Anwar Ibrahim claimed the attendance for Bersih 3.0 was 300,000. Raja Petra Kamaruddin wrote that it could be 250,000 or 200,000 or 150,000 or 100,000.
One thing we learned of opposition's estimate is that their announced number tend to be a multiplication of ten by the estimated number.
On the night of Black 14 gathering on April 14, 2008 at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman, Anwar proclaimed to the crowd that the gathering that night was 15,000. We were there pretending to go along screaming, "Reformasi! Takbir! Suara Rakyat, Suara Keramat!"
One old hand at estimating crowd responded, "Nak mampus 15,000?"
His estimate was only 1,500. He explained that at full capacity the field, a football field can only take up 2,000. The crowd was only pack in front but generally sparce behind. It could be as low as 1,200.
Back to Bersih 3.0, Al Jazeera only placed it at 25,000. And immediately, they were accused as pandering to the Government censorship. Wonder what BBC estimated since they admitted being censored by Government.
Most pro-Government media or blogs put the number at between 25,000 to 35,000.
Still nevertheless a credible number than Bersih 2.0 which was around 7-8,000. Opps ... one can hear the Bersih 2.0 demonstraters, that was soaked by the water cannon, claiming the moving crowd was 25,000.
When Bersih 2.0 requested for Stadium Merdeka, initially the authorities were reluctant. Then Prime Minister, Dato Najib called their bluff and offered Stadium Merdeka.
Everyone was too consumed then to call Najib flip flop but most forgot to play up the fact that Anwar and Ambiga decay on their demand. They wanted the streets for it's dynamics, as PAS Member of Parliament, Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad described.
This time the Government offered Stadium Merdeka and they refused. They were determine to invade Dataran Merdeka. Why?
Forget the thought of repeating of Tahrir Square here. Marina Mahathir refuse to think there was such an intention. Clever and informative ... maybe lurus bendul (innocent straight arrow) would be more correct description.
The reason is by having it in a Stadium, it will be a daunting task on their part to fill it. Otherwise it looks barren and embarrassing.
See the picture above of PAS's Solat Hajat program in a closed Stadium in Shah Alam. Imagine how much of the seats were taken up during the ceramah session later. One blogger attending it did an estimated headcount of only 3-4,000.
Another reason is that by having it in a stadium, where most are usually seated and quite stationary, it is easy to estimate the crowd. So they can't spin to claim the crowd to be as much as 100,000 to 300,000.
If Bersih 3.0 was held it in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly Act in Stadium Merdeka and filled to the brim (off course, stadium authority will not allow the crowd to step on the grass), the full capacity is 45,000.
Can Bersih 3.0 crowd fill-up Stadium Merdeka?
Anwar claimed before the event that there will be 500,000 coming. Then he must need a bigger stadium. It will be a great propaganda to have a standing room only event with crowds spilling over into the Stadium parking lots.
He should have taken either the Shah Alam Stadium or the National Stadium Bukit Jalil.
Shah Alam Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium located in Shah Alam, Malaysia. It is used mostly for football matches but also has facilities for athletics. The stadium is the home of Selangor FA, and has a capacity of 80,000.
While the full capacity of National Stadium Bukit Jalil is 100,000. The Bukit Jalil's capacity makes it the 25th largest stadium in the world and the 9th largest football stadium in the world. It is also the largest stadium in Southeast Asia.
The dynamic are all there but Anwar refused. Why?
Frankly, deep inside Anwar he knows he can't fill it up. It is a daunting task to do so within few weeks of preparations. Usually, only sporting or entertainment event can fill up a stadium with such crowd.
M Nasir held a concert in Stadium Merdeka and he can't fill it up.
The game of numbers is then a question of my estimate against your estimate. Did they estimated it well?
While we were moving around, at Bangsar Putra Station, we over heard a chap claiming he saw the crowd around Dataran Merdeka as 100,000.
Did he see it from above or while standing in the pack crowd at street level? If at street level, then it is unreliable.
Let us prove it. See this picture below.
Just with your eyes, make a quick guess. 3,000? 5,000?
We've made a hypothetical box and did an estimated headcount. It is only 260 people. Supposed the crowd in the picture filled up 2 and half boxes, that is only 650 people.
Now this picture below is zoomed from a higher elevation.
Anybody wanna guess 10,000 for this crowd?
Well ... far from it!
We've done simple drawing of boxes on the crowd and one of the box gives a headcount of 120 people. That crowd only fit into about 26 boxes to give an estimated crowd of only 3,120 people.
Realised the untrained eyes can be deceiving.
Below is another one.
One opposition blog claimed this crowd marching from Jalan Sultan was 15,000 strong.
By zooming and doing headcount on one of the section and multiply by 7 sections, it is only 1,820 people. Supposed we are about 20% off in our estimate, adding that back still only increase the total to 2,184 or round off as 2,200.
There were 6 gathering points.
Supposed each gathering point managed to gather between 1,800 to 3,000 people. We then take the mid-point of 2,400. Can the total number of people gathering from the six gathering points as only 14,400?
It can't be! That's too little.
Okay we make that 15,000 and add another 5,000 of crowd slipping in from all over. That is still 20,000.
Tell us from these pictures of almost the majority of crowd already gathering that there are crowd more than 25-35,000?
Ask yourself, if the crowd can fill up Shah Alam Stadium or National Stadium Bukit Jalil? It is definitely not in the hundreds of thousand.
At best it can fill up Stadium Merdeka but not up to the top terraces.
The point is ones visual estimate is not reliable. Without aerial photos of the crowd at a particular time and familiarity with doing aerial estimates, your guess is as good as mine.
What if we say an expert gave us the number at 35,400? Is it believable now?
"Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy if possible."
Thomas J. Jackson
Satu Bahasa, Satu Bangsa, Satu Negara,
"From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage." - Alexander Fraser Tytler