From Undur Najib! to Bersih or not? – Has Bersih lost its bite?

Yesterday’s press conference by Faisal highlighted a bitter truth: Bersih now faces accusations of selective activism.

Ashwin Kumar, Sinar Daily

FOR the past quarter-century, many of us Malaysians including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, have been eagerly waiting for a transformation, a Reformasi, to take root in our nation.

Anwar himself has spent these 25 years on a journey toward becoming Prime Minister.

During this period, we saw the emergence of Bersih, a vibrant coalition of non-governmental organisation focused on overhauling Malaysia’s electoral system to ensure elections are free, transparent and fair, among other democratic reforms.

For those curious about Bersih’s origins – its founders, its purpose, and its inception – a quick online search will fill you in, as the details are well-documented in history.

Did I just reference history? Indeed, I did. Because the Bersih movement as we know it has also become a part of our history.

They’ve “reformed”.

Why the change? They’re focusing on education first, like our Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek.

At a recent press briefing at its headquarters, Bersih’s chairperson Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz announced plans for a national tour aimed at enlightening Malaysians about its advocacy for governmental and institutional reform.

Faisal articulated a compelling rationale: public protests would carry more weight if people understood the reasons behind their actions.

Perhaps, the concept of Reformasi, despite its 25-year history, remains nebulous to many Malaysians. And let’s not even start on complex legal principles like Dismissal Not Amounting to Acquittal (DNAA) or the nuances of a Royal Pardon.

Faisal said Bersih will also monitor Parliament for reform discussions.

If nothing happens, they MIGHT protest.

So, ladies and gentlemen, this is real Reformasi – pushing for change via education. But wait, there’s more…

Yet, it’s worth noting that Bersih’s “Educational Reformasi” isn’t a recent phenomenon and might not be readily apparent from a simple online search. You need to dig a little deeper.

Faisal’s mention of a nationwide educational campaign isn’t new; it began amidst various controversies, including the littoral combat ship (LCS) scandal and the appointment of PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar as a special advisor to the Prime Minister, without sparking street protests.

Yesterday’s press conference by Faisal highlighted a bitter truth: Bersih now faces accusations of selective activism.

From championing electoral fairness and influencing political heavyweights like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to securing Anwar’s release from prison and contributing to the downfall of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s leadership, Bersih’s shift towards a more government-compliant stance, stressing public education before direct action, marks a significant change.

Furthermore, the presence of uniformed police personnel at the press conference raised eyebrows. Why were they there? Were the ‘men in blue’ giving Bersih protection or pressure? Or was Bersih pressured by the government, again? This isn’t entirely new, but considering their shared history with these very individuals they once fought against, it’s concerning. Let’s hope the Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution can justify their presence.

Post-15th General Election, the political landscape, and the role of NGOs like Bersih, particularly in influencing governance and public understanding of electoral processes, seems to have regressed.

This retreat from the forefront of political activism is disheartening.

Meanwhile, for Bersih, it’s time to rally. Let’s not shift from demanding “Undur Najib!” to questioning “Bersih or not?”