If you haven’t the time or inclination to read through this post in its entirety, please go to http://www.invokemalaysia.org
So, Bersih 5.0 is just days away.
Yes, of course, I will be there.
What next, though?
This question has been on my mind since the rally was first announced.
In August, 2013, after the fatigue and disappointment of the 13th GE had eased somewhat, the ABU Strategic Evaluation and Advancement Team (SEAT) got down to the task of undertaking a post-mortem of all that we had done in the run-up to the 13th GE to identify what we had got right, where we had gone wrong and, most importantly, the way forward.
A market research company that was sympathetic to the ABU cause gave us feedback on the materials that were distributed, especially in the rural areas.
They were very good, but unfortunately, print material are less effective than DVDs.
Our kampong folk, it would seem, don’t take to reading.
More importantly, our material did not focus on localised issues. In other words, the message cannot be a ‘one-shirt-fits-all’. It had to be tailored to fit the local sentiment.
Then our strategic sifu hit us with this.
Yes, UMNO/BN only garnered 47% of the votes cast, but to win the simplest of majorities, only 20% of the votes cast was required for them to win 112 seats.
Such was the extent of the gerrymandering and malapportionment that left our whole electoral process so skewered in favour of the ruling UMNO/BN regime.
In September, 2013, even as the SEAT worked to device a new strategy, I wrote in my “If you were leading ABU” post to ask for guidance on how you thought we should move forward.
By December, 2013, SEAT had worked out its strategy.
Marginalised seats won by UMNO/BN in the 13th GE in Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak had been identified. Sabah and Sarawak were beyond our reach so we would only be able to focus on Malaya.
I approached several opposition politicians and put the plan to them.
They promised to get back to me.
They did not.
By, then, there was already talk of PR disintegrating. They had more pressing matters to attend to.
“Obama the marginal seats”.
Go to the ground and identify the UMNO/BN voters in those marginal seats. And then take a concerted message of change to them.
This was, however, going to require huge financial and manpower resources.
And a high level of strategic expertise that we did not have.
On 1st March, 2014, in my “ABU needs you on our road to take Putrajaya” post, I wrote : “The Strategic Evaluation & Advancement Team (SEAT) has done its work and put in place its blueprint.Now we need you to get involved and take ownership of this effort. Yes, we need you to step forward and to volunteer your time and your effort towards establishing a pro-rakyat regime in Putrajaya.What qualifications are required? First, love for your country and her people. Second, a desire to see reforms introduced so that we can hope to see the end of the marginalisation of more than 40% of the rakyat. How much time would you be required to give? Whatever time you can spare. Do you have to be in Kuala Lumpur? No, we require volunteers everywhere. If you are ready to work with ABU, fill in your details by accessing the application form HERE and after you have filled in your details, click the SUBMIT button in the form”.
Sadly, we did not get the requisite response.
Then, in late October this year, a message was whatsapped to me. It was purported to have been penned by Rafizi Ramli and dated 23rd October, 2016, inviting all and sundry to a fund raising dinner on 11th November, 2016.. Not sure if it was actually authored by him, I messaged Rafizi to ask if it was in fact his message.
He confirmed that it was.
I reproduce the relevant parts of that message below.
APPEAL TO MALAYSIANS: HOW TO WIN MARGINAL SEATS?
Dear friends, Malaysians who yearn for change,
Over the years, the most commonly asked question is: what hope do we have when we cannot penetrate the rural and semi-urban seats where Malay votes are dominant?
I spent the last 7 years at the forefront of opposition politics. I crafted #bukujingga in order to boost public’s confidence in our policy credentials. Together with Tony Pua Wong Chen Ong Kian Ming Liew Chin Tong Dr Dzulkifly Ahmad and many others, year after year we presented an alternative budget. We spent a good two years refining the last election’s manifesto aptly named “Pakatan Harapan Rakyat”.
Yet we still miss the mark. In some states Malay support for opposition was as low as 15% (Johor in GE13). Nationally Pakatan Rakyat suffered a drop in Malay support thus preventing us from winning key marginal constituencies in Johor, Perak, Pahang, Kedah and Kelantan.
I have very limited time left. In all likelihood, I am not going to be around when GE14 is called. The OSA charge’s verdict will be delivered on 14 November 2016, about 3 weeks from now. (For the record, I was charged with disclosing Auditor General’s Report linking 1MDB to Army’s Pension Fund).
