BERSIH comes into existence following the formation of the Joint Action Committee for Electoral Reform in July 2005, and the coalition’s objective is to push for a thorough reform of the electoral process in Malaysia. And so we now know or have known for all these years,that democracy in Malaysia, while being celebrated is perceived to have been achieved and sustained through unfair electoral practices. Hence reformation of the existing process is overdue.
Before thinking aloud I would like to list out the eight demands of BERSIH:
1. Clean the electoral roll, which is marred with irregularities such as deceased persons and multiple persons registered under a single address or non-existent addresses. 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, to ensure that all citizens of Malaysia, residing in or out of the country, are able to exercise their right to vote.
3. Use of indelible ink to reduce voter fraud.
4. Minimum 21 days campaign period to allow voters more time to gather information and deliberate on their choices. 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, where all media agencies, especially state-funded media agencies such as Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM) and Bernama allocate proportionate and objective coverage for all political parties.
6. Strengthen public institutions to 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 uphold laws and protect human rights.
7. Stop corruption, and take serious action against ALL allegations of corruption, including vote buying.
8. Stop dirty politics, as citizens and voters are not interested in gutter politics; we are interested in policies that affect the nation.
Truly folks, after reading each of the demands, I thought they are quite fair and all democracy-loving Malaysians should support them. And why then the need for a major street rally for the expression of these reasonable “requests”? Obviously people are not happy or satisfied when their “suggestions or recommendations” are not acted upon by the authorities concerned.By having this rally the activists seek to create greater awareness among the public as to their rights for a fairer electoral process. No brainer in that and yet…. and yet..
And yet why are there oppositions to this “noble” intention? Why do PERKASA the Malay Rights Group and the UMNO youth led by KJ also want to have rallies to counter that of BERSIH 2.0? I think most of us know why. In a country with a multi-racial make-up, it is not abnormal to have political suspicion for that grasp on the economic and power cake. It is all about “CAKE” people.
For PERKASA and UMNO youth to have simultaneous rallies on the same date,is a sure fodder for chaos due to their vested racial and political interests. How could respective organisers control their hundreds of supporters, some of whom could be understandably emotional? In the end the melee will confuse the whole noble intention of BERSIH. I would surmise that many of the former two organisations’ supporters would deem BERSIH as their enemies while in actual fact what the latter wants to do is to fight for fairness for all as what they say, “Only when elections are clean and fair, can citizens be real masters of their own destiny and expect holders of public office to act accountably and effectively.”
In this day and age where information be it digital,audio and visual is transmitted in real times to the global audience, any force used by the enforcement authorities against the peaceful demonstrators will paint a black picture of Malaysia. As it is BERSIH has already organised, on the same date, rallies in world capitals in USA,Korea,Japan, Australia on this electoral reforms issues. Peaceful demonstrations and the rights to assembly are now basic to the sustenance of a civil society. Like it or not, these parameters will be the natural building blocks of a true democracy.
It so happens that enlightened people are those who read, are analytical and interact a lot in socio-political discourses and we know generally who these people are, the noble intention of procuring a cleanly-derived democracy is wracked based on suspicion. Our great grandchildren will shake their heads when they read this portion of our history.
Only an immature society reeked with racial divide and deep-set suspicion will not tolerate virtual impartiality. Such a society is also scared of its own ghost.
BERSIH, (an apolitical body?), should be allowed to demonstrate peacefully for their conviction and Malaysia needs to move forward with confidence and dignity.