Why Bersih is Yellow Shirts and how Anwar hijacked it

 |Oct 23, 2016
Bersih 2007 ... Anwar hijacked and owned Bersih.
Bersih 2007 … Anwar hijacked and owned Bersih.

“A plea to royalty: march with citizens in yellow,” said KJ John. “Yellow is our royal colour and royalty must keep the “notional neutrality” and not express personal views or opinions”.

Maybe KJ John does not know Bersih’s history and the reason why on Nov 10, 2007 we all decided to wear yellow t-shirts in our march to His Majesty the Agong’s Palace, Istana Negara.

The reason we wore yellow on Nov 10, 2007 was because we wanted to demonstrate our loyalty (taat setia) to the ‘crown’ and to show that we are royalists and not republicans and that we hold dear the ideals of the constitutional monarchy.

This is to dispel the notion that most of us, especially those from DAP, are anti-monarchy and wish for Malaysia to be turned into a republic, like what Chin Peng wanted.

At that time (pre-2008), DAP refused to accept any awards or titles (such as Datuk, etc.) from the Rulers.

At that time (pre-2008), the DAP leaders also refused to wear a songkok in an audience with the rulers, which is considered very biadap (insolent) according to palace protocol.

So some of the rulers were saying: how are the DAP leaders going to get sworn in to the state assembly if the opposition happens to win any states (other than Terengganu or Kelantan) if they refused to observe proper protocol and convention?

So DAP had acquired a very bad image amongst the royalty and the perception is that if DAP or a DAP-led opposition coalition ever wins the federal election the first thing they would do would be to abolish the monarchy and turn Malaysia into a republic.

So we wanted to show Their Highnesses the Rulers and His Majesty the Agong that the opposition, in particular DAP, does not uphold the ideals of Chin Peng and the CPM (Communist Party of Malaya) and was not anti-monarchy.

Hence the reason why we decided to wear yellow on Nov 10 2007.

But we faced one obstacle.

PSM refused to wear yellow because they were republicans (socialists) and are anti-monarchy.

So they did not want to participate in the Nov 10 march to Istana Negara.

DAP’s Ronnie Liu spoke to me and asked me what to do.

It will not look good if PSM did not join the Bersih march because then it would look like the opposition was divided and that Bersih was not supported by the entire opposition.

This made it worse due to the fact that some in Umno supported us while PSM boycotted the march.

So I told Ronnie to inform PSM that they need not wear yellow.

They can still wear red and join the march.

We respected their right to uphold their republican or socialist ideas but we cannot run away from the fact that Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and the Agong, according to Article 32(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, is the supreme head of the federation.

Article 32(1) states: There shall be a Supreme Head of the Federation, to be called the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who shall take precedence over all persons in the Federation and shall not be liable to any proceedings whatsoever in any court except in the Special Court established under Part XV.

So we need to hand our petition to the Agong.

We cannot ignore the Agong.

If we do not hand the petition to the Agong then, who do we hand it … To Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi?

Would that achieve what we were trying to achieve?

On Nov 10, 2007, the march was successfully held.

The crowd estimates was between 40,000 to 100,000.

We do not know what the real crowd size was but plus-minus 50,000-60,000 would not be too far of the mark.

We waited in front of Istana Negara’s gate for one hour.

Why were we waiting in front of Istana Negara’s gate for one hour?

Well, because we were told that Anwar Ibrahim wanted to personally hand the petition to the Agong together with the rest of the opposition leaders and that we should, therefore, wait for him to arrive.

After waiting half an hour, one of the the Istana Negara officials came out to meet us to ask why were were waiting outside and that we (ten of us, as agreed earlier) were welcome inside the palace to hand over the petition.

We replied we were waiting for Anwar Ibrahim to arrive and should be ready to come inside not too long more.

Why Anwar?

He has nothing to do with Bersih!

Anyway, we waited another half an hour and Anwar eventually arrived and took the petition from us and walked in to Istana Negara with nine other opposition leaders.

The rest of us waited till he came out again where he then gave a political ceramah.

Now, this is something we had promised the palace we will not do — turn the march into a political event or anti-government rally.

Anwar did precisely what we had promised Istana Negara we would not do.

So many of us were actually quite angry because we felt Anwar had violated the trust that the Agong had placed in us.

After that Anwar took over Bersih completely and he offered the post of Bersih chairman to Param Cumaraswamy.

Before this Bersih did not have any chairman because it was supposed to be a peoples’ movement with no ‘officers’ but just a collection of rakyat from both sides of the political divide.

Param declined the post so Anwar offered it to S. Ambiga instead, who accepted it.

That is the story about why Bersih’s colour was yellow.

But now Bersih has become the fourth coalition member of Pakatan Harapan, which Pribumi is trying to get in — but so far unsuccessfully — as the fifth coalition member.

KJ John said, “Yellow is our royal colour and royalty must keep the “notional neutrality” and not express personal views or opinions.”

I do not know what that means.

Does KJ John mean the Johor and Negeri Sembilan royal families should keep their mouths shut or does he mean Mahathir Mohamad should not drag His Majesty the Agong plus the Conference of Rulers into his personal fight with Prime Minister Najib Razak? … Read More

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Raja Petra Kamarudin or RPK, cousin to the Selangor Sultan, is one of Malaysia's earliest online 'citizen journalists'. He started his website in 1995 before the internet 'explosion' triggered by the Reformasi movement in September 1998. Malaysia Today was launched as a blog in August 2004 and is one of the few pioneer blogs still active and posting articles on a daily basis 24-7. RPK, 66 years old, has been writing since 1990.