Under the OSA, the charge carries a minimum compulsory jail sentence of 1 year and a maximum of 7 years.
I expect the worst and the appeal process to be quick as well, judging how quick they have concluded my trial.
In all likelihood, I may not be around (outside) by February 2017.
Given all these converging circumstances, I am in a unique position. With a near certainty of going to prison, I can free myself from the party and partisan’s bureaucracy to do the one thing that many other cannot do before or now. Given that I have nothing to lose now that I had nearly lost everything anyway, I can throw whatever I have to make this one thing works.
What is this one thing that is so crucial to answer the most commonly asked question of getting Malay votes?
The campaign for change has to be brought to the doorsteps of the Malay masses in kampung and towns. It has to go beyond the partisan line and blind to party loyalty so as to rope in as many people as possible irrespective of their party allegiance.
We have seen a glimpse of people’s power when common people are mobilised beyond partisan’s line, as hundreds of thousands of people joined BERSIH rallies in the past. But what matters more is mobilising as many as 50,000 people actively on the ground every month from now on until GE14 to work on marginal seats.
This can only happen by way of mobilising a large army of volunteers from all walks of life. They knock doors every weekend irrespective of what the political climate is. These volunteers collect feedback from voters from their doorsteps encounters which then is fed back into an analytical system running on a server to find commonalities. These commonalities help us understand what motivate them to vote for change, so that we can tailor our messages to suit their emotive perspective.
This cannot be done by a political party because by nature, a political party excludes rather than includes.
For this purpose, I have set up a full time, professional campaign team that will run the non-partisan campaign for change around the clock backed by the best technology and digital marketing available.
You can find more information about them at http://www.invokemalaysia.org
I have put in RM500,000 of my own life saving in order to get it off the ground. In return, I have managed to persuade a group of highly talented, multiracial, multi-background and highly educated young Malaysians to take a one year break from their career to focus on doing this.
We have completed Phase I of the #ProjekBuangNajib i.e. establishing the infrastructure and system, liaison with political parties (leaders from PKR, DAP, AMANAH and BERSATU have all been briefed and attended Partnership4Change program), filling up key leadership positions, getting the right expertise for the tasks.
We are now into Phase II of #ProjekBuangNajib – scaling up the operation to land full time Field Coordinators at marginal constituencies. Our Field Coordinators will recruit volunteers locally and manage out-of-town volunteers to match them with the most effective use of their time. He/She will lead door to door canvassing on weekly basis.
For this to happen, we need funds to pay for Field Coordinators. The initial estimate is we need 30 Field Coordinators (for 30 marginal constituencies) at RM2,500 per month. That means RM75,000 a month. If GE14 is to be held in March 2017, we need to employ Field Coordinators for at least 6 months i.e. payroll cost of RM450,000.
Hence this appeal to all Malaysians who yearn for change.
Last Friday, I attended that fund raising dinner.
I had the privilege of listening to two Members of Parliament, Wong Chen and Rafizi Ramli.
What they shared was sheer music to my ears.
Who was leading the strategic planning of this initiative?
Andrew Claster, the Deputy Chief Analytics of the Obama 2012 reelection campaign!!!
Target voters in marginal seats with information tailored to address local concerns, with a view to engineering a 6-8% swing in votes, aiming to capture at least 30 marginal seats.
What we hoped to jumpstart in 2014 and failed, Rafizi and his amazing team of volunteers, led by a member of Obama’s own campaign team, had gotten off the ground.
Rafizi announced at the dinner that they will need at least 40,000 volunteers to achieve the objectives of this effort : get rid of Najib and UMNO/BN.
And its going to require substantial funds.
Friends, please look around you.
The opposition is in disarray.
Bersih aside, there seems little else coming from NGOs and civil society generally that has a viable gameplan to bring about the change that we have all been pushing for.
And in Rafizi, I believe we have a leader who has demonstrated an uncompromising stance in the pursuit of a fair and just, and transparent government, sacrificing much personally in the process.
He has my respect and trust.
I shall be contacting Rafizi directly to offer to help this effort in any capacity that they feel I may be of use.
I am appealing to all those who worked with me on the ABU and the Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia efforts and to you reading this now to step forward and volunteer to work in this INVOKE initiative.
To those who cannot give their time, please help to contribute with funds.
Please help to share this with as many of your family, friends and colleagues.
Let us all unite behind this effort and save this our beloved nation.