tales of trials and tribulations. Equally appalling and entertaining. Let us not touch on those who believed that the rally would not have taken place if Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was still the prime minister. Forgive them as they are specimens that he had created. A paradox some might say.

Then there was the sympathetic photograph of Anwar Ibrahim, who was allegedly hurt during the rally, lying in a hospital bed with an IV drip running into his arm. He is still hopeful that the people will fight his aspirations for him. You also have clueless “expat” workers who became instant members of Patriot, the counter group to Bersih.

But what irked me most are the holier-than-thou armchair critics who judged us, claiming that the rally was unIslamic and laced with Jewish influence. How Muslims are not aware of being lured into the trap set by the enemy of Islam — the kafirs, they said. I engaged this lot with trolling questions just to rile them up, making the conclusion that they were indeed Malay bigots who cloak themselves as moderate intelligentsias. To me, they are more dangerous than Perkasa or the Obedient Wives Club.

But let us put things in perspective and priority. Let it be clear that Bersih 2.0 was an exercise in democracy to demand free and fair elections (among other things). Personally, I would like to know how that is progressing. Apparently the eight-point demands taken by National Laureate Datuk A. Samad Said did not make it to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

So what is the next step? Is Bersih taking a proactive effort to start electoral reform awareness programmes? Work with existing NGOs on pushing for voter registration and education? Will there be another rally? If so, will it be again marred by political parties? Will Patriot work with Bersih as it so kindly offered to do before the rally?

Or is this just going to be another one-hit wonder that will just disappear like a Twitter-trending topic?

We, the people, are waiting.

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