Global Bersih 4.0 in Column.
Follow those links to receive information about Bersih and about it´s aims.
The Bersih rally took place on 29th of September in Malaysia but also in other nations, like UK, China, Australia and even Germany. I was kind of sad because I couldn´t attend this huge demonstration in Malaysia, but was released when I found out that Global Bersih also organized rallies in Column and Hamburg.
I chose Column and was excited when I reached the city, because I didn´t know a single person on this demonstration.
But my concerns were unfounded: I was welcomed in such a nice way when I reached the Bersih meeting point that I felt home. I just love the Malaysian mentality! I got to know several people of all ages and backgrounds within the first minutes.
People gathered, who came from different parts of Germany to Column. There was even one guy who came the whole way from Luxembourg to join the rally, because Bersih didn´t take place in his country. I can´t say how many people attended the rally in Column, but I guess it were around 50 demonstrators. Not many people for a rally, but the number was irrelevant, because our voices got together and became a really loud, massive one. We got attention from Germans who were just walking by and informed themselves about the reasons for the demonstration.
First of all we sang “Negaraku!” which is the national anthem of Malaysia and “Rasay Sayang!” to show that we love this country, although the government sucks. We also wanted to show that we were demonstrating for the benefit of Malaysia and not to bring chaos to the country as it was claimed by the Malaysian Prime Minister. We had a leader, who repeated “What do we want?” The answers were “Clean elections!”, “Clean government!”, “Save our economy!”, “Right to dissent!”, “Strengthen parliamentary democracy!”, which was translated in German. Other slogans were “Hidup Rakyat!” (= “Long live the people!”) or “Undur Najib!” (= “Remove Najib!”)
We demonstrated around three hours and it was a great feeling to be with people with whom I could share my love to Malaysia and with whom I could discuss about politics.
You have to imagine that I´ve never met a single Malaysian (except my dad and his friends) in Germany before this rally took place.
We can´t do much to change the current situation in Malaysia, but we can try our best to give support. We can show that we care for the people who we love and who live in Malaysia. We can protest against the government to clarify that this country is not theirs, that Malaysians aren´t their slaves and that people aren´t stupid. Enough is enough! At the same I felt really connected to the people who were demonstrating in Malaysia at the same time.
I hope that more demonstrations like this will take place in the future.
Afterwards I interviewed a Malaysian friend, who attended the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur. Continue this article to read about his experiences.
Bersih 4.0 in Malaysia
Which problems do you see in the future of Malaysia and the current situation?
That´s a pretty obvious question. It´s corruption and the supremacy of the Malays.
Do you mean the rights of the Bumiputera (=son of the earth)?
Yes, UMNO claims that Malaysia is theirs. They say that Malays have Bumiputera rights, which can´t be taken by anyone. This makes the Malays believe that they have the power.
But now there are other races which want the equality which was promised by the government. We- as Malaysians- demand for the promises which were made. We want a clean government and we want clean elections. This was promised, but it hasn´t been fulfilled. That´s why we have Bersih.
What are Malaysians thinking about the current situation in Malaysia, for example that the country might become a failed state? How are the people handling the situation?
Let´s start with our currency, which is getting worse. The value of the ringgit is dropping steadily, which makes us worry. What we also want to highlight here is corruption, which is getting worse as well. It´s killing us from the inside, it´s rotting the government. One example is the 2.6 billion donation from unknown donates. Until now our Prime Minister cannot answer simple questions like: Why did we get it? What is it for? So this is what makes us believe that Malaysia is a failed state. Our Prime Minister cannot answer our questions and the government expects us to accept whatever he says about it. Donation? Come on… This is obviously rubbish and we -as Malaysians- need the answer. It can´t continue like that. We need a solution to handle this situation.
But how are the people feeling? Taxes are increasing, the ringgit is dropping Do you recognize that there´s a change of living standard?
