Monday, August 31, 2015
Well over 1000 people attended the Bersih 4.0 rally in Perth on August 29. This was more than double the number who attended Bersih 3.0 in Perth in 2012.
Organiser and rally chairperson Jordan Williams explained that the Malaysian government initially tried to dismiss the Bersih movement. Then when the movement grew they made some concessions but that the demands they gave in to were just "cosmetic ones, not the structural changes which were needed".
One issue he highlighted is the gerrymandering which means that a vote in Kampung is worth five times that of a vote in the city.
Since then, he said, the government response has been one of intimidation and repression.
The dramatic response to the latest Bersih mobilisation has been fueled by the scandal of a 2.6 billion ringgit (approx $870 million) deposit into the account of Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.
"Prosecute Najib" was one of the popular signs at the Perth rally and student activist Zafri Zulkeffeli summed up the mood with a joke: "If you drive a car in Malaysia without a licence and you give the police 50 ringgit, we call that 'corruption'. If you buy a submarine and you get 500 million, we call that 'commission'. And if you get 2.6 billion in your bank account, we call that 'donation'!"
Socialist Alliance councillor Sam Wainwright addressed the rally and paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands who had the courage to stand up and protest inside Malaysia. He described the Bersih movement as a movement for "genuine democracy and equality for all people across ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds".
He said that Australian politicians present Malaysia as a "happy democracy" whereas the job of Australian supporters of the movement is to tell the truth about Malaysian "vote rigging, gerrymander, bribes, bullying, denial of right to protest and sedition laws" to the Australian community.
After speeches, the protest marched to the Malaysian consulate in the rain to drive the message that a large and growing number of Malaysian people in Perth support the Bersih movement.
The Perth rally was one of 74 rallies held around the world in solidarity with 36 hour Bersih 4 rally in 3 cities in Malaysia that started the same day. Hundreds of thousands converged at Dataran Merdeka (Independece Square) in Kuala Lumpur despite numerous police roadblocks stopping incoming busloads of protesters.
[This article by Alex Bainbridge first appeared in Green Left Weekly online 30 August 2015.]