Bersih 3.0: A ray of hope for all Malaysians - DON'T LET IT GO!
Have a free and fair election in the country. Is this too much to demand from UMNO-led Barisan Nasional (BN)? “The people are disenchanted that in the recently concluded Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms, despite UMNO-led BN’s repeated assurances and promises on a fair electoral process, the panel had failed to introduce significant reforms to the election system.
A model of steadfastness
Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan’s resoluteness in pushing for electoral reform in Malaysia is akin to Aung San Suu Kyi’s of Myanmar clamour for democratic reforms in Myanmar. They only differ in one way: Aung is a politician and leader of Myanmar’s democracy movement who has never abandoned her struggle for a better Myanmar and Ambiga, as BERSIH 3.0 Co-chairperson, is apolitical and her unrelenting struggle for a better Malaysia is through “push for change” - seeking for the country and its people a fair electoral process.
Ambiga has thus become a model of steadfastness for majority Malaysians.
BERSIH (the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections) will hold the BERSIH 3.0 “sit-in” on April 28th 2012, and this will take place across Malaysia and throughout the world. Assembling and expressing views peacefully are the people’s rights as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. BERSIH is thus steadfast in continuing with the struggle for clean and fair elections in the country.
Three other demands
In addition to the demands of the previous BERSIH demonstrations, BERSIH 3.0 now has three other demands:
- The Election Commission must resign, as it has failed in its responsibility and has lost the confidence of the public.
- The electoral process must be cleaned before the 13th General Elections.
- Invite international observers to observe the 13th General Elections.
The organising committee of BERSIH 3.0 has invited all Malaysians to this “sit-in” protest at Dataran Merdeka to show their support for a noble cause irrespective of to which political parties they are affiliated to.
Not an Opposition-motivated issue
BERSIH’s agenda is not an Opposition-motivated issue. Its prong is more towards seeking social and political justice in the country. For this reason, the majority feel that the protest is justified and acceptable to all Malaysians.
The people see no hidden agenda or deception here as the mass “sit in” at Dataran Merdeka will be for a good cause and will proceed as a peaceful and non-political event. According to BERSIH 3.0 organising committee, “those aligned to any political parties - BN or Pakatan - are welcome to take part in this demonstration.”
To seek a free and fair electoral process is a fundamental right of the people. This cannot be considered as against the rule of law in a democracy. The decency here is to ensure that any government that is given the mandate to rule must abide by the law and see to it that the electoral process is free and fair.
The “sit in” is therefore seen as a judicious effort to make certain that those in power make a serious effort to have a free and fair election in the country.
When the discussion table fails because of self-interests of those in power, the peace-loving people will naturally resort to the street to let go their gripes. This is not to usurp the rule of law but to tip off those in power that the people have all the right to a free and fair election.
No desire to break the law
The thousands of people who thronged the streets during the BERSIH 2.0 “Walk for Democracy” did not demonstrate against the law but for the law. They were obviously not devoid of common sense. They were rational and represented the people of Malaysia who were let down by the government.
The country cannot claim to have laws and rules when these edicts are merely confined to prints on papers.
Malaysians, for that matter, have no desire to break the laws or rules but they want to solemnly declare to those in power that there are some basic human rights of the people that they should not ignore. In this case, it is the right of all Malaysians to express their discontent in order to seek free and fair election.
To the majority, the choice of Dataran Merdeka is apt for this event. It has a historical significance and is a public place for anyone to assemble there serenely. The authority should co-operate with the peaceful demonstrators to guarantee a smooth and incident-free assemblage. The right of the people to gather peacefully to express their objections is enshrined in the constitution and this is a democratic freedom.
No one disappointed with UMNO-led BN is going to tell the people to break the law by resorting to violence to intimidate the government. Malaysians in general do respect rules and the legal structure of the country.
When all democratic avenues to express their frustrations are closed to them and the government becomes too arrogant thinking that “power is might”, the masses on their part have the right to edify them through peaceful protests.
It is remarkable that BERSIH 3.0 is fervidly trying to hold the “sit in” at Dataran Merdeka even when the authorities are adamantly denying them the rights to do so. Respect is always mutual. The people will respect the authorities if it is reciprocated with tolerance, care and understanding.