The Prime Minister introduced GST (= Good and Service Tax). He said it´s for the benefit of Malaysia and that this is the solution how to handle the current economy. He also promised that the goods prices will go down because of the GST, but in reality goods and service prices have increased. It´s an obvious lie. Everyone faces this, from the rural folk to the urban city people. We cannot buy stuff as much as we could two or three years ago, not even as much as we could buy one year ago. This affects the quality of life. We have to work more to receive the same wages and we can spend less to buy goods. Politicians lied with everything they said about GST, whatever they promised us, we cannot see it as a solution. It´s not a solution, it´s a problem, GST is a problem. Many are against it, even the royal is against it but nothing has been changed. GST is making our lives difficult. The government needs to find another solution. They have to be transparent about the things which are happening in the parliament. No one trusts the government right now. They pretend that this is the solution, but in reality they are taking the money from us. You could compare it with believing in the thief, who gives us assurance that he will fix it.
Let´s talk about the Bersih rally. Were there any problems before the demonstration took place?
Yes, there were. There was a group, which called themselves anti Bersih movement before the rally took place. It´s a pro government group. They´re really aggressive and progressive. They demonstrated in front of SOGO (= shopping complex in Kuala Lumpur) two weeks ago to show that, if Bersih tends to get aggressive, they are ready.
They knocked each other with woods and all that, it´s pretty weird and embarrassing. Furthermore the police declared that Bersih 4.0 was illegal. They will arrest you under the Sedition Act, if you´re caught wearing, selling or possessing a Bersih T-shirt. The police also blocked the way to Kuala Lumpur. They blocked it to check on Bersih T-Shirts, so they have the power to put you in prison for that.
Were there any arrests before the demonstration took place?
Yes, there were many arrests. One took place in Melaka, but I don´t know much about it. Others took place at a gig with the motto “Participate tonight. Revolution tomorrow.” Police rushed there, when this underground gig took place. They arrested everyone who came to that gig and put them into lockup for three days for no obvious reason. Two of them are my friend´s brothers, so they had to go to lockup because of the revolutionary words. Police said that the gig supported Bersih. They tend to say “Ok. There´s a party tonight, revolution tomorrow. The Bersih rally will take place tomorrow. You´re accused of supporting Bersih. All of you (almost hundred people) are arrested and you have to stay in the lockup for three days and will be released on Monday.” Well, luckily they released them and there was no charge. That´s good.
Could you describe your experiences during the rally? What did you see? What did you do?
Well, I have experiences with Bersih 3.0. Bersih 4.0 is more organized. They´re more controlled in manners, they´re more friendly, they weren´t so aggressive compared to Bersih 3.0. Because Bersih was focused more on one objective this time. They focused more on corruption. We tend to be more cooperative. Some say that there were more Chinese but all of us agreed that we didn´t come as a race, we didn´t come as Chinese, Indians or Malays, we came as Malaysians. We just want to know the answer of 2.6 billion and about the 1MBD scandal. That´s all.
I just watched some videos of the demonstration and saw that you marched through Kuala Lumpur, that speeches were given and that it was an overnight-rally. What else happened?
There were five assembly points, which were pulled together. People gathered around that point and we marched along towards Dataran Merdeka. They blocked Dataran Merdaka, so we just marched around the building. It was kind of a festival: people sang, danced and we just shared thoughts with strangers, we talked about the current political situation.
It was like a Kopi Tiam (= traditional coffee shop in Southeast Asia) with different races, even Orang Aslis (=indigenous people) came to the protest.
What happened after the demonstration took place? Were there arrests afterwards?
None that I know of. They tried to arrest the Bersih organizers, like Maria Chin Abdullah and her accomplices (Mandeep Singh, Adam Adli, opposition leaders). They just want to arrest everyone. They tried to but they need a very strong argument for the arrests.
So they couldn´t arrest anyone until today?
Yeah they couldn´t, not yet. But they´ll find a reason, like they always do.
What were the positive things about Bersih 4.0?
Bersih participants came as a family, which was positive. I think Malaysia is getting smarter, because we cannot accept stupid reasons anymore. There were 200.000 participants as representatives for the rest of Malaysia.
We stood up and said `Bullshit!´ to all the lies from the government. No one can believe their excuses, because they are contradictory. It doesn´t make sense. They also said that we´re traitors, which doesn´t make sense as well. I think Malaysia is getting smarter and more courageous. It´s better than before.
Were there any negative things about Bersih 4.0?
Some. A few of the Bersih participants were kind of emotional.
What does it mean `They were emotional´?
