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Theories of Bersih 2.0

The Bersih 2.0 9 July 2011 march drew thousands of Malaysians onto Kuala Lumpur’s streets to call for clean and fair elections. But according to Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders, the government-controlled press and the authorities, that’s not what the march was really about. In the aftermath of the Bersih march, The Nut Graph summarises some of the more popular theories by Bersih’s detractors of why it actually organised the march.

The “communist infiltration” theory

“Ini sesuatu yang serius kerana kempen Bersih itu nampaknya dimasukkan unsur-unsur seolah-olah untuk hidupkan semula fahaman komunis, bukannya semata-mata menuntut pilihan raya bersih.”

State deputy police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Jaafar, commenting on the arrest of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) Member of Parliament Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj and 30 others on 25 June, while purportedly on their way to promote the Bersih march. Police said they found 28 t-shirts bearing the images of communist leaders, PSM flags, PSM flyers entitled “Udahlah tu…Bersaralah” and Bersih flyers.

Jeyakumar and five other PSM members are still being detained without trial under the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969. (Source: Usaha hidupkan komunis, Utusan Malaysia, 27 June 2011)

The Anwar theory

“This suggests that [Pakatan Rakyat (PR)] wants to link with Bersih and that [Datuk Seri] Anwar [Ibrahim] wants to replace Bersih chief organiser [Datuk] Ambiga [Sreenevasan] as the main leader at the assembly to shout out loud Pakatan’s agenda and all focus would be on Anwar.”

“This move also confirms that Pakatan Rakyat has other reasons to participate in the rally. They are misusing the rally to divert attention away from Anwar’s alleged involvement in the sex video and incite people against the government.”

MCA treasurer-general Datuk Seri Tan Chai Ho, urging Bersih to distance itself from PR to remain apolitical. Tan said Anwar was attempting to hijack Bersih’s rally to divert attention from the latest sex allegation against him. (Source: MCA tells Bersih to shed link with Pakatan, The Malaysian Insider, 7 Jul 2011)

The Ambiga theory

“Bersih dipengerusikan oleh S Ambiga, seorang peguam wanita yang pernah mengguris perasaan umat Islam apabila terlibat dalam Suruhanjaya Antara Agama atau Inter Faith Commission (IFC).”

“Tidakkah orang Melayu yang turun ke jalanan untuk menyahut seruan Bersih itu faham bahawa mereka hakikatnya sedang diperbodoh dan diperkotak-katikkan melalui mainan yang aturkan oleh pihak lain yang bertujuan menambahkan lagi keparahan perpecahan di kalangan orang Melayu?”

Commentary in Utusan Malaysia by Zulkiflee Bakar. Zulkiflee claimed that Malay Malaysians were being used by individuals such as Ambiga to further their own ends. (Source: Orang Melayu jadi taruhan, Utusan Malaysia, 23 Jun 2011)

The “foreign agent” theory

“Kita tidak menolak kemungkinan [Romeo] Castillo ini mempunyai kaitan dengan Parti Komunis Filipina yang banyak membunuh rakyat negara itu melalui gerakan bersenjata sehingga disenarai sebagai gerakan pengganas.

“[Min] Young Song ini pula yang memasuki Malaysia sejak 19 Mac lalu merupakan ahli pertubuhan 18 Mei, di Korea, dan dia hadir atas tajaan National Democratic Institute (NDI) yang berpangkalan di Amerika Syarikat.”

An anonymous source, quoted by Utusan Malaysia, claiming that “foreign agents” from the Philippines and South Korea had entered Malaysia, funded by foreign non-govermental organisations (NGOs) that wanted to cause chaos in Malaysia. This claim was denied by PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan, who accused Utusan Malaysia of relying on unsubstantiated sources. (Source: Komunis resapi Bersih, Utusan Malaysia, 28 June 2011)

The “Christian agenda” theory

“Semua sekali, sembilan negara asing yang menjadi ‘tangan ghaib’ bagi mencetuskan keadaan huru-hara dalam negara pada 9 Julai ini dan mereka bergerak melalui NGO.

