COMMENT Why is there a need for the police to raid the Bersih office on the eve of Bersih 5 and arrest its chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah and manager Mandeep Singh?
Why is there a need for the police to lock down 58 roads around Merdeka Square starting at 7am, three hours before Bersih 5?
Why is there a need for the chief secretary to the government to unlawfully threaten sacking for civil servants for joining Bersih 5?
Why is there a need for certain traders’ groups to futilely file a suit to stop Bersih 5?
Why is there a need for certain universities to shamefully warn students to not exercise their civil and political liberties?
Why is there a need for these desperate measures to stop Bersih 5 when the only major obstacle slapped on Bersih 4 on its eve was a ridiculous Home Ministry ban on Bersih 4 T-shirts and materials?
Do the police expect Bersih 5 to be even larger than Bersih 4?
Or, is the Najib Abdul Razak government now more vulnerable than a year ago?
Most people I talked to about the estimated size of Bersih 5 participants put the figure between 50,000 and 100,000, some even put it below 30,000.
These expectations mean Bersih 5 would likely be smaller, not only than Bersih 4 last year, but also than Bersih 3 in 2012. It would likely be just about or larger than Bersih 2 in 2011 and Bersih 1 in 2007.
The smaller crowd for Bersih 5 is perfectly understandable given the circumstances.
Umno and BN have not wavered in their support for Najib despite more of the 1MDB scandal iceberg being exposed. If Bersih 4’s accumulative half a million crowd in 34 hours could not force Najib to bow out, Bersih 5 will certainly not see any immediate result.
It would only be an incremental step in the consolidation and expression of anti-Najib forces.
Hence, if the unprecedented overnight Bersih 4 could be tolerated, why is Bersih 5 now so intolerable for the regime?
Does the police’s Special Branch know something that we don’t?
Are the police expecting a much larger crowd than 50,000 in Bersih 1 and Bersih 2, maybe even approaching Bersih 3 or even Bersih 4, but with a much stronger Malay presence?
Is the chief secretary to the government expecting a substantial percentage of civil servants participating in Bersih 5?
No, you don’t need the Malays to come from the rural Malay heartland. Malays actually make up a majority in the Klang Valley and surrounding areas.
Nipping in the bud a show of Malay rejection?
Is Najib sensing that his days are numbered that he cannot afford to take any risks but must nip in the bud the show of Malay rejection?
One need not to be opposing or unsympathetic to Najib to see that the actions of the police and the chief secretary are signs of panic.
If Najib is not panicking, why does not he treat Bersih 5 like Bersih 4?
Isn’t Bersih 4 a ‘failure’ in threatening his power? Why should he fear the downsized repeat of a ‘failure’?
For those who think Bersih 5 will be waste of time, please consider Najib’s opinion expressed in action.
If Bersih 5 is a waste of time, why does Najib need to crack down so desperately?
Besides urging Najib’s resignation, Bersih 5 is also demanding institutional reforms to achieve five substantive goals: clean elections, clean governments, strengthening parliamentary democracy and empowering Sabah and Sarawak.
All these demands require amendment or enactment of laws if not also amendments of the constitution. None of these would be immediately decided by Bersih 5, of course.
With the crackdown, Bersih 5 is now redefined by Najib and all the state apparatus he allegedly abuses.
Bersih 5 is now about a single issue. Not about whether Najib should go. Not about whether we need to better our political system.
Bersih 5 is now about whether we still have our rights promised by the Federal Constitution.
The panicking Najib wants to deny our right to even just peacefully say to him: “You, my servant, resign!”
Bersih 5 is about whether Najib should be allowed to act without constraints.
Bersih 5 is now really down to this core demand: the right to dissent, without which we cannot have clean elections, clean governments, parliamentary democracy or the empowerment of Sabah and Sarawak.
If your answer is “No”, see you tomorrow at Dataran Merdeka.
If you can’t be in Dataran Merdeka, wherever you are, wear yellow.
Yellow is about you, me and every one, the citizens being the boss of the government. – Malaysiakini
WONG CHIN HUAT is a Research Fellow with Penang Institute, the state government think-tank on public policy.