1. A mammoth rally can take place peacefully with minimal police presence if the objectives are noble. Malaysians are not naturally prone to violence and illwill if they are not instigated by hate speech.
2. The struggle for electoral reforms, clean government and justice is underpinned by a deep love and concern for the nation and the wellbeing of it people, as seen in the way the Negaraku was sung with such fervour at the stroke of midnight.
3. Mahathir is using Bersih for his goal of removing Najib, but Bersih can make use of Mahathir to make the message of the importance of electoral and other reforms more acceptable to a wider audience.
4. The Najib administration, if it does not understand basic democratic norms, at least understands that good public relations demands that you do not crack down on a massive peaceful rally in front of a global media audience. It would only make his poor image look even worse. Yes, it was all about public relations, especially given the news that seven Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee members have been summoned by police for questioning this morning (but from what I hear, the police treated them well and they were released shortly after) as well as another five Bersih 4 organising members in Kota Kinabalu.
5. Malaysians are a creative lot, going by the many witty placards and comments and performances during the rally. The random displays of creativity along the streets kept everyone thoroughly absorbed during the event when they were taking a break from chanting “Bersih! Bersih!”
6. More must be done to reach out to those who did not turn up for Bersih 4 and show them how clean governance and accountability can actually improve their lot. Bersih 4 shows us that we have to re-strategise to raise wider awareness of the issues that matter and show how improvements and reforms can translate to a higher quality of life. Though social media played an amazing role in mobilising people for the rally despite the blocking of the Bersih website, more awareness raising must be done in Malay over social media to reach a wider audience.
7. We have a vibrant civil society movement in Malaysia and the spirit of volunteerism is well and truly alive. I was amazed by the civic conciousness on display, especially among the young people – from those picking up litter from the streets, to the medic teams on standby including the St John’s Ambulance, to the volunteers who notified participants about the portaloos at St John’s, to those putting up placards pleading with participants not to blow their vuvuzelas and drown out the speeches, to the volunteer lawyers from the Bar Council and the Suhakam people monitoring the event. And of course the whole Bersih team across the country for their tireless work and preparations.