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Umno, how much did you spend to bring your crowd?

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Compare the attendance at Umno’s 66th anniversary celebration at Bukit Jalil Stadium on 11 May to the Bersih 3.0 turnout. There is simply no comparison, asserts P Ramakrishnan.

The 87000-seater stadium was not exactly packed to the rafters – Photo courtesy of Reuters

Much has been made of the so-called 100,000 turnout of Umno members at the Bukit Jalil Stadium to observe Umno’s 66th anniversary celebrations. Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak was obviously elated in seeing the sea of Umno members dressed in red that greeted him on his arrival at the stadium.

He remarked that they too can bring in the crowds. And he was jubilant thinking that support for Umno had returned. You can’t fault him for being carried away by the euphoria of the occasion.

But little does he realise that his optimism was misplaced.

Who were these people who came to the stadium? Why did they come? How did they come?

These were Umno members and supporters. They were induced to come. More than 2,000 buses brought them from across the country to the stadium. They did not come of their own free will, at their own expense. Everything was paid for; everything was taken care of.

Supposing each of the 2,000 buses carried 40 members; that would give a total of 80,000 members and supporters. How much would it have cost to bring all these members to Kuala Lumpur?

The buses had to be hired; that costs money. The 80,000 people had to be fed; that costs money. They had to be accommodated for the night in a reasonable hotel; that costs money. They had to be paid an allowance; that costs money. Taking all this expenditure into consideration, the question to ask is, how many millions did it take to bring them to KL?

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The 80,000 members who attended out of a proclaimed membership total of 3.5m works out to less than 3 per cent of Umno’s total membership.

The actual attendance was less than 10 per cent of the earlier boast that the event would draw one million people.

This lower-than-expected turnout was what was achieved after all the effort to outshine the Bersih 3.0 crowd and after spending millions of ringgit. It is nothing to crow about!

Based on this crowd, it makes no sense to claim that Malay support has returned to Umno. Facts do not support this assumption.

You only brought in a fraction of your members; you did not bring in the crowds – unlike Bersih 3.0. It is as simple as that!

The only non-Umno members who turned up – dressed in red as well – were from Barisan Nasional component parties! But we don’t know whether these allies of Umno who play a supporting and certainly a subordinate role in the BN really have the support of the people. Their presence does not amount to anything to draw comfort from.

Yes, we must not forget the presence of the others as well. According to the New Straits Times of 12 May 2012, “Among the government agencies taking part were the Royal Malaysia Police, Election Commission, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and SME Corp Malaysia.”

Why are these government agencies taking part in a function organised by Umno for its members? How do we justify the presence of these agencies at a political function? How are they aligned to Umno? Or are they actually aligned to Umno? Are they members of Umno as well?

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Compare this event where everything was facilitated to ensure attendance at the Umno do to that of the Bersih 3.0 crowd. Many would immediately say, “There is no comparison!” And they would be absolutely correct.

The Bersih 3.0 crowd came willingly and voluntarily and spontaneously. There was no inducement. The only compelling factor that propelled them to come was their desire to support Bersih’s eight demands to ensure that the elections would be clean and fair.

They were all fed up with the Election Commission and the way our elections have been conducted all this while. They could no longer tolerate the biased and one-sided electoral process that had worked to the unfair advantage of the BN.

The crowd of more than 250,000 that came in support of what is considered to be the biggest gathering in support of a just cause far outstripped the Umno crowd. It must be remembered that Bersih – unlike Umno – had no members to fall back on. These were all individuals from all walks of life who came freely. There was no compulsion whatsoever.

And they came fully knowing that there would be obstacles and challenges that would be very intimidating. They came ready to face – if necessary – whatever they might be subjected to. They could not be discouraged by the threat of tear gas and water cannons. That’s how determined they were; that’s how dedicated they were to the cause espoused by Bersih.

The Land Public Transport Commission would not grant licences to allow buses to bring in the Bersih crowd from out of town. Otherwise, the crowd would have been even bigger. But this transport commission had no problem in allowing more than 2,000 buses ferrying in Umno members from all over the country.

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The Malaysian public will not be lulled into believing that the tide has actually turned in favour of the BN. Facts do not support this presumption.

The BN can claim anything; they can bribe the entire country – but it will not make any difference.

Discerning Malaysians will continue to ask, “What happened to your concern for the welfare of the people when you became Prime Minister in 2009? What happened to your compassion in 2010, when people were finding it hard to make ends meet? What happened to your goodwill in 2011, when Malaysians were wondering whether you would uplift their misery and comfort them with the billions of ringgit at your disposal?”

They will ask, “Why is it only in 2012 that you are bothered by their plight and their suffering? Is it because the election is round the corner?”

They can see through your game plan. You cannot hoodwink them anymore!

Former Aliran president P Ramakrishnan currently serves as an executive committee member.

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