“Penyumbang paling besar yang dikesan adalah daripada NGO yang mempunyai kaitan dengan Kristian.”

An anonymous source, quoted by Utusan Malaysia, claiming that Bersih was receiving foreign funding from organisations with Christian links that intended to cause chaos in the country. (Source: NGO berkaitan gerakan Kristian penyumbang dana Bersih?, Utusan Malaysia, 27 Jun 2011)

The “Jewish agenda” theory

“…ketika gendang atas nama hak asasi manusia semakin kuat dipalukan ia memberikan kesempatan terbaik kepada kelompok pro-Yahudi untuk campur tangan di mana-mana juga negara Islam.”

Utusan Malaysia editorial, echoing former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor’s warning that there are those that want to ensure the downfall of countries which oppose Jews and Israel. The editorial said that the “illegal” Bersih rally could be used for these hidden agendas by Jewish groups. The possible “Jewish link” was rubbished by Bersih representative Andrew Khoo Chin Hock. (Source: Jangan biarkan ‘tangan ghaib’ menjajah negara, Utusan Malaysia, 18 July 2011)

The “opposition using Bersih” theory

“Bersih is just another attempt by [the opposition] to keep the anti-government momentum going among the people.”

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, dismissing Bersih’s demands for electoral reforms as making no sense.  He questioned how the opposition managed to win seats in the past if the electoral system was really tainted. (Source: Chua: Bersih’s protests make no sense, The Star, 10 July 2011)

“Bersih started out as a non-governmental organisation to express concerns over irregularities in the electoral process. However, it is now being infiltrated and influenced by opposition leaders to gain political mileage.

“They are trying to stoke the emotions of the people and create feelings of hatred against the government.”

Chua, commenting that Bersih is being used by opposition parties to achieve their political agenda. (Source: Bersih being used by the opposition for their agenda, says Chua, The Star, 22 June 2011)

The “Bersih using the opposition” theory

“[PAS deputy president Mohamed Sabu] is willing to be a deputy to Ambiga. PAS has shown it is willing to do anything just to get to power.”

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, insinuating that Sabu was being used by Bersih 2.0 chair and rally organiser Ambiga. (Source: Actions on rally being done with utmost care, says PM, The Star, 3 July 2011)

Playing fair

There have been some BN leaders and component party members, albeit a small minority, who have not tried to discredit Bersih in these ways. Instead, while they disagreed with or distanced themselves from the 9 July march, they called for restraint from the authorities in dealing with Bersih.

“Sekiranya kita menggunakan cadangan Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia (Suhakam), ada kemungkinan perhimpunan Bersih dapat diadakan dengan permit polis dan dengan aman.”

“Saya tidak menyokong Bersih dan perhimpunannya. Tapi saya juga tidak bersetuju dengan kata-kata kesat yang dilontar terhadap Bersih.”

“BN perlu menggunakan komunikasi politik yang lebih baik selepas ini. Ini kerana, sedikit sebanyak, perhimpunan Bersih itu ada meninggalkan kesan.”

Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, calling for healthy and fresh politics. He said that although he did not agree with Bersih’s demands, he also did not agree with the harsh words being used against it. (Source: Saifuddin tolak dakwaan sokong Bersih, mStar, 11 Jul 2011)

“It is very sad to see certain quarters resorting to personal attacks when they fail to put forward their case in a rational manner.”

“I personally do not agree with Bersih 2.0 holding the rally in the way it is to be held, but that does not mean that I will smear [Ambiga] just to derail the event. That is a most irresponsible thing to do.”

MCA vice-president Gan Ping Sieu expressing dismay at the extent of personal attacks and vilification of Bersih chair Ambiga. (Source: MCA: Attacking Ambiga to stop Bersih “irresponsible”, Malaysiakini, 27 Jun 2011)

“I don’t know what [Bersih's] intentions are. I don’t know them personally but as a democrat…given that Umno itself had vowed to protect democracy in this country, it is a must to consider all their demands.”

