Awash in a sea of yellow
The Song Kheng Hai rugby ground on August 30 was swarmed in a sea of people in yellow as at least 3,000 participants gathered for Bersih 4, rallying for clean and fair elections as well as good governance.
It was an eventful sight: the rally saw some participants show up with their face and hands painted in yellow with the words Bersih 4, others were waving signboards and banners and some even brought their own mats and umbrellas in preparation for a long sit-in for a two-day rally.
On the field, a banner was set up on the podium for participants to put their signatures down in support of the campaign to ‘save the economy’. Twelve speakers were lined up to talk at the event which was scheduled to start at 2pm.
During the Bersih 4 rally, the Borneo Post SEEDS managed to talk to some of the participants who turned up to take part despite the blazing heat.
Country’s welfare brought him here
“I am very concerned regarding the situation in Malaysia today; corruption is rampant in the country,” said Hugh Lawrence Zehnder who was seen donning a cowboy hat with Sarawak-themed badges on it.
The 68-year-old retired auditor cited the issues surrounding 1MDB was one of the reasons that brought him to Kuching Bersih 4 on Aug 30.
“That is why today I come to this gathering to show my disappointment with the present government on the administration of the country,” said Zehnder, who is the eldest son of the late Datuk Tra Zehnder.
Looking at the many youths at Kuching Bersih 4, he said “The young people today are very up to date with what is going on in the country and I’m very proud of them.”
Demand for Total Democracy
Among the big turnout of youths at the rally, some 30 of them were members of Buku Jalanan Kuching, a mobile library initiated in 2012 that promotes reading among the public twice a month on Saturday evenings.
While they usually display their books at Waterfront Kuching, they made a special change of venue to Song Kheng Hai Ground Park in conjunction with the Bersih 4 Kuching rally.
Founder Mohammed Farris Mohammed Kassim, 22, was excited to join the rally with other NGOs and public members.
“We are here to demand for democracy, a change in the current system of economy, social and politics,” he said.
With a tent pitched for an overnight stay at the ground, the group brought along with them some books and artwork by their members.
Farris also mentioned that these books were donated by various parties including public institutions and universities from all over Malaysia.
Your right as voters
Equally packed were the food stall area located nearby where the hot weather did not stop a huge crowd from registering themselves as voters at voter registration booths set up by Sarawak-based NGO Rise of Sarawak Efforts (Rose).
“It is overwhelming and I hope the forms are enough,” said Rose team leader Ann Teo who was there along with 12 other Rose volunteers.
As of one of the speakers scheduled to speak during Bersih 4, Ann felt encouraged by the peaceful gathering as the large turnout by participants in yellow seemed to also be coming from other parts of Sarawak as well.
“Many people seemed to be coming out including from other parts of Sarawak to express themselves in a peaceful manner. This means that it shows that they feel that they can participate and have a say in determining the affairs of the country,” said Ann.
Established in mid-2013 following the 13th General Elections, Rose is a nonpartisan civil society group that aims to build awareness and empower Sarawakian voters about their rights as electorates in a democracy, to see transformation in rural communities and have free and fair elections.
“Rose’s objective has always been citizen engagement; we want to encourage citizens to engage in the electoral process, good governance and the process of nation-building. I mean that is a big word, but ultimately that is what Rose stands for and everybody here is a volunteer,” said Ann.
“We just want to work in this direction. I mean, in a way our objective is similar to Bersih,” added Ann stating that their objective during the peaceful gathering was to reach out to the people and encourage them to register as voters.
For those who have not registered themselves yet, Ann advised them to do so as each individual has the power to decide for themselves.
“For young people, don’t be apathetic to the political process, don’t think that you cannot do anything to change what you don’t like to see and be encourage to register as a voter,” advised Ann.
To know more about Rose, check out their website at: http://www.sarawakrose.org/
Kuching’s leg of the two-day Bersih rally was concluded prematurely at midnight the same day ahead of it’s original Aug 31, 11.50pm schedule.