UMNO-led government must first walk the talk if they want BERSIH 3.0 to be called off. There must be concrete assurance that electoral reforms will take place before the next general election.
The 8 demands by the BERSIH 2.0 must be met before the next federal polls:
- Clean the electoral roll
- Reform postal ballot
- Use of indelible ink
- Minimum 21 days campaign period
- Free and fair access to media
- Strengthen public institutions
- Stop corruption
- Stop dirty politics
Allegedly, only 1 of the 8 demands was addressed by the authority on the demand for electoral reforms after proposal was presented in Parliament by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC).
And it is for this reason Malaysians feel that there has to be a show of peaceful protests until the electoral process is completely clean.
To support for a just electoral process
Apparently, the people see no ambiguity in this “sit in” as well as the two previous demonstrations organised by BERSIH. BERSIH is not the vehicle of any political organisation. It’s a platform for those who believe in true democracy. As for BERSIH 3.0 seeking for a democratic electoral process the protestors have all decided to have a mass “sit in” in a peaceful manner to clearly give the government the message that there must be an electoral clean-up before they could call for the next general elections.
The protestors will not be there to kindle the support for the Opposition or the incumbent government, but to visibly back for a just electoral process.
Neither will they be there to incite the people to hate the government. But, if the present government were to collapse in the next general elections it must be because of their own culpability.
Majority Malaysians feel that there is truth in the incessant contempt that the electoral process is not fair.
As reported, Ong Kian Ming, an academician in a local university has just created a special project called MERAP (Malaysia Electoral Roll Analysis Project) and has come up with numerous allegations about the discrepancies in the electoral roll. BERSIH 3.0 has all the reason to protest also based on other evidence of discrepancies in the electoral process gathered from dependable sources.
The UMNO-led government has to concede to BERSIH’s 3.0 demands before the 13th election takes place to secure victory.
Bersih 3.0 is obviously not a dubious entity. It has about 81 NGOs under its umbrella and thousands of individual supporters. It is not an organisation that belongs to Ambiga, but the people at large who cherish democracy.
Influence is felt beyond the borders of Malaysia
Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan is the daughter of Datuk Dr G Sreenevasan - one of the pioneer urologists in the country. She served as the President of the Malaysian Bar Council from 2007 to 2009. She holds a LLB (Hons) in law from the University of Exeter, England. In July 2011, she was conferred honorary doctorate in law by her alma mater.
She was also one of eight recipients of the US Secretary of State “International Women of Courage” Award in 2009. In the ceremony, the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke:
“Ambiga Sreenevasan, has a remarkable record of accomplishment in Malaysia. She has pursued judicial reform and good governance, she has stood up for religious tolerance, and she has been a resolute advocate of women’s equality and their full political participation. She is someone who is not only working in her own country, but whose influence is felt beyond the borders of Malaysia. And it is a great honour to recognise her …. “
Marc Barety, the ambassador of France to Malaysia, granted the Legion of Honour insignia to Ambiga in 23 September 2011. She was recognised for her contributions to the human rights defence.
A ray of hope for all Malaysians
Amiga has vigorously attempted to find legal solutions to issues that continue to generate inter-ethnic tensions and constitutional problems in the country and in the course of her efforts she has received numerous threats and protests from those not happy with her gallant mission. She is unwavering and faces every adversity with honourable geste, though.
In her speech when receiving the US Secretary of State “International Women of Courage” Award in 2009, she captivated the crowd with her acumens on human rights and social justice:
“… Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This means that although we may come from different walks of life, our struggle is common. And each success is a success for all, just as each failure is a failure for all. When we unite on a human rights platform, whether domestically or internationally, above politics and political alliances, we create more enduring partnerships and relationships. When we pursue freedom and empowerment for others, we reaffirm and protect our own.”
“With Ambiga’s sacrifice, there is a ray of hope for all Malaysians. The wind of change can now be felt by all Malaysians,” said a senior UMNO member and a former Cabinet minister who supports BERSIH 3.0.