As election fever starts to grip the nation, Bersih co-chair Ambiga Sreenevasan appealed to Malaysians to come out and vote in "droves" - 100% voter turnout as far possible - so as to defeat vote rigging and massive cheating that Prime Minister Najib Razak's administration has been accused of putting in place so as to cling onto power.
"Of course, there has been been a lot of speculation about when Parliament will be dissolved and we don't know lah whether the Prime Minister himself knows when he wants to dissolve Parliament," Ambiga told a briefing organized by Tan Kee Kwong, the PKR contestant in the Wangsa Maju parliamentary seat.
"But that's not important, what's important is that we must be prepared for GE13. Are you are all ready for GE13? Have you all registered as voters? Any one who did not vote in 2008? Are you going to vote in the next elections? If you missed it in 2008, it's no longer important but in 2013 you must vote. Because that is only way we can challenge and fight the cheating."
A real warning to Najib and Umno-BN
The crowd of more than 1,000 people had been eagerly anticipating her arrival and gave her a rousing welcome. Her rapport with the audience is indeed telling of her popularity and the impact the three Bersih rallies for free and fair elections have had on the Malaysian people. It is an enormous booster for her both personally and for Bersih but a real warning to Najib and his Umno-BN coalition.
In the 2008 general election, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition had scored a political 'tsunami' by winning control of 5 of the country's 13 states but failed to clinch the federal government. The PR has continued to make inroads and in the 13th general election, which must be held latest by the middle of this year, is expected to effect Malaysia's first-ever regime change since 1957.
The very real prospects of losing the federal government has led to widespread reports and allegations of massive cheating by the Najib administration. Bersih itself has found evidence of 'phantom' voters, sudden and inexplicable jumps in voter numbers at sensitive seats and strong indications that foreign workers may have been promised citizenship in exchange for them agreeing to vote the Umno-BN.
This was borne out by Ambiga, who warned that Malaysians were in for the "dirtiest" ever election in the country's history. She struck a chord when she said that despite the ongoing guessing game as to when GE13 would be held, Malaysians were unfazed but just "waiting" for the D-Day to cast their ballot.
"Based on Bersih's findings, GE13 will be most dirty election ever in Malaysia's history. We have launched a campaign Jom 100. We are hoping to reach 100% voter turnout," said Ambiga.
"Because if all of you come out to vote in droves, that's the way we can fight the cheating. If every single one of us comes out and vote, do u all promise to do that? Are you ready to vote?"
Just waiting for D-Day to vote out Umno-BN?
The response she received was unanimous. It does appear that many Malaysians are just waiting for the day to come when they can vote out the Umno-BN, which after 55 years of authoritarian rule may have overstayed its welcome, felled by endemic corruption and its insistence on clinging to the use of racial and religious bigotry in its policies and governance.
"I have a feeling that we won't even need campaigning time. We have been campaigning for 2 years. We are all ready to vote we are just waiting for the Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament," said Ambiga, beaming at the positive response from the crowd.
"There is another way, another project that Bersih has launched that is Project Pemantau. The Election Commission refuses to allow international observers. But I say, never mind, we will appoint our own citizen observers. We are going to have as many observers at as many polling stations as we can, outside lah because we cannot go inside. We hope that with more people watching there will be less chance of cheating."
There will still be cheating and lying
She warned that despite taking as many measures as it could, Bersih could not keep watch on every door and expects electoral fraud to be still pushed through by those in power.
"There will still be cheating and I can tell you as far as Bersih is concerned, we have received many many reports about cheating especially on the electoral roll. What does the EC say? The deputy head of EC says we won't do anything to the electoral roll until the RCI Sabah is concluded. Oh what a pity RCI Sabah is not going to finish before GE13 and therefore we are not going to clean up the electoral roll. By the way, he also says we need a court order before we can clean up the electoral roll," said Ambiga.
"I challenge him, I challenge him ...13 years ago, there was a case Likas...yes Yong Teck Lee... there is already a judgment. There is already evidence of thousands of names of illegal people. All the names are there but 13 years hence, nothing was done. But recently (DAP elections director) Ong Kian Ming in his Project Merap found these discrepancies. Ong Kian Ming found many of these names still on the roll."
A former president of the Malaysian Bar, Ambiga could not help lashing out at the Election Commission, which has come under severed criticism for subservience to the BN government.
"Who are they lying to? Who do they think they are to lie to us they cannot clean up the roll until the RCI in Sabah is over. But I think they recently removed one name PapaGomo ...quietly they removed that one. Only one ...pardon me if I don't clap for them. One is not good enough, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands," she said to thunderous claps.