After Bersih, Umno flexes Najib’s muscles

By G Manimaran, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — Anticipating the fallout from yesterday’s Bersih rally, which threw the capital into chaos, Umno has planned a show of support for Datuk Seri Najib Razak with today’s briefing for the party faithful by the prime minister.

Held less than 24 hours after tens of thousands of supporters of the electoral reform movement poured into the city, the half-day event will hope to “establish a referendum of support” from the party for Najib’s leadership as head of the party and government.

A division chief told The Malaysian Insider that the “Majlis Penerangan Perdana” event organised by information chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan is a “last-minute programme announced just a few days ago.”

“It’s a programme to show support and loyalty to Najib as the nation faces this new test,” said another division leader referring to the Bersih march yesterday.

Bersih had claimed a turnout of 50,000 for their street demonstration which went ahead without police permission.

The coalition of 62 NGOs decided to take to the streets despite previously accepting Najib’s offer to move the street rally to a stadium after the government refused to allow the gathering to take place in Stadium Merdeka.

Critics of the prime minister believe that the government’s heavy-handed intervention, including hundreds of arrests since July 1, which led to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s call for negotiations between Putrajaya and Bersih, is a blow to his credibility.

Restoring it before a general election, which must be called by early 2013, is seen as a test to Najib who took over the reigns in April 2009.