BERSIH needs to cultivate ties with opposition, not rubbing shoulders with gov’t of the day

IS THE pro-reform movement BERSIH weak and divided? Before it could hold a major rally in keeping with the past achievements, BERSIH seems to have lost its momentum.

Merely a gathering of 100 or more was held at the Parliament recently to protest against the government of Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for the lack of reforms.

All of sudden the BERSIH organisers had a meeting with Anwar on the need for 10 main reforms. As usual, Anwar was quick on his promises to the extent of saying that some reforms proposed by BERSIH are already being looked into by the government.

Even though the Madani government has said goodbye to the reforms, Anwar was at his best in the meeting by gleefully talking about the agenda of the government.

Actually, there was no necessity for BERSIH leaders to meet up with Anwar knowing very well he is not serious about reforms.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim endorsing BERSIH’s memorandum of 10 types of reforms (Pic credit Anwar’s Facebook)

BERSIH leaders know very well that the reform agenda of the government is not the priority over the importance of political expediency.

I suppose the meeting was definitely skewed in favour of Anwar and the nebulous Madani government. It allowed Anwar the publicity to showcase his continuous commitment to reforms.


Although it is nothing wrong for BERSIH to meet up with Anwar to present their proposal, it lacked the vigour and punch of earlier BERSIH movement.

Perhaps the meeting with Anwar was arranged to give the impression that the electoral watchdog was serious about the reform agenda.

However, it is sad to say that BERSIH of today is not the same as in the past. It might appeal to members of civil societies and others but one basic ingredient is missing.

It conspicuously lacks the support of the opposition parties and civil societies inclined to support the opposition. Compared to the earlier BERSIH movement, the present BERSIH has no links with the opposition.

This is the reason why a PAS leader ridiculed the present BERSIH movement. In the past, before the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led coalition came to power, it was the opposition parties that gave sustenance to BERSIH.

PAS, DAP and PKR once provided the crucial numbers for BERSIH to hold major rallies against the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

Since DAP and PKR are in the government, the responsibility for supporting BERSIH has been passed on to PAS and Bersatu. But whether these opposition parties are ready to support BERSIH remains to be seen.

Strengthening ties with opposition

If a party like PAS remains suspicious of BERSIH, then how is the latter going to get the numbers to reveal that it is a force to be reckoned with? BERSIH leaders can have more meetings with Anwar or even have small gatherings to protest against the lack of reforms.

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

However, the fact remains that without the support and encouragement of the opposition, there is nothing much BERSIH can do.

Rather than wasting time by meeting with Anwar, BERSIH leaders should spend time in meeting up with the opposition leaders. I don’t see why the opposition cannot support the reforms agenda of BERSIH.

BERSIH should give up the idea that Anwar is for reforms. This was before he became the PM.

The present BERSIH leaders might be young and energetic but at the same time they must realise that they cannot fully trust the PH-led government.

I hope it is not true the BERSIH leadership is aligned politically to the present PH-led Madani government. – March 1, 2024


Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai (United Rights of Malaysian Party) Interim Council.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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