I have a date on April 28: Bersih 3.0, rain or shine - I’m going to walk this time!
I am very excited to hear that we are going to have another Bersih rally at the end of this month. As expected, the Election Commission has turned down our demands to implement some electoral reforms before the next general election, which will be Malaysia's 13th and is due soon.
We have given EC more than enough time – 9 months to be exact and most of the reforms asked for by Bersih 2.0, the free and fair polls movement, do not need to go through Parliament for approval.
Good, now we have a valid reason to come out to the streets again and exercise our constitutional rights collectively as matured Malaysian citizens of all creeds and ethnicity. It is good to hold simultaneous rallies in all major towns in the country on the same day, not just in Kuala Lumpur alone. Do it also in Penang, Ipoh, Johor Baru or Kota Kinabalu, just to show our incumbent government that we want electoral reforms. We are serious about electoral reforms!
Malaysians residing overseas will also be pitching in at rallies in their places of reside, just like what they did for Bersih 2.0. Let the voice of Bersih Malaysia or Clean up Malaysia reverberate from New York to Sydney!
Our former prime minister said rallies are not part of Malaysian culture. Of course we have proven him wrong a few times and he must be foaming at the mouth right now. Look at the interests and intensities generated by Bersih 1.0, Hindraf, Bersih 2.0 and the recent Himpunan Hijau 2.0. Thousands and thousands of Malaysians poured onto the streets of Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan despite threats from the police. In the end, the whole world saw what happened during those rallies – thanks to Al Jazeera and CNN. That is the power of modern communications and the Internet!
Many people, especially those from the older generation, still harbor some fear of reprisals. Auntie Bersih changed all that by coming out for Bersih 2.0 on July 9, 2011. She was soaked from head to toe by acid water but she walked on. We also have Pak Samad - an octagenarian- who walked all the way to the King’s palace to hand over Bersih's memorandum but was turned away.
Of course there are some who do not want to rock the boat. They already have a roof over their heads, a nice car to drive around, three square meals a day and comfortable jobs. In the end they chose to stay at home to relax or go shopping and let others do the battle for them even though they are equally affected by the bad governance of the present regime in one way or another.
Corruption is getting rampant in all spheres of our daily lives, racial and religious tensions are reaching boiling point, our public institutions are crumbling one by one, oil price increases, toll rate rises, utilities rate hikes – please don’t tell me you guys are not affected!
Come on folks, don’t be so selfish and timid, times have changed. Rallies, once taboo in previous decades, have increasingly become a trend now, especially among the younger Malaysians. Today we are wiser and braver in voicing out our unhappiness. Show the authorities that you want a clean and fair election. Why participate in a general election that everyone know is tainted?
If we do not wish to see Indonesians, Filipinos, Burmese, Vietnamese, Bangladeshis and China nationals queuing alongside with us on polling day and masquerading themselves as Malaysians voters, come out and join us on the streets! Do not just sit at home and complain. This won’t get you anywhere.
So see you on April 28 at 2pm. It's a Saturday.
I had missed Bersih 2.0 because my child was ill that day but this time, I will not miss it for anything. My yellow Bersih T-shirt is ready and so too are my walking shoes. Despite being discouraged by friends who fear for my safety (it seems a woman should not participate in rallies but stay at home or so they say, I am going ahead with my plans to walk.
I am not intimidated by tear gas, acid water or police batons. Chase us, frighten us, spray us, kick us if you must but I am going to walk on. And I know exactly why I am going to do it. It is for my children and their children. They deserve a better Malaysia –if we do not act now, when? If we don't act for them - who will?
So let's make a date on April 28. Let’s color our beloved country yellow again!
Here are the eight demands of Bersih 2.0 to refresh us lest we forget:-
1. Clean the electoral roll
The electoral roll is marred with irregularities such as deceased persons and multiple persons registered under a single address or non-existent addresses. The electoral roll must be revised and updated to wipe out these ‘phantom voters’. The rakyat have a right to an electoral roll that is an accurate reflection of the voting population.
In the longer term, BERSIH 2.0 also calls for the EC to implement an automated voter registration system upon eligibility to reduce irregularities.
2. Reform postal ballot
The current postal ballot system must be reformed to ensure that all citizens of Malaysia are able to exercise their right to vote. Postal ballot should not only be open for all Malaysian citizens living abroad, but also for those within the country who cannot be physically present in their voting constituency on polling day. Police, military and civil servants too must vote normally like other voters if not on duty on polling day.
The postal ballot system must be transparent. Party agents should be allowed to monitor the entire process of postal voting.
3. Use of indelible ink
Indelible ink must be used in all elections. It is a simple, affordable and effective solution in preventing voter fraud. In 2007, the EC decided to implement the use of indelible ink. However, in the final days leading up to the 12th General Elections, the EC decided to withdraw the use of indelible ink citing legal reasons and rumors of sabotage.
BERSIH 2.0 demands for indelible ink to be used for all the upcoming elections. Failure to do so will lead to the inevitable conclusion that there is an intention to allow voter fraud.
4. Minimum 21 days campaign period
The EC should stipulate a campaign period of not less than 21 days. A longer campaign period would allow voters more time to gather information and deliberate on their choices. It will also allow candidates more time to disseminate information to rural areas. The first national elections in 1955 under the British Colonial Government had a campaign period of 42 days but the campaign period for 12th GE in 2008 was a mere 8 days.
5. Free and fair access to media
It is no secret that the Malaysian mainstream media fails to practice proportionate, fair and objective reporting for political parties of all divide. BERSIH 2.0 calls on the EC to press for all media agencies, especially state-funded media agencies such as Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM) and Bernama to allocate proportionate and objective coverage for all political parties.
6. Strengthen public institutions
Public institutions must act independently and impartially in upholding the rule of law and democracy. Public institutions such as the Judiciary, Attorney-General, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC), Police and the EC must be reformed to act independently, uphold laws and protect human rights.
In particular, the EC must perform its constitutional duty to act independently and impartially so as to enjoy public confidence. The EC cannot continue to claim that they have no power to act, as the law provides for sufficient powers to institute a credible electoral system.
7. Stop corruption
Corruption is a disease that has infected every aspect of Malaysian life. BERSIH 2.0 and the rakyat demand for an end to all forms of corruption. Current efforts to eradicate corruption are mere tokens to appease public grouses. We demand that serious action is taken against ALL allegations of corruption, including vote buying.
8. Stop dirty politics
Malaysians are tired of dirty politics that has been the main feature of the Malaysian political arena. We demand for all political parties and politicians to put an end to gutter politics. As citizens and voters, we are not interested in gutter politics; we are interested in policies that affect the nation.