The next Bersih rally should focus on freeing jailed de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim from prison, instead of 1MDB, suggested former law minister Zaid Ibrahim.
“I can think of only one issue that can still ignite support, which is to free Anwar Ibrahim from jail.
“This is a good test of popular support and, also, Anwar has suffered enough.
“It’s time for us to try and see if our moral compass is really upside-down or if there is still some hope left,” Zaid said in a blog post today.
He said that Bersih should go ahead with its plan for a rally, but not to put the focus on 1MDB.
This is because he thinks the issue of 1MDB cannot get enough traction in Malaysia, even if the rest of the world thinks otherwise, as Malaysia has a high tolerance level for corruption.
Corruption, he said, was no longer shocking in modern Malaysia, as we were now guided by a different moral compass.
Zaid also said since the Syariah Compliance Index was introduced, it would be impossible to produce four credible male Muslim witnesses to any of the alleged 1MDB wrongdoings.
Sympathy for Anwar
On the other hand, he said that anyone with a little bit of sympathy must feel the suffering endured by Anwar and would want to do something to help him.
“If we cannot bring a million Malaysians to the streets to peacefully demand Anwar’s release, then we can forget about changing anything in our country because it will just show that Malaysians don’t have what it takes to bring about change for a good and responsible government.
“It will show us to be just a selfish lot.
“How can we save Malaysia if we continue to ignore the suffering of Anwar Ibrahim?
“How can we talk of ‘compromise’ and ‘consensus’ and fight for the general election together if we are not able to do a simple act of kindness for the undisputed leader of reform who is languishing in jail?” he questioned.
A rally to call for Anwar to be released from jail would also be a test for former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, he said.
Would they or can they mobilise enough support for this cause instead of 1MDB, he questioned, adding that it is also a way of testing their commitment to reform and rectify past errors.
“It is time for Mahathir and Muhyiddin to endear themselves to the people on issues that concern the general public and not just matters relating to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Umno,” he said.
Test of commitment
A Bersih rally to free Anwar would also test the commitment of PAS and its president Abdul Hadi Awang, Zaid said.
PAS has always supported Anwar in the past, he said, and since Anwar’s trial did not have four male Muslim witnesses, PAS should have no problem joining a rally to free Anwar.
However, if PAS continues to make excuses for not joining the rally, then it is time the opposition had a “reality check”, he said, and treat PAS as a part of the “BN master plan”.
Zaid said that he hoped Bersih would seriously consider his suggestion for a Bersih rally to free Anwar.
Anwar is currently serving a five-year sentence in the Sungai Buloh prison after being convicted of sodomy, though his supporters have claimed that his charge was politically motivated.
Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah had first announced on Aug 3 that the Bersih 5 rally would take place following the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) filings that more than US$3.5 billion had purportedly been stolen from 1MDB.
The last Bersih rally on Aug 29 last year saw a lacklustre turnout among the Malay community, attributed to PAS’ decision not to mobilise its members.
Critics used this to attack the rally as being “Chinese” and turned it into a racial issue.
The Bersih 4 rally drew more than 100,000 people, who demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for his handling of 1MDB and the multi-billion ringgit deposits in his personal bank accounts.
Najib had denied any wrongdoing or taking public funds for personal gain.
Attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali has also cleared the prime minister of any wrongdoing.