Another three days to go before the Bersih 4 gathering and those in power are doing all they can do discourage and deter people from attending.
This suggests to me that they are concerned and worried about the upcoming display of public dissatisfaction with the way this country is being run.
But we have heard from two influential sources that the Bersih gathering cannot be deemed illegal. Suhakam, in an excellent statement, says the concept of “illegal assembly” no longer exists. Remember, Suhakam commissioners are appointed by the government and they are tasked with upholding and safeguarding our rights.
The Malaysian Bar says the authorities should be facilitating this peacefully assembly rather that deterring it. These guys at the Bar should know a thing or two about the law, right?
Meanwhile, check out this moving piece by Cheah Wui Jia, published by Aliran. She explains why she is staying put in Malaysia at a time when many are heading for the exit doors. She is staying back because this is her homeland, this is where she was placed, and this is where she belongs. And she is determined to be part of the people’s collective effort to put things right.
It is not going to be an easy task. We are living in difficult times. This morning, a neighbour told me that a stall-holder at a nearby hawker centre was about to throw in the towel as she could not afford the daily stall rental of RM70 any longer. I suspect business has dropped as many regulars are cutting back on eating out to save money and stretch their fast-shrinking ringgit.
This is happening while those at the top are leading ostentatious livestyles, thanks to easy access to stupendous sums of money, which somehow finds their way into their bank accounts.
How many people will turn up for Bersih 4? Let’s put it this way:
The last rally, Bersih 3 in 2011, drew over 200,000 people.
This time, the Bersih 2.0 organising team collected over RM1.5m – that is, three or four times the amount collected at Bersih 3. (Somehow I don’t think there were any large donations from the Middle East!)
This time around, T-shirts have been sold out in the nothern region, buses are full and many others are making their way down on their own. When I checked last week, KTM’s new electric train service from Butterworth to KL was sold out from 24 August to 1 September.
The turnout at a forum organised by Aliran a couple of nights ago surprised the organisers when close to 500 people turned up. Even more notable was the determination on display among those who turned up. They have had enough and they are disgusted with the state of affairs. A long line of people snaked their way in a queue to get their bright yellow Bersih 4 T-shirts selling at RM20 each.
Later, when the donation box was passed around, the total collected for the Bersih cause exceeded RM8,000!
Despite all the deterrents and warnings and obstacles, many are resolute about going. Last night, 17 students were arrested outside Parliament in an early indicator of what Bersih 4 participants can expect.
But you know what? Judging by the mood among many Malaysians – their unhappiness over the rampant and blatant corruption and the squandering of the nation’s wealth – that is not going to stop many from turning up.
Taking all this into consideration, I expect close to half a million Malaysians to pour into the streets of KL.
The news that the Catholic Church has announced that three churches are making available their premises for weary rally participants on compassionate grounds is heartening. Well done, Archbishop Julian Leow. The interreligious council, the MCCBCHST, has invited temples and other churches to do likewise.
May the light of truth and justice illuminate our blessed land as concerned Malaysians prepare to express our collective heartfelt desire for a clean-up and revamp of our system of governance. May this light turn the sea of yellow into a golden hue rising from the streets – a symbol of our hope that the country can some day realise its true potential instead of being held back by the greedy and the corrupt.
It is going to be a most meaningful Merdeka, when we join one another in saying Yes to our collective freedom and No to oppression and corruption.