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)
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.”
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)