The genteel nature of London’s Bersih sympathy rally was reflected in the smart leafy surroundings of Belgrave Square, where they collected just before midday outside the Malaysian High Commission, which was firmly shut.
The polite gathering created a dignified splash of floral, Bersih yellow T-shirts (accompanied by cheeky bananas and balloons) against the green backdrop of London’s poshest private garden, which was looking its best on a British summer afternoon.
News had just come through of the earlier outrages against friends and relatives who had set the day rolling in KL. It created a mood of passion and determination that was tinged with a joy of friendship and solidarity amongst the people there.
The crowd, largely made up of Malaysian nationals, then walked the short mile through London’s most elegant streets to finish up outside the Malaysian tourism office in Trafalgar Square. By the end the numbers had swelled to around five hundred, which is a lot of people to fit into just one end of London’s busiest space.
But it was fine, there was no disruption and there were no arrests. The police arrived, assessed the situation, concluded that they were in decent company and allowed the protesters to make their valid points and then take themselves home. Why couldn’t Malaysia do the same for their own people in their own town square?
The expensive PR machine hired by BN has tried to portray Malaysia’s political opposition and supportive campaigners, such as these, as dangerous Islamic extremists to people in the West. But it was apparent that this crowd were anything but.
Banners reading such ‘inflamatory’ phrases as “strengthen public institutions”; “free and fair access to media”, “end money politics”, “stop corruption”, “minimum 21 days election campaign period” and such like, are not the rabid outpourings of extremists, they are the considered requests of intellectuals.
What was painfully apparent in Belgrave Square and in KL today was that Malaysia’s 50 year old government has alienated its middle classes and its intellectual elite and that the reason is corruption.
This was a gathering of professionals: lawyers, doctors, businessmen and also many students. The preponderance of the young, the bright and the ambitious was very telling in this crowd and they were reflecting the views of their peer group back in Malaysia.What was equally glaring was that, far from being a dangerous, extremist and anti-Western group this was a mixture of Malaysia’s different social, religious and ethnic groups, all working successfully together without a trace of bigotry, racism or hostility.
These people were united by shared ideals, not divided by religion or race as BN would have people believe.
And , of course, their requests were of the sort that would seem only right and proper to Britain’s host democracy, which was why when the police arrived they were relaxed and sympathetic. No water cannon, no tear gas, no threats, no violence.
Bad move Najib
The British police have largely learnt that if you attack people like this when they are behaving properly and articulating perfectly reasonable and understandable views, then you end up looking terrible. Najib has ended up looking terrible. And that is why these people are dangerous to him and to BN.