Bersih charts new course by setting the stage for by-election

24 Nov 2023 06:00pm
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) had held its first meeting of the new Steering Committee (SC) on Monday to discuss the way forward and the unexpected resignation of newly reelected chairperson Thomas Fann - FILE PIX
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) had held its first meeting of the new Steering Committee (SC) on Monday to discuss the way forward and the unexpected resignation of newly reelected chairperson Thomas Fann - FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) had held its first meeting of the new Steering Committee (SC) on Monday to discuss the way forward and the unexpected resignation of newly reelected chairperson Thomas Fann two days ago.

The meeting held last night, aimed to chart the organisation's course following the election of the new SC for the 2023-2025.

In a recent Instagram post, Bersih said that its immediate focus was for the committee to fill the void left by Fann through a prompt by-election.

To oversee this electoral process, an ad hoc Election Committee (EC) will be formed. Timely notifications regarding the nomination, campaign, and polling periods will be disseminated to all endorsing non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in due course.

The newly formed steering committee also outlined Bersih's trajectory in the aftermath of the recent elections and Fann's departure.

Despite Fann's recent re-election, his departure stems from a perceived lack of support for his vision to transform Bersih into a people's institution.

Bersih's Historical Significance: Advocacy Through the Years

Inception in 2005

Bersih's origins trace back to July 2005 when it emerged as the Joint Action Committee for Electoral Reform. Comprising of civil society organisations and political parties, Bersih's mission was to champion a comprehensive overhaul of Malaysia's electoral process. The coalition issued its inaugural joint communiqué on November 23, 2006, marking the beginning of its monumental journey.

Pivotal Moments

The pivotal moment in Bersih's history unfolded in November 2007, with thousands of Malaysians participating in a public demonstration advocating for clean and fair elections. Over the years, Bersih has maintained its relevance, campaigning for transparent elections independently of any political party. The coalition expanded its focus to scrutinise and reform democratic institutions crucial for Malaysia's political stability.

Bersih's Historical Rallies

2007 Bersih rally

On November 10, 2007, Bersih organised its inaugural mass rally, advocating for a clean and fair electoral process in Malaysia.

Supporters were urged to wear yellow T-shirts as a symbol of protest. Organisers estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 people from various races and all walks of life took part in the rally.

Despite being declared illegal, protesters submitted a memorandum with four key demands.The police response included tear gas, water cannons, and 245 detentions. The protest was credited for the shift in political landscape in Malaysia's 2008 general elections, when the Barisan Nasional failed to obtain a two-thirds majority for the first time since 1969.

2011 Bersih 2.0 rally

In preparation for the 2012 general election, Bersih organised the Walk for Democracy, also known as Bersih 2.0, on July 9, 2011, in Kuala Lumpur. The rally, emphasising eight points, aimed to address electoral concerns not resolved since the 2008 election.

Despite government opposition and criticism, Bersih 2.0 gained support from 62 NGOs and international Malaysians. Denied a permit, the rally moved to Stadium Merdeka, attracting an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 participants. Police intervention, including tear gas and water cannons, resulted in over 1600 arrests, including key figures.

2012 Bersih 3.0 rally

Bersih 3.0, also known as the Sit-In rally, marked the largest democratic protest in Malaysia, following the impactful 2011 and 2007 Bersih rallies. Organised by Bersih and supported by various political parties, including Pakatan Rakyat, and endorsed by 84 NGOs, the rally aimed at electoral reform.

Joined by Himpunan Hijau, a movement protesting the Lynas rare earth project, Bersih 3.0 saw participation in Kuala Lumpur and 10 other Malaysian cities, as well as 34 countries globally. After the 2011 rally, the Malaysian government formed a Public Select Committee (PSC) to address electoral reforms, with seven out of eight Bersih demands incorporated into the 22 recommendations by the PSC.

Despite accusations of half-hearted efforts, Bersih stated they would call off the rally if the government guaranteed electoral reforms before the next general elections.

Bersih People's Tribunal

Bersih orchestrated a tribunal from September 18 to 21, 2013, examining the general elections held on May 5, 2013. Invited witnesses provided testimonies, shedding light on irregularities and instances of fraud. Additionally, calls were made for the resignation of the Election Commission, citing concerns about the formation of electoral demarcations in previous redelineation exercises.

2015 Bersih 4 rally

Bersih 4 rally were set to grace the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, and Kota Kinabalu, taking place from 29 to 30 August, spanning from 2pm to midnight.

Related Articles:

The designated rally points were identified at Brickfields, Pasar Seni, Dataran Maybank, National Mosque, and Sogo shopping mall, as outlined by the Bersih 2.0 chairperson. Notably, this marked the first Bersih rally demonstrating a racial imbalance, with a predominant presence of Chinese participants at the gathering.

2016 Bersih 5 rally

The Bersih 5 rally unfolded peacefully on 19 November 2016 in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. A synchronised Bersih convoy was simultaneously initiated, traversing all corners of Malaysia to illuminate and address prevailing democratic challenges nationwide.


Maria Chin binti Abdullah

also known as Mary Chin Cheen Lian, is a distinguished Malaysian politician and social activist. Born in the United Kingdom in 1956, she served as a Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya from May 2018 to November 2022, representing the People's Justice Party (PKR) within the Pakatan Harapan (PH) ruling coalition.

Renowned for her commitment to social causes, Maria Chin played a pivotal role in organising the Bersih rally and founding non-governmental organisations, including the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (Bersih 2.0) and the All Women's Action Society (AWAM). She served as the Chairperson of Bersih 2.0 from 2013 to 2018 and held leadership positions in AWAM and the Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower). Her activism is dedicated to advancing both women's and human rights in Malaysia.

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan

is a prominent Malaysian lawyer and human rights advocate, and one of eight recipients of the US International Women of Courage Award in 2009. She was the president of the Malaysian Bar Council from 2007 to 2009, and was co-chairperson of Bersih. Ambiga, a former Bar Council president, became a household name after leading two Bersih rallies in 2010 and in April 2012, calling for reforms to the Malaysian electoral system.

In an interview with news outlet Bloomberg this year, Ambiga had said that she would step down from the electoral reforms movement after to pay more attention to her firm which specialises in commercial, intellectual property and industrial law.

She currently serves on the executive committee of the Women's Aid Organisation, and is on the Bar Council Special Committee on the rights of the indigenous Orang Asli people

Adam Adli bin Abd Halim

Adam Adli born on 3 July 1989, is a dynamic Malaysian politician and dedicated student activist. In the current Unity Government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and Minister Hannah Yeoh Tseow Suan, Adam Adli serves as the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, bringing his passion for youth empowerment to the forefront since December 2022.

Additionally, he represents the constituency of Hang Tuah Jaya as the Member of Parliament, a position he has held since November 2022. Proudly affiliated with the People's Justice Party (PKR), a key component of the PH coalition, Adam Adli has further contributed to his party as the 5th Youth Chief and Deputy Youth Chief of PH since July 2022. His commitment to serving the community and fostering youth engagement underscores his role as a prominent leader within Malaysia's political landscape.