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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ambiga schools Dr M on nation's real foes


"Corruption, abuse of power, destruction of fundamental institutions, erosion of human rights, racism and extremism... Do you want me to go on?" asked S Ambiga.
          
Responding to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former Bersih chairperson said the elements mentioned above, and not street protests, are what cause instability in a nation.

"And as far as Malaysia is concerned, these are the factors that have caused and are causing instability," Ambiga added.

Without the slightest doubt, Ambiga told Malaysiakini, Mahathir and the Election Commission (EC) are aware that elections are not free and fair in Malaysia.

"They know what the people want, but they lack confidence (of winning) if the election is free and fair.

"It is they who are destroying democracy, and you can quote me on this in the strongest possible terms," said the lawyer, who has led two mammoth Bersih rallies in the past.

Form RCI on GE13

Challenging the government to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the last general election if it felt that the contest was free and fair, Ambiga argued that holding elections does not mean that true democracy exists.

In his latest blog posting, Mahathir trained his guns on the Bersih rallies when expressing his views on the perils of street demonstrations.

Among others, he accused Bersih of organising the rallies, which clogged the major arteries of Kuala Lumpur and drew international attention, to discredit and topple the government.

However, Ambiga reminded Mahathir that street demonstrations are a fundamental right, provided for by the Federal Constitution.

"How can anyone say a fundamental right creates instability?

"Street demonstrations allow citizens to vent their views in between elections, and is practised in healthy democracies," she added.

The former Bar Council president said she agreed with Mahathir that a change in government should come through the ballot box.

"It was never Bersih's intention to bring about a change in government through street protests and we have always stressed that we believe in peaceful protests.

"But on that note, change through the ballot box can only take place if elections are free and fair," she added.

Ambiga also said the Bersih People's Tribunal, set up to look into the last general election, came up with a damning indictment on the elections.

"People want to bring change through the ballot box. They want to work within the system, but when the system is so unfair, what do you expect the people to do?" she asked.

Disappointed but not surprised

Meanwhile, current Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah said she is disappointed with Mahathir’s comments but not surprised.

According to her, attempting to quell critical voices has always been the former prime minister's modus operandi.

Like Ambiga, Maria also reminded Mahathir that freedom to assemble is enshrined in the constitution.

"We recognise that there should be limitations to freedoms, for example there should be no hate speeches. But these limitations must adhere to international standards.

"The limitations cannot be based on the criteria of wanting to stifle dissent or views that the powers that be do not agree with," she told Malaysiakini.

Maria also noted that time and again, Mahathir, BN leaders and their demagogues have accused Bersih of attempting to overthrow the government.

"I wish to challenge that accusation. Governments come and go, that is a democracy.

"But when you hear something critical, you should not immediately brand it as an attempt to overthrow the government

"Even if Pakatan Rakyat comes to power, we will also be critical if something is not right," she added.

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