Bersih 2.0’s call for institutional reform has resonated well with rural Malay folks as indicated by the success of its nationwide roadshow campaign, one of its leaders said today.
Speaking at a forum discussing the effectiveness of the Bersih 5 rally, steering committee member Rama Ramanathan said that the increased participation from the Malay community proved its campaigns in the rural areas worked.
But he stressed that the group still needed to do more to shore up support from the Malays.
“I think the convoys were effective. We had a real connection with the rural folk,” Rama said while adding that almost half of the organisational committees for the campaigns consisted of rural Malays.
For the first time, Bersih 2.0, often viewed as an urban-centric middle class movement, focused its campaign in the Malay heartland in the run up to Bersih 5 rally.
The move followed criticism that the previous mammoth demonstration was predominantly attended by the Chinese. The ruling Malay party Umno used this to portray Bersih 2.0 as having no support from the ethnic majority.
The November 19 rally that took place in the capital city saw increased Malay participation compared to the previous one.
But the majority of the participants last weekend were still Chinese Malaysians.
Rama conceded that Bersih 2.0 had difficulties communicating complex issues like the 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) controversy to rural folk, which could explain why shoring up support from the community remains a challenge.
“How do you communicate something like the 1MDB to the rural people? Even the office urban guys don’t really get it,” he said.
“This forced us to rethink our communication… it’s an uphill struggle.”
An audience at the forum had earlier on pointed out that just like politics, Malay support was crucial for the poll reform group’s success in effecting change.
Critics calling for more aggressive action by Bersih 2.0 have raised questions about the effectiveness of the group’s tactics, pointing out that the coalition of NGOs have held five rallies for the past 10 years, yet nothing concrete has materialised.
But such views might be a misnomer, according to analyst Dr Khoo Ying Hooi who pointed out at the forum that the success of a movement cannot be gauged tangibly.
However, what is evident is that Bersih’s rallies have helped create more political awareness among the public and spurred the growth of civil societies.
“The mobilisation strength can cripple the political legitimacy of the state, and raise political consciousness.
“It is never easy to measure the success of any movement… but over the time it has facilitated the continued growth of civil societies,” she said.
Source : SYED JAYMAL ZAHIID@The Malay Mail Online