Yesterday all over the world (in over 50 countries), there have been many people gathered together in sympathy with the Bersih 4 movement taking place in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia over Saturday and Sunday. Bersih means clean in malay, and is directed at their current reigning government particularly their Prime minister, to be clean in their political dealings. We managed to go to the Bersih 4 London rally.
There are a few issues which have Malaysians talking about their government. There is the matter of a certain donation of a large sum of money (US$700 million) that most Malaysians would have heard about to the personal bank account of a certain person in the government. There is the publicly known poor performance and accrual of significant debt of the 1MDB fund chaired by said same person. Also there have been a number of key post-holders removed from their positions without clear process.
With the recent implementation of the Goods and Services tax (GST), coupled with a drop in the value of the Malaysian Ringgit to a 17 year low, Malaysians do have a genuine reason to show discontent. No wonder confidence in the government is at an all time low. So the people have banded together to rally against their government. Hence this movement for the government to come clean – called the Bersih rally.
We became aware of the Bersih 4 London rally this week, and we went along for two reasons: 1) to lend support to the Malaysians in England and 2) to capture the event in photos (my first attempt at photojournalism). Hence we planned to go to Charing Cross station in London and gather at Trafalgar Square where the rally was to end.
The event had begun earlier in the day at the Malaysian Embassy in London, where the first speeches were made. The rally then marched down to Downing Street for the second gathering. The rally then marched down to Trafalgar Square, where the rally wouldend. It was rather fitting to end there, as Trafalgar Square is seen as a centre of national democracy and protest. We arrived before 4:35pm and waited for the rally to arrive there; we were unable to make it into London earlier.
From what we had heard about the rally taking place in KL, there were riot police present, armed with their water canons (although not required). In contrast in England, instead of police present, we had mimes entertaining next to the rally.
Instead of water cannons, there was a light drizzle – hence there were as many umbrellas present as there were protest signs.
I did manage to get a few close up photos of some of the organisers of the rally in London. Clearly there was a sense of national pride and solidarity amongst the many hundreds (if not over a thousand) who attended. It was definitely a peaceful but united protest. It is amazing how the discontent against the reigning government has helped to unite the Malaysians all over the world into one voice.
Due to the rain, the rally came to an end at 5:30pm, half an hour earlier than planned. But not before the protestors gathered together to chant for political reform and solidarity as a nation.
One of the ‘celebrities’ at the Bersih 4 London rally was the Ex-Malaysian Prime Minister’s daughter, Marina Mahathir, who displayed with her warm smile the peacefulness of the whole rally; this just reflects how friendly the Malaysians are. They finished the rally with a friendly invite: ‘see you again at the next rally’.
Back home, we decided to have a meal to commemorate the day. Hence we had Roti paratha with curry chicken (roti = bread), which is something we eat back in Malaysia and Singapore. As we prayed and gave thanks for the food, we also remembered those who had joined in the rallies calling for clean politics – may it be so.
The food was great, thanks to my wife. And it served to help us remember how thankful we are for the cleaner political system in UK. Of note to those who have not had the opportunity to visit Malaysia – do take advantage of the low value of Malaysian Ringgit, as it will make your holiday money go much much further; you can enjoy your holiday, while lending support to the Malaysian people at the same time.