By Stephanie Sta Maria
PETALING JAYA: Mainstream and alternative media were fed an almost daily diet of Bersih 2.0 updates in the weeks preceding July 9, 2011.
On the earmarked day, downtown Kuala Lumpur was swallowed up by tens of thousands of Malaysians marching for a cause they believed in and the kind of future they wanted to bequeath the next generation.
It is almost impossible to have been the driving force behind such power and not be handpicked as the newsmaker of the year.
Yet Bersih 2.0 chairperson, S Ambiga, was genuinely taken aback when she learnt that she had topped FMT’s Newsmaker for 2011 poll with 3,284 or 57% of the votes.
“On the one hand I am very flattered and humbled,” she told FMT. “On the other, I hope it is for the ‘right’ reasons that I made the news!”
“I’m not sure if I’m thrilled to be in the company of some of the nominees but I’m delighted to be in the company of others.”
Bersih 2.0 wasn’t Ambiga’s first courtship with controversy. Her involvement, as the Bar chairman, to strongly support Lina Joy in the apostasy case and the March For Justice won her as many adversaries as they did allies. But amid the hate mails, death threats and Molotov cocktails, she refused to abandon Bersih 2.0.
“I’d like to think that I was chosen (as FMT’s Newsmaker for 2011) because of what Bersih 2.0 stood for and meant to Malaysians,” she said. “The credit belongs to the people for their tremendous support in making it the success that it was.”
‘You cannot fool all of them all the time’
While Ambiga confessed to not having enjoyed making every headline this year, she also expressed satsifaction that the bad press had a strong role in bringing the people out in droves on July 9.
She remarked that the government’s gravest mistake was underestimating the Malaysian public and went on to borrow a famous quote from former US president, Abraham Lincoln.
“Lincoln was right when he said you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time,” she said.
Ambiga has her own list of newsmakers for 2011 and they comprise the late Baharudin Ahmad, national laureate A Samad Said and Annie Ooi or better known as Aunty Bersih.
“Emblazoned in my mind’s eye are images of Allayarham Baharudin bravely standing with the people, of Pak Samad (Samad Said) walking barefoot to the palace and of Aunty Bersih drenched with the riot police behind her,” she recalled.
“These are the real heroes of 2011.”