Bersih 4 movement in Malaysia (Photo: Jarni Blakkarly)

Bersih 4 movement in Malaysia (Photo: Jarni Blakkarly)

AsiaCalling, Kuala Lumpur - During the Bersih or ‘clean’ movement recently in Kuala Lumpur, thousands of people are taking the streets with yellow shirts.
People were chanting “bersih bersih bersih.”

They demand democratic reform and the removal of the Prime Minister due to his alleged involvement in a corruption case worth 700 million US dollars.
Opposition politician Razifi Ramli says that this is the voice of Malaysian people.

“When you have a corrupt prime minister, every single one of us – wether you are Malay, Indian, Chinese - all of us will suffer. So we have to be united, say no to Najib!” he said over the microphone.

The newspaper of Malaysia’s long-ruling UMNO-led government highlighted that Bersih supporters were only from a particular ethnic group.

Mingguan Malaysia newspaper said the rally was a success for the opposition Chinese-dominated party. Mingguan Malaysia is a Sunday edition of Utusan, a newspaper owned by the ruling party UMNO (United Malays National Organization).

Rafizi says they’re not afraid of government’s racial propaganda.

“Am I Chinese? No. Are those people Chinese? No. UMNO said only Chinese would join Bersih movement. But all people come to the street. You chose the right thing and I salute you Malaysia!” he added, gaining applause from the crowd.

Opposition politicians say that ethnicity has been always the government’s way to divide citizens. Dzulkefly Ahmad is a Malay politician from the new moderate Islamist opposition party.  “It’s no longer about ethnicity now. The consciousness cuts across race and religious adherence,” he said.

But a survey from independent pollster Merdeka Center shows that the rally was supported by most of Chinese and Indian respondents - but only favored by few of the Malay voters interviewed.

Opposition and Bersih leaders like Rafizi says that from whatever racial groups they are, all the supporters were “Malaysian”. “Prime Minister does not give respect to the Malay, Chinese, and Indian values. All the villains, regardless of their identity, we will fight against them!” he said.

The rally was organized by a non-government organization called “Bersih” – consists of more than 20 civil organizations and political parties. “Bersih” has been demanding for electoral reformation.

Social activist and columnist Niki Cheong says the rally is beyond ethnic boundaries. “Even I noticed it was mostly Chinese, but I think it’s important to realize that 100,000, 200,000 Malaysians went on the ground to voice their opinion about something.”

He explains Malay group has difficulties to attend the rally as they often live in rural areas. While Chinese-Malaysian are mostly live in the cities and internet savvy – making them easier to be exposed to civil movement.

But he admits that the racial division is there...

“It’s so deeply ingrained. It took us so many years to get to this point where we are so politically divided. It’s going to take us many years as well for this institution, this structure to change,” he added. 

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