The BN government headed by prime minister Najib Tun Razak for the first time displayed its true resolve in allowing a peaceful assembly in line with the latest statutory reforms it has introduced in the country. The government even offered four alternatives to Bersih organizers to hold their peaceful sit in protest.
The only contention of the BN government was that it cannot allow the peaceful protest to be held at the chosen venue, Dataran Merdeka, because of security reasons and the refusal by the owners Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur. However, the Bersih organizers refused to budge from their stand although they could have easily accepted the alternative venues which were much larger and equally centrally located such as Stadium Merdeka. Even in western nations where protests and peaceful gatherings are the norm of the day, the police usually will have the final say on the location of such protests and the street venues for rallies.
Until the end, the government never said ‘NO’ to the Bersih sit in and never banned bersih movement as in previous occasions. They only said that the sit in protest cannot be held in Dataran Merdeka. This is a far cry from previous BN administrations when such rallies and assemblies were banned right from the beginning.
Such liberal moves by the BN government have displayed its resolve and will in seeing political and democratic changes in the country and shows the people that the BN government is prepared to listen to the voices of public and is prepared to amend its ways accordingly.
At the same time the mammoth Bersih 3.0 rally, estimated to have attracted between 50,000 to 100,000 people has also shown that the opposition is not to be underestimated and still has the strength and support to amass such a huge gathering despite court orders and the police cordoning of roads leading to Dataran Merdeka.
Two messages are clear the participants of Bersih 3.0. First is their unhappiness about the electoral reforms and the role of the election commission. Second is the Lynas Plant issue, to which there were many opposing placards and banners. Showing such displeasure to a project in a rally called primarily in support of electoral reforms is something the government should take note of and react.
The time has come for the government to seriously review the Lynas issue and make the necessary decisions however difficult it may be. If not, Lynas could crystallize into a major set-back for the government and the issue may over- shadow other convincing reforms the BN government is embarking upon.
Bersih 3.0 could not have succeeded without the support from the opposition parties within Pakatan. Therefore, Bersih 3.0 has also displayed the might of opposition and that it is still intact and enjoys the support of a sizable population.
Therefore, it is an eye-opener for the BN government not to take things for granted. The BN government should seriously consider expediting electoral reforms to meet the aspirations and expectations of the people, failing which the unhappiness of the people would be translated into votes against BN candidates in the forthcoming GE – 13.