The Hijacking of BERSIH

Bersih was hijacked by Pakatan. Bersih was hijacked by Barisan. Now what?

Can Keanu save Ambiga from her hijackers?

Politicians are hijackers. It’s in their nature. They’re like those people you see in news programmes, where the newscaster is reporting on the field about donnowhat and there will be a small crowd in the background and, inevitably one or two idiots will start jumping up and down, peering at the camera, trying to show the peace-sign.

Politicians are hijackers. That’s the reason why whenever a natural disaster occurs, politicians will turun padang and frown while pointing at the affected area in a manner that conveys the message:

Look at me! I’m visiting the affected area! And frowning! And even though I’m not actually doing anything productive, surely the photographs will reflect my degree of concern about donnowhat. They better! I’ve been working on my frown all morning!

I first realized that politicians were hijackers when I was a stringer many years ago, and I had to interview a politician who was “helping the community” after a fire had destroyed some squatter-houses. The interview went something like this:

ME: So Datuk, can you tell me a bit more about what you’re doing for the community?

POLITICIAN: You listen here, boy. You write this down. We are here. Where is (name of rival polician)? He only talks big about representing the Indians. But where are they? Huh? Where are they? We are here. Are you writing this down, boy?

Another time, I covered a deputy-minister’s baby-kissing opportunity in the children’s ward of a hospital. The minister walked in, kissed a grand total of ONE baby (what politicians call The Picture Opportunity) and left, presumably to wash his lips, while his minions distributed toys to the rest of the kids. The headline the next day read “SO-AND-SO BRINGS JOY TO TERMINALLY-ILL KIDS” or some other such rubbish.

Politicians are hijackers. They all do it. ALL of them.

That’s the reason why the White House released the pictures of Obama “looking on with concern” as his troops killed Osama.

That’s the reason why, at the recent 1Million Youth thingy in Putrajaya, Prime Minister Najib Razak showed up and, in true hijacker fashion, called upon those present to “defend Putrajaya”. He did something similar at the Silat thingy. Anyone who’s ever visited Putrajaya will wonder what it is exactly that Putrajaya needs defending from. Tumbleweeds?

Which brings us to this whole business of BERSIH being hijacked. Did PR politicians hijack BERSIH? Of course they did. It is in their nature. There is no doubt in my mind that if 6-year-olds could vote, Anwar Ibrahim would hijack an ice-cream truck.

“I will tell Ambiga to cancel rally” = HIJACK

“There will be BERSIH 3.0” = HIJACK

We need not argue about whether Pakatan Rakyat hijacked BERSIH. It’s obvious they did. But as much as the images of police brutality were like gold to the Pakatan guys and the international media, so too were the images of chaos in the city a treasure trove to BN and the local MSM. A cursory glance at the local papers the day after will tell you that.

So BN too hijacked BERSIH, while complaining about PR hijacking BERSIH. It’s all very confusing.

BERSIH’s noble, if slightly ironic, aim of marching to get the palace to intervene in the democratic process and ensure free and fair elections, could have been allowed. The police could have given them their permit, worked out a route that would have minimal impact on businesses, and we would surely have had an incident-free 9th of July.

BERSIH itself, by all official accounts, wanted a relatively incident-free rally, They even agreed to the government’s pretend proposal to hold their rally in a stadium, which one pro-Umno blogger said was “a coup by Najib” under his blog post titled The Taming of BERSIH. But then the government reneged on their offer, supposedly because Stadium Merdeka, the very same stadium they wanted to tear down a few years ago to build donnowhat, is sacred or something.

Then they unleashed PATRIOT, whose comical reasons for marching were tweeted by Khairy Jamaluddin:

  1. Show opposition to Bersih’s methods (not aims) & highjacking (sic) by PR.
  2. To exercise our democratic right.

Let’s get this straight. PATRIOT didn’t oppose BERSIH’s aims, but was opposed to their method of achieving said aims (marching). So they then decided to march to oppose marching, which they go on to admit is our democratic right. The hijacking by Pakatan, of course, could have been effectively neutralized by PATRIOT simply joining BERSIH, which would have enabled both parties to share the loot from the hijacking.

PATRIOT’s reasoning is the clearest indication yet that the government’s plan to send graduates to local universities instead of fancy-shmancy overseas ones like Oxford, is a good one and should be supported by all.

So why then did the government renege on the stadium offer? Why send in the PATRIOTS to march to oppose marching? Clearly, it’s because the government wanted BERSIH to march. They wanted the chaos as much as Pakatan did. Only one wanted it for NST & Utusan and the other for CNN & Malaysiakini.

BERSIH was hijacked by politicians from both sides. But politicians can’t help it. It’s in their nature.

BERSIH itself, has been admirably consistent in their demands. If you take away all the nonsense statements by politicians from both sides, all they want is FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS. That’s it. As demands go, it’s pretty boring. And it takes, I think, people of great character to dedicate their time and effort to such a mundane cause without resorting to the kind of hyperbolic rubbish spewed by our politicians.

If we want to know what BERSIH stands for, people like Ambiga and A. Samad Said are the ones whose views we should take notice of. Not Anwar Ibrahim. Not Najib Razak. You may not agree with those views, but they are the views of individuals who, unlike politicians, actually believe in their causes. Views that, if you care to dissect them, appear to have not been hijacked by anyone.

So ignore the politicians. Find your own point of view. And together, we, as Malaysians can truly achieve donnowhat.


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Brian Gomez was a journalist, copywriter and sometime pub-musician in Kuala Lumpur before he quit his job in 2005 to go traveling and write his first novel – Devil’s Place, which was published in Malaysia in 2008 and has been published and translated, for some strange reason, in Italy. If anyone asks, he says he’s currently working on a sequel to Devil’s Place, his first album and possibly a movie, which he’s been saying for the last three years.

Posted on 18 July 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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5 Responses to The Hijacking of BERSIH

  1. J. Razak

    Conversely, could the so called hijacking by both sides of the political divide be seen as an expression of their respective commitment to address flaws in existing election system/practices, in their own way?

    Personally, remain unconvinced by Bersih's 8-action points. Serious demands to reform election practices must include calls for transparent accounting and public disclosure of campaign financing. This critical issue conspicuously absent from the list.

    If neutrality was main contention of the article and is a fundamental principle of Bersih movement, then the clear inability of Bersih's leaders to distance themselves equally from the politicians seriously dented the movement's credibility .

    Bersih's neutrality is also suspect when it was and still is unable to at least be seen as being in control of bandwagoners.

    Finally, Brian Gomez may be a tad naive and overly optimistic in calling for disregarding the views of politicians altogether. In any democratic system politicians are a bulwark driving the process, ideally through mutually acceptable consensus-building approaches. Their presence is perhaps an unfortunate reality we must all learn to live with but one that should be harnessed while fully appreciating that vast majority of politicians are self-serving pric*s.

  2. Pepper Lim

    Nice one!

  3. Clarence

    great article… it's true that the main objective of bersih is clear… a clean and fair election… no one other than ambiga has said it consistently over and over again.

  4. ordinaryMalaysian

    Brian Gomez, take a hike. You, by your analogy to describe the political parties, are doing the same – hijacking Bersih. You were not even there at the rally, and yet you comment like 'holier than thou'. Were you trying to hijack Bersih for your selfish reason to publicize yourself for sale of your book? Your aptly named book 'Devil's place' needs a devil protagonist.

  5. john

    Brian, u r so irresponsible!! What about those like us who are unable to "find our own point of view"?? What about those like us who are from UiTM?? That's why we need the politicians!!