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With less than 24 hours to go to the Bersih 3.0 rally for free and fair elections, Prime Minister Najib Razak showed his nervousness. While the Bernama national news agency portrayed him as being calm and going abut a citizens' walkabout in East Malaysian state of Sarawak, his underlings in the peninsula were whipping out threats, one after another.
They gave his game away. At 58, Najib is bound to go down in history as the second most despised prime minister after the dictatorial Mahathir Mohamad. The son of second premier Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib will long be disrespected for sinking Malaysia into the depths trolled by the likes of North Korean leaders and some African dictators.
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He has been using his media and newspapers to extoll his 'greatness' while pursuing at the same time some of the most despicable actions ever undertaken by a leader in such a high seat. It is not surprising that the influential Washington Post has called him to his face a "champion of doubletalk".
The vain Emperor revealed without clothes
On Friday evening, Najib again reneged on recent promises of greater democratic space and legislation to ensure civil rights would be protected. He got the courts to issue an order barring Bersih supporters and members of the public from holding a 2-hour sit-in to protest the country's notoriously 'dirty' and skewed electoral system. The ban on the Dataran Merdeka venue begins tomorrow until May 1.
"A lot is at stake for Najib. He cannot afford to have the electoral roll audited or cleaned up because that would diminish the BN's chances of winning, he is also afraid the response would be an eyeopener to everyone that he is not popular at all as he paints himself to be. The rally might show that he is actually just the Emperor who is not wearing any clothes," PKR MP for Batu Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
"But whatever the analysis, Najib's reaction after the experience of Bersih 2.0 in July last year shows a total ineptness and unsuitability to be a leader. His judgment is bad and he makes the worst decisions. He tries to talk big and show off, and then in the end, he takes fright and as they say - all cowards are bullies. That's why we have the police threatening the public when they have no right to do such a thing. There's no way for Najib to say he was not aware because he is in Sarawak. That only proves he is completely irresponsible and brainless to let such a thing happen under his nose."
Rally will go on
Indeed, without the steady hands of Bersih co-chiefs Ambiga Sreenevasan and Samad Said, there would have been even greater public outrage and anger at the Najib administration.
The two managed to turn the people's focus once again to the April 28 sit-in Duduk dan Bantah rally that will be held nationwide as well as in 71 cities in 29 countries.
In a quick response to the court order, Ambiga reassured the rally would proceed as planned despite the judge's ruling that the iconic square was off-limits.
“The court order only covers Dataran. Bersih won’t break the order or the barriers...we will go as close as we can to Dataran. But we hope that the authorities will show us good faith and let us through, they can still do that,” Ambiga told a press conference.
No reforms, lip service only
The Bersih 3.0 rally came about after a Parliamentary Select Committee, formed in the aftermath of the July 9, 2011 rally, refused to adopt any of the Bersih 2.0's recommended reforms despite six months of discussion.
Another reason Najib is keen to ensure Bersih 3.0 fails is that his own Umno party's 66th anniversary will be held from May 1 to May 13 and he has planned to gather 1 million members as a show of his political strength and popularity. The Umno grapevine is heavy with talk that he will then announce the dissolution of Parliament, paving the way for the 13th general election by mid June.
"We can appreciate Najib doesn't want Bersih to outshine Umno's 66th anniversary but there is to need to sink so low. I have no doubt Umno will try to do a copycat Global Bersih with their own overseas branches, but so what? Where is the significance," PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng told Malaysia Chronicle.
"You see, Bersih is a spontaneous people's gathering to demand clean elections to safeguard their democracy. For Umno's do, Najib will offer all sorts of carrot to draw his own party members to KL to attend his function. Umno can sponsor any overseas division to hold celebrations, money is not a problem for them. Yet they still feel so insecure that they must try to block out Bersih 3.0. It is a low blow, lah."