Tengku Razaleigh (Wiki Commons)Gua Musang Member of Parliament Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah commenting on Bersih’s demands. The veteran Umno politician analysed some of the demands for electoral reform and said they were fair, such as the request for a longer campaigning period and fairer access to the media for all parties. (Source: Ku Li backs Bersih’s demands, Free Malaysia Today, 20 July 2011)

BN parties supporting Bersih?

“Gerakan’s full name is ‘Malaysian People’s Movement Party’ or in Bahasa Malaysia ‘Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia’.

“Bersih 2.0 is a coalition of 62 established NGOs and it wants a clean and fair election. Why are Gerakan leaders not engaging this social coalition as part of a strategy to go back to basic i.e. the people’s movement?”

Yeap Ban Choon, spokesperson for Gerakkanlah Gerakan (gG), a reforms movement within BN component party Gerakan, slamming the Gerakan leadership’s silence on Bersih 2.0. Yeap called the Gerakan leadership’s response “shameless…and border[ing] on cowardice”. Yeap himself attended the 9 July march. (Source: Gerakan should have backed Bersih, says party reforms group, The Malaysian Insider, 14 July 2011) 

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9 Responses to “Theories of Bersih 2.0”

  1. Reza says:

    Utusan Malaysia – not even fit to be toilet paper. [...]

    • Anti[...] says:

      Wow what a thoughtful observation. Of course, Utusan is not fit for toilet paper. It would clog the toilet up!

      However, I admire Utusan for being on point with their message. They do respond well to some of the half-truths and lies which the opposition spew. I am not saying all opposition things are untrue, but there are many sneaky and covertly deceptive things that the opposition says.

      I am glad there are now many viewpoints and media [with which] I can make a sound and educated judgment.

      • Reza says:

        [In my view], Utusan Malaysia (UM) spews at least as much rubbish (probably more) than the opposition media. They are the “Perkasa” of newspapers, extremely right-wing in their views. Let’s analyse what UM has said above:

        “Bersih dipengerusikan oleh S Ambiga, seorang peguam wanita yang pernah mengguris perasaan umat Islam apabila terlibat dalam Suruhanjaya Antara Agama atau Inter Faith Commission (IFC).”

        “Tidakkah orang Melayu yang turun ke jalanan untuk menyahut seruan Bersih itu faham bahawa mereka hakikatnya sedang diperbodoh dan diperkotak-katikkan melalui mainan yang aturkan oleh pihak lain yang bertujuan menambahkan lagi keparahan perpecahan di kalangan orang Melayu?”

        Here UM is outright accusing Ambiga of intentionally trying to divide the Malay [Malaysians] for her own agenda. Where is the proof of this? How can this be the case when Bersih is championed by all races and their agenda is for reform of the electoral system? Is UM trying to say that Malays who want fair elections are deviant from other Malays who are part of the status quo?

        The other comments are also just unsubstantiated paranoid rhetoric (foreign elements, Christian/Jewish conspiracy) that is more suitable for tabloids than one would expect from a supposedly established and respected newspaper.

        I understand you wanting to get fair and balanced views from different sources, but I pity you if you use the drivel in UM to make “sound and educated” judgements.

        • Tan says:

          One question, Reza. And please be honest. Do you read Utusan Malaysia? It’s the first paper I read every morning.

          Utusan Malaysia represents the views and thoughts of at least SOME Malay Malaysiansc [...] which I believe you must understand and consider if you want to work towards a better Malaysia. To say it is not even fit to be toilet paper is utterly unfair and stinks of arrogance.

          • Reza says:

            I used to read it a long time ago. My dad subscribed to in an effort to try to get my family members to improve our Malay. But [...] I stopped reading it.

