KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — Malay-Muslim participants of the Bersih 4 rally today performed their zohor prayers in front of the Sogo shopping centre here in an apparent bid to disprove claims that the movement appealed only to non-Malays.
Initiating the move was PKR vice-president and Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, who said the public prayers were important to “break” the attempt by political rivals to paint the Malays as uninterested in the demands by organisers Bersih 2.0 for political reform.
“The [Malay: non-Malay] ratio is likely 50-50, whereas the previous ones the ratio was maybe 70-30 or 60-40,” Rafizi told Malay Mail Online.
Under the scorching sun, about 100 Malay-Muslims clad in Bersih 4 yellow tees performed their prayers on a huge yellow Bersih banner spread on the pavement, right before the main entrance of the Sogo shopping centre.
The prayers were accompanied by a silent show of respect by the Chinese and Indian protesters at the Bersih 4 rally.
Thousands dressed in yellow, Bersih’s signature colour, have started marching towards Dataran Merdeka here, holding up placards with the words “Turun Najib” [Najib, step down] and “I support a vote of no confidence”, referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
PAS, which previously brought in their Malay-Muslim supporters from all over the country to Bersih rallies in the past, has opted to sit out the Bersih 4 rally, citing the inappropriateness of the timing of the demonstration so close to Merdeka Day on Monday.
The Islamist opposition party appears to have distanced itself from polls reform group Bersih 2.0 after the conservatives swept to victory in the recent party election.
Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, secretary of PAS splinter group Harapan Baru (HB), said other Malays would be joining the Bersih 4 rally soon, although he noted that PAS members were not present at the demonstration this time around.
“These Malays are either from PKR or HB, as well as silent majority Malays,” Dzulkefly told Malay Mail Online.
“Yes, they’ve (PAS) taken their crowd out, but there’s a good mix actually. But Central Market will be predominantly Chinese. We also have people coming from Johor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca. Johor is a HB-strong state. They’re coming in thousands,” he added.
The overnight Bersih 4 rally organised by Bersih 2.0 scheduled here in the city centre today, Kuching in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, as well as in other cities globally, is calling for institutional reforms and for Najib’s resignation over the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.