Bersih 5 rally

The Bersih 5 rally (also known by its tagline: Combine our energy – New Malaysia)[6] was a peaceful democratic protest in Malaysia, supported by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), which took place on 19 November 2016. The rally was held calling for a new and cleaner electoral system in Malaysia. A Bersih convoy was also launched and targeted all parts of Malaysia to raise awareness of the current democratic problems nationwide.[7][8][9][10]

Bersih 5 rally
Logo of the rally used by Bersih organisers
Date19 November 2016
Jalan Bangsar to Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur
(Bersih Convoy: Kangar, Johor Bahru, Kota Bahru, Lumut, Sandakan and Miri)
Parties to the civil conflict
Red Shirts
Orange Shirts[2]
Lead figures

Jamal Yunos (detained)[3]
Datuk R.S. Thanenthiran (MMSP president)

250,000 (Media estimate)
150,000 (Police estimate)[4]
1,400 Bersih security personnel
7,000 officers[5]


Incumbent Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has denied any wrongdoing amidst the ongoing 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal and former premier Mahathir Mohamad has come out in support of pro Bersih campaigners.[11]

Steven Gan, an editor of an online news website Malaysiakini was charged in court under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act for the reporting of Prime Minister Najib and 1Malaysia Development Berhad, leading up to the rally.[12][13][14]

Red Shirts

The Red Shirts were basically formed to oppose the activities of Bersih, especially its criticisms of the government and to support the government.[15] Many members of the Red Shirts are UMNO, which is the ruling party in Malaysia.[16][17][18]

The pro government group led by Jamal Yunos indicated that the Red Shirts would confront the yellow shirt Bersih protesters during the stipulated rally on 19 November 2016. In a prelude encounter, Jamal Yunos was injured with his nose bloodied in Ampang during a filmed scuffle with the police, with Jamal shouting that he was punched by the police.[19] He later changed his statement because he was threatened by the government, claiming he was punched by a Bersih supporter.[19]

Pre-rally plans

Bersih convoy

Bersih organised a convoy of vehicles to tour parts of Peninsula Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak to disseminate information to the public about the Bersih's goals regarding institutional reforms and creating awareness about the 1MDB scandal.[20] Throughout their nationwide roadshow in Peninsula Malaysia, the Bersih convoy had to endure harassment from anti-Bersih groups such as the Red Shirts and the police.[21][22][23]

Pre-rally arrests

The Malaysian police, during their raid on Bersih's office in Petaling Jaya arrested Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah and secretariat Mandeep Singh for their part in organising the rally.[24][25] Maria Chin was charged under the Security Offences Act 2012, with the police saying that it was to prevent riots and breach of the peace and public order.[26] Ronnie Liu, an opposition leader of the Democratic Action Party was arrested as well on charges on attempting a riot.[27] Anthony Loke, another member of DAP was also arrested in an investigation on his speech calling for the removal of Prime Minister Najib.[28] S Arulchelvan, an opposition leader from Parti Sosialis Malaysia was arrested in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.[29] Another member of the Bersih committee, Hishamuddin Rais was arrested a few hours before the rally began.[30] Bersih officials have condemned the arrest as a blatant abuse of power and harassment by the authorities.[31][32]

The leader of the Red Shirts, a group opposing Bersih and their Yellow Shirt followers, Jamal Yunos was arrested a few hours before the Bersih rally began.[33]

Rally incidents

The counter-rally by the Red Shirts ended prematurely after they were unable to get past the police blockade to confront the Bersih rally-goers, with a majority of them dispersing at Padang Merbok.[34][35]


Even though the protests ended peacefully, the arrests against Bersih protestors such as People's Justice Party (Malaysia)'s Tian Chua and Zuraida Kamaruddin were conducted.[36][37]


Prime Minister

Then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who was in Tokyo, said that Malaysians should respect the law and avoid chaos and physical clashes. He also claimed that Malaysians should elect their leaders without having to protest as it was not Malaysia's culture, despite the fact that right of peaceful assembly (which Bersih exercised) is legally provided for in Malaysia.[38]

Malaysian Police

Inspector General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar stated that Bersih 5 does not fulfil the Section 10(c) and Section 11 of Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 as there was no consent letter was produced for the venue of the rally, Dataran Merdeka.[39]

Non-governmental organisations

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the spate of arrests by the government of Malaysian activists as a form of intimidation and harassment against dissent.[40][41][42]


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  2. "After Red Shirts, Now These Orange Shirts Want To Join The Anti-Bersih Bandwagon". 17 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  3. "Malaysian PM Najib warns protesters over violence ahead of demonstration". Channel NewsAsia. CNA. 17 November 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  4. "Thousands rally calling on Malaysian prime minister to quit".
  5. "7,000 police to be deployed for Bersih rally".
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  10. "Bersih 5 rally set for Nov 19". The Star. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  11. Wright, Tom (12 September 2016). "1MDB Scandal Around Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Puts Spotlight on Wife". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  12. "Editor charged in Malaysia over 1MDB coverage on eve of huge anti-government rally". 18 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  13. "Bersih 5 Five things you need to know". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  14. "Bersih 5 convoy gets warm welcome at Balai Ringin". 30 October 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  15. "Red Shirts gather to counter Bersih 5 rally". 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  16. "S'gor Umno info chief and his kids will join the red-shirts". 17 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  17. "Umno will not stop its members from joining Red Shirts group (Updated) - theSundaily". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  18. "Umno powerless to stop members from wearing red shirts". 16 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  19. "Jamal Yunos left with bloodied nose". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  20. "Bersih 5 convoy causes barely a stir in Pahang". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  21. "Sarawak Bersih convoy peaceful as there's no Umno". 11 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  22. "Man recorded hurling racist remarks at Bersih 5 convoy under investigation". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  23. "Politics could be derailing Bersih convoy in Selangor". 23 October 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  24. "Police arrest Maria Chin after Bersih raid". 18 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  25. "Bersih rally to go on, with or without Maria Chin". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  26. "Maria Chin detained under Sosma". 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  27. "Ronnie Liu arrested ahead of Bersih 5 rally". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  28. "Cops detain DAP's Anthony Loke and Ronnie Liu". 18 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  29. "PSM's Arulchelvan arrested on way to his office". 18 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  30. "Malaysia arrests activist Hishamuddin Rais as thousands join anti-govt protests". 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  31. "On Eve of Mass Protest, Malaysia Arrests Rally Leaders". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  32. Vasagar, Jeevan (18 November 2016). "Malaysian anti-corruption activist arrested on eve of rally". Financial Times. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  33. "Cops arrest Red Shirts leader Jamal Yunos". 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  34. "Red Shirts regrouping at Padang Merbok". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  35. "Red Shirts disperse, leaving Padang Merbok in a mess". 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  36. "Tian Chua and Zuraida arrested | Free Malaysia Today". Archived from the original on 8 January 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  38. "Avoid chaos, Najib says ahead of Bersih". NST Online. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  39. "IGP: Bersih 5 doesn't fulfil rules of Peaceful Assembly Act". Free Malaysia Today. 8 November 2016. Archived from the original on 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  40. "Protesters gather in Malaysia's capital for anti-government rally - The Nation". 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  41. "Malaysiakini editor charged amidst press freedom fears". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  42. "Malaysia: End crackdown on Bersih activists". 18 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
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