They tend to curse names. I don´t think that this is appropriate. It´s not professional. It doesn´t focus on the topic. They were just angry. I don´t think that this is a good way to express yourself. Maybe we can learn how to give a critical statement in a good way, constructive criticism.
Actually you answered the question already but maybe you´d like to add some things. Was the Bersih 4.0 rally different to the ones which took place before?
Yes, it was pretty different. It was more organized then the ones before. Bersih 4.0 stressed on the independence of the participants. You had to clean up all the trash and maintain the peace with the police. It was different: Bersih 2.0 and Bersih 3.0 failed to handle the provocations.
Now we aren´t longer interested in provocation, we don´t want to provoke anybody else, so we learned our lessons. We tried to behave more civilized. Bersih 4 was an excellent rally and the best Bersih ever. It was brilliant.
Do you think that things will change now? Will Najib Razak resign, is it even possible that there will be a change of the whole government?
I think that a change of the government is very unlikely, because Najib claimed that he won´t step down from his position. He said that just 20.000 people protested against him in Bersih and that the rest of Malaysians support him, which doesn´t make sense. It´s his estimation but Bersih said that there were about 200.000 demonstrators.
Those are just figures, but it shows that Malaysians don´t like the government any longer, Barisan Nasional isn´t relevant anymore, so that´s the point of having Bersih.
Do you think that the government will change in the next elections which will take place in 2018?
I`m positive. Yes, it will change. I think they will lose this time if they don´t cheat the way like they did in in the General Election 2013.
What´s the impact of Bersih on that?
Bersih changed the perception of the people. They made the people believe that they have the power to change the current government. Bersih shows that the people have a voice and that the government has to respect that. I think this scares the government a bit, even a little bit of fear will lead to certain things. I think this is the beginning of a better Malaysia.
There were also demonstrations abroad (= Global Bersih). Do you think that those demonstrations were useful?
Yes, I think this is pretty good. The fact is that many Malaysian professionals left Malaysia. They don´t want to come back, because they compare the government of the country in which they live with the Malaysian government, for example UK and Malaysia.
Bersih demonstration in London.
Global Bersih in Shanghai.
They know that the government in UK don´t have that kind of bullshit and that the people have power. If they protest they know that they can change things but the power of the people is suppressed in Malaysia. Their voices cannot be heard. And it´s also about the comparison of the different economies, so economy and human rights. This make those countries a good place to stay. Malaysians abroad love Malaysia, but as long as this government is ruling Malaysia, they won´t come back. Malaysia always claims that they´re the best in many things: They claim that they have the best electoral system in the world, the best education in the world but these are obviously lies. It´s like North Korea. Everyone has to believe the government.
Why did so many people attend the demonstration this time?
Because of the 1 MDB scandal and corruption. The money was deposited on Najib Razak´s personal bank accounts and the government isn´t answering our questions. The situation became worse than in 2013. There are so many things about Malaysia that people tend to say ´This is bullshit! I cannot take this anymore. I´ll join Bersih.´ There are so many questions.
I read that the majority of the demonstrators were Chinese and that not so many Malays attended the demonstration. Why were there more Chinese people than Malays?
I guess it´s because of PAS (=Islamic party in Malaysia), which joined Bersih 2 and Bersih 3. They shared points and views with Bersih but now they have some disagreement with DAP and Bersih.
Because of Sharia, right? PAS wants to introduce Sharia.
Yes, they want to inforce Sharia. They just want to win the election, take control from the government and talk about Hudud law. Malays are religious and therefore very close to Islam so whatever this political party says, the Malays will fight for it, because it´s for the Islam.
But I mean there´s a difference between really conservative Malays and people like you, who aren´t conservative. Do all Malays support PAS, especially with the introduction of Hudud law?
Well, Hudud is stated in Qur´an. It´s a law in the Qur´an. No one can change that. It isn´t human and it´s not the people´s power to change god´s law. PAS uses this point to get the Malays. Malays are in a dilemma. If you´re against Qur´an or Hudud or even one part of it, you aren´t a good Muslim anymore.
This means that the main reason for the low number of Malays during the rally was that PAS didn´t join. Did Indians attend?
