‘Bersih consistent in its fight, Anwar must take heed and start reforms’

The turnout was disappointing, but political analyst Associate Professor Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk commended the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) for standing up for its beliefs.

Only about 100 people turned up at the rally outside Parliament in Kuala Lumpur this morning to hand over a memorandum urging Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s government to keep its promise of political reforms.

Despite being a key figure in street protests via the ‘Reformasi movement’, Azeem said Anwar needs to see today’s rally as a warning that those who had supported him will not do so blindly.

“It does not matter if there were 100, 1,000 or 100,000 people. Bersih always campaigns for reforms to ensure a fairer playing field for all political parties,” said Azeem, director of the Centre for Policy Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

“Anwar, Tun Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) and Tan Sri Muhyiddin (Yassin) all have used Bersih for their political interests, but the movement has always been about fighting corruption, and the importance of reforms and fair elections.

“While Anwar has been closely associated with Bersih, the movement has always been independent. Today’s rally was its way of articulating that the Anwar Ibrahim administration does not seem interested in carrying out the reforms it promised.”

Azeem said he hoped that more non-governmental organisations would be as brave as Bersih to call a spade a spade.

“Anwar must also see this rally as a sign that his supporters will not sit idly by if he does not keep to his promises,” said Azeem.

“There is always a need for an independent watchdog like Bersih to ensure that the government does things correctly.

“Anwar is in a tough position as his party – Parti Keadilan Rakyat – is not the largest in the government. His hands may be tied.”

Azeem added that Anwar’s position is made worse as he decided to work with Umno, a party Bersih has accused of being corrupt.

“The fact that Datuk Seri Najib Razak, a former Umno president, is the poster boy for corruption speaks volumes about the issues at play here,” said Azeem.

“I hope what Bersih is doing resonates with the wider population so that more people can call out the politicians when they do not honour their promises.”

Meanwhile, Bersih chairman Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz told the media that it may organise a mass gathering if the government does not follow through on the reforms that included the separation of the attorney general’s powers, the restoration of Parliament’s independence, and the elimination of laws on preventive detention.