Politics

Bersih rally ends peacefully as participants search for middle ground

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Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR — Nov 19, 2016: Contrary to the initial fear that it was going to be violent, today’s Bersih 5 rally ended peacefully.

Except for a few minor scuffles between some Bersih participants and members of the rival Red Shirts, the police had no need to use tear gas or water canons to control the situation.

The crowds started to gather as early as 7 a.m. at several designated gathering points such as Masjid Negara, Sogo and Masjid Negara.

Opposition leaders from DAP such as Lim Kit Siang, Teresa Kok, Tan Kok Wai and Lim Lip Eng also made a show and mingled with the Bersih crowd.

But all of them were unable to enter the Dataran Merdeka as the police had completely barricaded all roads that lead to the intended venue of the rally.

At 2.30 pm, Bersih’s organiser, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0), through its official Facebook page, had instructed the rally participants to head for the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC).

Shortly after that, news broke out that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will join the rally at the KLCC.

Upon arriving, Dr Mahahthir expressed satisfaction with the turnout of the rally.

“There are so many participants but the government is cowardly…likes to prevent demonstrations which is the right of the people,” he said.

The Bersih crowd at the KLCC dispersed before 6 pm. after it began to rain shortly after they sang the national anthem, “Negaraku.”

Bersih estimated the number of rally participants at 40,000, while police said the number should be only around 10,000.

Perhaps, the most obvious outcome of the rally was that many of those who aligned themselves with Bersih seemed to have lost the art of representing the middle-ground, which they claimed themselves to be.

Their belief was so strong to the point, that the majority who spoke to The Mole continuously reiterated that the government must be toppled in order to save the country.

“Those who support the government is either ‘sudah makan dedak’ (bribed) or too blind to see the suffering of the rakyat (people),” said Bersih protestor Shamila Saad who came all the way from Skudai, Johor.

Armagesh Privankar, 37, cheekily said that “It’s now or never. Either you’re with us or against us…but just so you know we’re playing to win.”

“This kleptocratic, evil and racist government must go down so that our country can be cleansed,” the Kota Alam Shah-based dentist added.

Going by their logic, those who chose to support the government are, inadvertently, evil, racist and stupid.

“How do you think people are going to support them if they talk like that,” said 50 years old factory operator Badrul Hisham Binjai, a member of the Red Shirts who was at the rally to counter Bersih.

“When has anyone ever been persuaded by being labelled or insulted?”

“Most of them see us rural Malays like we are a bunch of uncouth rebel rousers and I don’t blame them because some of us are, but most of us aren’t.

“Then again they are the highly-educated ones. Why can’t they find ways to talk to us without being cynical of our opinions? Don’t tell me they are always right,” added Hisham.

However, not all Bersih supporters subscribe to the same doctrine and one had, surprisingly, agreed to Badrul’s views.

Requesting to be identified only as Arash, he thinks that many Bersih supporters “are in too deep.”

“You must take political rhetoric with a pinch of salt, otherwise you’ll easily wear yourself out. Come on, let’s be real had these rallies been in India we all probably be dead by now.

“I’m rooting for the opposition and Bersih but I don’t think those who does not share my views are bad.

“Every single time someone, be it from the opposition or the government, tries to dictate how people should think, they are creating an environment in which rebel rousers can thrive,” said Arash.

“Have the liberals forgotten that throwing insults and cynicisms does not work anymore?

“If we keep on doing that, it’s no wonder we ended up confronting with people like Jamal (Red Shirt movement leader Datuk Seri Jamal Yunoos),” he said.

Bersih supporter, Arash (front-left) and Red Shirt supporter Bardul Hisham Binjai (grey undershirt) posing for a pic after their friendly talk.

Bersih supporter, Arash (front-left) and Red Shirt supporter Bardul Hisham Binjai (grey undershirt) posing for a pic after their friendly talk.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

Despite becoming The MOLE's journalist in 2014, he still has a hard time traversing the city. If he is not lost, this northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make some sense out of the Malaysian political sphere.