Yes, there were some of them. They were the minority in Bersih 4. That´s why we say that there weren´t Chinese, Malays or Indians in Bersih, we´re all Malaysians. The race card is played by Barisan Nasional, so don´t follow their step. They tend to play the race card whenever they can.
Bersih was declared illegal and police claimed that they will send the army against Bersih if a state of emergency should be declared. They also said that they will revoke all the scholarships if they will find out that students joined Bersih. There were a lot of threats, so people chose wisely, but things changed slightly after Tun Mahathir (= former Prime Minister) joined Bersih. More Malays joined Bersih afterwards, so Tun Mahathirs attendance had a really great impact on the Malays.
I didn´t understand why Mahathir joined the demonstration. Which role did he play when he turned up? Is he working for his own good or is he really supporting the people? What do you think?
Everyone was surprised when Tun Mahathir came along with Bersih. A reporter asked him why he joined Bersih, because he condemned Bersih last year by saying that demonstrating is the wrong way and that people are demonstrating to topple the government. Suddenly he joined Bersih.
He said that he disagrees with Bersih and its cause, but that he wants Najib to step down. I think this is very selfish, because he´s against demonstrations too. He in forced ISA (= Internal Security Act= detention without trial).
Tun Mahathir has worked a lot against Najib Razak recently. He has criticized him since months. What do you think is his interest to join Bersih?
This is just my opinion: He wants something for his own benefit. Maybe he wants to replace Najib with his son. Maybe it´s because of his plan 2020, which will never be achieved, so it´s like his personal Djihad. He wants to make sure that, whatever he has done for Malaysia for the past 22 years of being a Prime Minister, will be accomplished and he can´t see this happening under Najib Razak´s reign. It´s kind of a selfish person who´s against another selfish person.
Why are you the only one of so many people I know, who attended the demonstration?
I asked my friends many times. I think they don´t like any confrontation with police and with all the threats when they almost graduate. I guess this makes them worry.
There are so many excuses for not attending. I think you need to know some things about Malays: Malays don´t like confrontation. Maybe it´s because of religion. They want to remain the peace. They think that people have to wait for things getting better. This is what Islam is teaching us. They tend to be very passive. That´s the stereotype about Malays. They also have to be very respectful towards the leader and the sultan. I think it´s a really pessimistic perspective. They think ´What can we do about it? Can we change it? I don´t think so.´ They hate it, they hate Najib, they hate all the lies but I don´t think they are working to solve the problems. They feel insecure because of the lies which are spread by Najib against the DAP (= Democratic Action Party) and that the Chinese will take over Malaysia. That makes them think whether Bersih is a good way to solve problems.
So they just want to wait for changes?
Yes and do nothing about it. I´m also very disappointed with this attitude.
What kind of people attended the demonstration?
The oppressed, students, parents and people who are concerned about Malaysia´s future. I don´t see it from that perspective, I just see it like a bunch of people who wants Malaysia to be a very good place for their children. They want equality and what the government promised. We want that Malaysia is a good place, a better nation, a better country.
Do you think that the Malaysians have become more confident to attend further demonstrations?
From Bersih 4, yes, but I don´t know what´s with other demonstrations. Najib says that demonstrating has never belonged to the Malaysian culture and that this won´t change. Every time demonstrations take place, police will interfere. Even small demonstrations will get a lot of resistance from the police and the government, but Bersih is the key, because we move in a very large group. I think Bersih is ok, but I`m not sure about other demonstrations. Without a huge group people won´t join demonstrations.
What´s your wish for the future of Malaysia?
I have a lot of wishes for Malaysia. I wish that Malaysians form themselves to a better nation in many aspects and that they stop to compare themselves with neighboring countries or with Arab nations, for example Syria or Afghanistan. Malaysians always say that they don´t like resistance against the government, because they don´t want us to be like Syria or Afghanistan. They´re very pessimistic and I don´t like that. It doesn´t help. It doesn´t contribute to the better Malaysia. They have to be more ambitious, more aggressive in the way of showing that they care for Malaysia. They should stop relying on the government so much. I think Singapore is a very good example. Singapore was Malaysia before. After they got separated from Malaysia, they became the first developed nation in Southeast Asia. We can learn a lot from Singapore. I think we should compare ourselves more with Singapore. We must have a better and clean government.
Thank you for the interview!