            You’re right in saying that it represents the views of many Malays, and in my opinion, the wrong type of Malays. Utusan panders to Malays who are cut from the same cloth as the Ibrahim Alis and all the other narrow-minded, bigoted and ultra-nationalistic Malays out there. I don’t need to read UM to understand their point of view. I already know why they are the way they are. It’s the same reason for ultra-nationalists everywhere: insecurity and ignorance.

            And just for the record, the toilet paper bit was actually plagiarised from my favourite and most respected politician: Zaid Ibrahim.

  2. Andrew I says:

    All roads lead to Rome… with Caligula, Chua, Caesar and co.

  3. JW Tan says:

    Well yes, it’s right in the sense that a broken clock is right twice a day.

    I can’t be bothered with Utusan because it’s so much effort to parse the useful from the useless. And even when Utusan are right to respond, their response may well be completely unreasonable the other way.

    Utusan in many ways is a tabloid newspaper – it panders to people’s preconceptions, validating them to feed a sense of self-worth and self-comfort, and channels the resulting emotion into influence on wider public opinion. All this seems secondary to actually reporting and interpreting the news.

  4. anticensorship says:

    There is no such thing as a Norwegian mass murderer who would kill in the name of Christianity, even though he publishes manifesto on the internet against Islam and professes to be a Christian ‘knights templar’-type crusader. Yeah, conspiracies don’t exist. That’s me being sarcastic.

    Also, TNG, Malaysia-today, Malaysian Insider, Harakah Daily etc. are all 100% credible. Again, me being sarcastic.

    In all seriousness, I am not so gullible, and you should not be either.

    I question the editorial nature of these sites and the ‘opinion piece’ Utusan snippet you gave.

    TNG can publish articles with “Who wants another 13 May?” and “Is Chinese penis really that good?” Wow. Those caught my attention. How do these headlines help political discussion? Not much, I am sure.

    Malaysia Insider puts a headline “Company makes audacious US$100b announcement, claims PM’s blessings.” No where in the article is there evidence the PM gave his support. MI didn’t even try to contact the PM office to verify. Wow, good journalism!

    Malaysia-today had this title several days ago: “M’sian said to be owner of world’s most expensive luxury vessel “. Then it allowed speculation to run wild that it is an Umno man or his henchman in east Malaysia. The site ‘assumed’ it was true because it was first reported in UK newspapers!

    Harakah publishes the Rosmah ring story like it is undisputed fact. Mat Sabu is reported by them as being hit by a ‘Land Rover’, which then changes to a ‘Waja’.

    And we all know the veracity of RPK!

    There is so much contradicting info. So, to read Utusan and their opinion piece, which does have some truth in it, is quite refreshing. So is reading the wild claims on pro-opposition websites.

    We need diversity of opinion and info in this country. I think we have it. Problem is there isn’t one media network or outlet that balances all the views.

    TNG, I welcome you to ‘censor’ – oops i meant ‘editorialise’ – my comment.

  5. mediagraduate says:

    The idea of democracy is that everyone has equal rights and access to express their opinion. Radical or not, it is still one person’s opinion and should be treated just as valid as other views. Good journalism should strive to achieve balanced news reporting. But hey, that’s only ideal.

    In the end, journalists are also people who makan gaji. They’re paid to do their jobs in particular ways their bosses think is best. Who pays them will say a lot about the angle they use in a story. It’s a sticky situation. They rely on sources (who may not be very cooperative) and have time constraints to get a story out. They’re also not paid very well. In my opinion, the variety we get at least for now is a positive move towards, well, democracy.

    There is no such thing as pure objectivity. All news outlets are biased one way or another. As readers, we have brains and the logic to be able to discern and choose for ourselves what type of content we consume. And to be able to critique and say this is good, that is bad. How readers react to a certain publication will have some form of impact on the way future news is reported. Hopefully these criticisms will be acted upon. It’s positive that Malaysia has a variety of opinions.


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