Malaysiakini Letter

It’s because the timing of Bersih 4 was ill-planned

Visithra Manikam  |  Published:  |  Modified:

There’s a simple answer to the question - why aren’t there more Malays taking part in Bersih 4 this time? An answer I don’t see people acknowledging at all.

Whether you like it or not, the timing of Bersih 4 is ill-planned. It’s either you’ve never been to a Merdeka celebration or you’ve never been a part of one.

First of all 80 percent of participants are Malays and they’re not just government servants or school kids. Yes, sorry to say they’re mostly Malays. Not that there are no opportunities for non-Malays to take part. A lot of private workers take part, too, in different parts of the parade.

Years ago I myself was part of the cultural group segment after I started working. I never got a chance while at school and it was one of my proudest moments. Do you know how long we trained and how many raptais we had to go to? Every week for nearly two months and every day at Dataran the week before Merdeka.

Every single person involved in the parade had to be there in the early morning hot sun, which included a few rounds.

Everyone from the paraders to the people involved in the back like technicians, transportation, trainers and organising committee members.

Last year alone 14,000 paraders took part, not counting the behind-the-scenes people. And this happens nationwide at state-level celebrations. Heck, the Selangor and Penang governments have their own parades.

Say 4k people at every state, that’s 56,000 people or 76,000 people involved every year in the various nationwide parades and celebrations. This doesn’t count the families of these people who have to juggle children and the lack of one person to handle things. So you’re looking at least at 120,000 people being directly or indirectly involved in the parade activities.

Even if they wanted to join Bersih 4 they couldn’t.

Second - you have not taken into account people who are sincerely upset with the timing of the rally. The Merdeka parade is not political, it is not headed by the PM but headed by the Agong. Yes, it’s organised by the government but it is the Agong or sultan that presides over it. Unless you have gone for a national-level celebration, I can bet with you, your perception is wrong.

Do you know how many times we sing Negaraku on that day? Two or three times.

For most of you this is probably the first time since school that you have been part of a huge crowded celebration/ rally/ football match. The euphoria is different isn’t it? The feeling of singing Negaraku together is different, isn’t it. The feeling of walking so freely on the streets of KL is so different, right?

Well if you had gone to a single Merdeka celebration in the past you would have known the feeling.

Priorities of Kampung folk are different

Third - you keep undermining small town and kampung folk as brainwashed by the government. No they aren’t, they know what's going on but their priorities are different. They are folks who don’t need a government public service announcement (PSA) to tell them to raise the Jalur Gemilang for Merdeka.

They are people who will get excited if someone gifts them a flag. And this is regardless of race. Go drive by a small town or kampung now and see how many flags have been raised and then drive through your own urban neighbourhood. The difference is vast.

Yet you city folk keep undermining them. You keep quoting, we are not orang kampung to be swayed by the government. Are you trying to persuade them or insult them? Because it sure sounds like an insult.

You have taken for granted people’s feelings towards the Merdeka celebrations. These are people who go every year or have gone at least once. Do you know I sometimes see the same faces when I go every year? We smile and acknowledge each other.

I applaud those who went down to Bersih 4. It was quite a sight. I was most happy some of you carried the flag with you. Most of you were getting involved with something involving the nation for the first time ever. I applaud those who slept in the streets last night. That was indeed historical. But alas, the timing was ill-planned.

And so today while you are perplexed with the disparity, most are just waiting for Merdeka itself. While another bunch cares for neither.

OR

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