MANJUNG: Malaysia democracy group Bersih kicked-off its seven-week nationwide roadshow on Saturday (Oct 1) with six convoys making their way through rural Malaysia in a bid to gain Malay support for their campaign to force Prime Minister Najib Razak to resign over a corruption scandal embroiling state investment fund 1MDB.
The ambitious month-long roadshow aims to drum up support to Bersih's cause and attract supporters for the group's upcoming rally on Nov 19.
It will cover over 200 cities, towns and villages and was flagged off by chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah as well as opposition leaders Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), and Husam Musa, a former vice-president of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).
Maria appealed to the public to support Bersih's demands for free and fair elections, particularly with the controversial redelineaton exercise proposed by the Election Commission, Malaysiakini reported.
Husam said that Malays must support Bersih 5 even without PAS support. PAS, once aligned with PKR, has moved closer to Najib's ruling Umno in recent months.
"We cannot stop from working to change Malaysia because of PAS' (absence). Whether or not PAS is with us (in the Bersih 5 rally), the Malays must join," Husam was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying.
Bersih groups travelling through Kelantan, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak greeted locals without harassment, but encountered opposition from pro-government "Red Shirt" supporters in the coastal town of Lumut, Perak as well as in Kangar, Perlis.
In Perak, about 1,000 "Red Shirts" were seen engaging in hostile behaviour towards some 200 "yellow shirts" of Bersih at Lumut Jetty on Saturday morning, forcing the latter to disperse and make their way towards nearby towns Ayer Tawar and Teluk Intan in a convoy of cars carrying the yellow "Bersih 5" flags, The Star reported.
Red Shirt rally organiser Jamal Md Yunos was quoted as saying his group had successfully thwarted the plans of Bersih 5 from gathering in Manjung and Sitiawan, stressing that they will continue to oppose the gathering of yellow shirts for as many times as it would take.
"What they (yellow shirts) are doing today does not bring any benefits at all.
"Every time Bersih wants to do this, we will do our best in chasing them away to prevent them from inciting the people," he told reporters after the gathering.
Bersih rally supporter Thomas Su, who is also Ipoh Timur MP, said the "red shirts" had taken law into their own hands.
"Our roadshow was meant to be a peaceful gathering to create awareness and garner supporters for when the rally is supposed to take place on Nov 19.
"But what we saw from the red shirts was unruly and threatening behaviour. They came on motorcycles and started kicking our cars. They tore down our flags too.
"They even stopped our cars from moving at a traffic light junction in Sitiawan for about five to 10 minutes," he said.
Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the rival camps have been warned not to go on the streets on the same day as it could lead to a riot, reported The Star.