rocked the streets of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur on
Saturday, April 28, as an estimated 25,000 people took to the streets in
support of Bersih , an organization fighting to reform the nation’s
The organization refers to itself as ‘The
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections’, comprised of 84 Malaysian
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that form a ‘coalition of like
minded civil society organizations unaffiliated to any political party’
. The recent rally follows two previous mass demonstrations in
November 2007 and July 2011, as organizers renew their demands for the
Malaysian Election Commission to resign before the 13th General
Elections scheduled for June 2012 . Although the coalition claims to
be devoid of political affiliation, the movement is fully endorsed by
Malaysia’s main opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim and the Pakatan Rakyat
political coalition he oversees.
documented cases of United States-based organizations funding
pro-opposition civil society groups associated with civil unrest in
Russia  and the Middle East , Chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan
acknowledged that the Bersih coalition received financial support from
the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Open Society Institute
(OSI) . An article published in the New York Times entitled "U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings"
reveals organizations such as the National Democratic Institute receive
funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a recipient of
funds directly from the US Congress . The Bersih Coalition has also
received support from the US-based Freedom House , an NGO that
receives direct funding from the US State Department . While concern
over electoral corruption and the various legitimate grievances of
Bersih supporters may be entirely justified, the coalition’s association
with opposition Political parties and groups financed by the United
States government suggests subversion.
Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammed has warned that the ruling Barisan
Nasional party is targeted for regime change due to its stance on
Israel and criticism of US policy, while condemning Anwar Ibrahim for
his close ties to Paul Wolfowitz and other adherents of the Project for
the New American Century (PNAC) . Furthermore, Mahathir has accused
the United States of using currency manipulation and US-funded NGOs to
orchestrate the kind of destabilization needed to install a compliant
proxy government . Dr. William Robinson explains the subversive
methods of conducting regime change through “democracy promotion” in his
book, ‘Promoting Polyarhcy,’ “In Latin America, in Eastern Europe with
the Velvet Revolutions, in Africa, in the Middle East, really all over
the world, the U.S. set up these different mechanisms now for
penetrating these civil societies in the political systems of countries
that are going to be intervened and to assure the outcome is going to be
pleasing to Washington's foreign policy objectives” .
Golinger, a researcher who has been investigating the democracy
promotion efforts of the United States offers, “Millions and millions of
U.S. tax payer dollars go every year into funding for political
organizations and campaigns in different countries in the world that
promote US agenda. Most U.S. citizens are unaware of the fact that that
is how their money is being spent, to meddle, and to influence and to
interfere in other nation’s affairs”
. While the demands of the Bersih coalition appear to be coherent
and apolitical, the convergence of its leadership with the opposition
political establishment provides Anwar Ibrahim and Malaysia's opposition
front Pakatan Rakyat with the means to mobilize demonstrators under the
benign common cause of “clean and fair elections.” The initial Bersih
demonstration in 2007 has become widely credited for Pakatan Rakyat’s
record gains in the 2008 Malaysian elections, where the opposition
coalition usurped power in five states and won 82 parliamentary seats
Ibrahim served as Deputy Prime Minster from 1993 to 1998 under the
administration of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad; the pair disagreed on the
utilization of recovery methods during the 1997 Asian Economic Crisis,
leading to Ibrahim’s dismissal. While Mahathir introduced sovereign
currency controls on the Malaysian ringgit to prevent currency
speculation, Ibrahim denounced Mahathir’s economic policies and
portrayed himself as a freedom fighter for the free market .
Following his stint as Deputy Prime Minister, Ibrahim served as Chairman
of the Development Committee of the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1998, while appearing on the payroll of Dick
Cheney’s Foundation for the Future and George Soros’ International
Crisis Group . Furthermore, Anwar Ibrahim served as a panelist at
the National Endowment for Democracy's "Democracy Award" .
Bersih coalition has rejected a raft of reforms announced by Malaysian
Prime Minister Najib Razak, including the establishment of parliamentary
select committee on electoral reforms and amendments to the Peaceful
Assembly Act following widespread condemnation of Putrajaya’s crack down
on July 2011’s Bersih 2.0 rally from the international press . The
heavy-handed conduct of Malaysian security officials has worked to
further strength international condemnation of Malaysia’s nationalist
regime, as well as alienating the well-intentioned participants of
Bersih rallies. Unlike the Bersih rally in July 2011, the recent
demonstrations provoked armed clashes between protestors and police with
cases of violence on both sides. Although police barricaded the area
surrounding Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) where the rally was
scheduled to take place, violence was not used until demonstrators
attempted to cross police barricades into the Square.
security situation deteriorated as defiant protesters refused to
disperse, prompting demonstrators to overturn a police vehicle .
Protesters and black-shirted police officials threw broken bottles,
pieces of metal and concrete slabs towards each other, prompting police
to fire tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators, causing hundreds to
disperse into side streets . While footage of the recent police
crackdown circulates throughout international media, Malaysia’s ruling
Barisan Nasional party is again the subject of international criticism.
As public discontent grows with the administration of Prime Minister
Najib Razak, the unpopularity of the Malaysian ruling party has set the
stage for the victory of Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Rakyat opposition
coalition. As the United States shifts its military focus to the Pacific
Region, Anwar Ibrahim’s adherence to western political institutions
will likely warrant the continued nurturing of unrest in Malaysia until
the opposition successively usurps power.
Riot Police near Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) maintained the
security situation without the use of force until several demonstrators
attempted to take the area.
of Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition march on side
streets with banners calling on people to reject dirty elections.
Red-shirt supporters of pro-opposition security unit Jabatan Amal form human chain in a commercial district of Kuala Lumpur.
Demonstrators hold banners calling on Malaysians to reject the perceived corruption of the electoral system.
leader Anwar Ibrahim fully endorses Bersih, an organization that claims
to hold no affiliation with any political party.
Crowds cheer as demonstrators invert a photograph of Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Bersih supporters sit behind police barricades outside of Dataran Merdeka.
Amal supporters stand near the barbed wire barricades setup by Police,
preventing demonstrators from entering the historic Dataran Merdeka.
police fire tear gas to disperse protestors attempting to take Dataran
Merdeka, causing Bersih supporters to take refuge in the nearby City
pray in the historic Masjid Jamek Mosque as Riot Police fire tear gas
and surround the complex to prevent demonstrators from exiting.
Medical teams rush to the scene to provide assistance to injured people and those who experienced adverse effects from tear gas.
areas of downtown Kuala Lumpur littered with damaged property and
personal belongings following the initial dispersal of protestors into
side streets toward the Sogo district.
Malaysian Police have reportedly detained at least 388 Bersih supporters.