A renewed yearning for change
The second rally, dubbed as Bersih 2.0, organized by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) to be held is to held on 9 July 2011.The countdown has started with the authorities declaring it as illegal and warning of severe repercussions for those participating in it.
The opposition parties and other activists have vowed to send hundreds of thousands of people to join the rally whereas those backing the government have pledged to defend the present system of elections at all costs. These have created a lot of unnecessary tension, which Malaysians can do without at this time of political and economic uncertainties.
At the last Bersih rally on November 10 2007,over 40,000 people took to the streets demanding free and fair elections. The rally organized by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) was described as a great success. However after more than 3 years we are yet to see substantial changes to our electoral system towards that end.
The numerous by- elections and the recent Sarawak State elections will bear testimony to the failure of the Election Commission (EC) to meet the demands of the people. The leaders of the election watchdog itself were denied entry to observe the Sarawak elections, which can be seen as an extreme example of the impartiality of the EC. The 8 demands of Bersih, are:
- A thorough review of the electoral roll
- Reforms to the postal balloting process
- Marking voters who have cast their ballots with indelible ink
- A minimum 21 day campaign period
- Equitable access to media by participating parties
- Strengthen institutions which enforces election laws
- Eradicating electoral bribery
- Putting a stop to dirty politics.
These demands appear to be very reasonable and just but why this reluctance by the EC and the BN government to heed their call which reflects the sentiments of the vast majority of Malaysians?
It appears that the government has not learnt from the past Bersih rally of 2007.It has yet to address the 8 demands made through proper dialogue. It appears to be making the same mistake as it did in 2007 when it adopted a confrontational attitude towards the people’s march, which caused the huge losses in the elections that followed five months later.
Today we are again at the brink of another general elections, described by many as the most crucial and hotly contested elections ever, and the government is still adopting the same confrontational stance as before, little realizing that it may cause them a bigger defeat if does not change to accommodate the demands of the people.
The coming 13GE is a defining one for the BN, PR and most importantly the people as it may be the turning point in the history of the nation. It is of utmost importance that this all important elections be conducted in a manner such that the results will reflect the true wishes of the people in selecting their government for the next 5 years. The only way to do that is to ensure that the elections are free and fair, the basic prerequisites for a true democracy
In an era of civility and technological sophistication especially in the filed of communications there should be no necessity for ceramahs, mass rallies and street demonstrations to reach out to the people.They are not only a waste of money and time but carries certain risks to the security of the people.
However the blatant denial of the media and other facilities to the opposition makes such demonstrations a necessity to put their policies to the people. How are the people who disagree with the government going to reach out to the people when they are not their rights to free access to the media?
The aims of the Bersih 2.0 are to highlight the need for meaningful electoral reform and petition the Agong to step in on the matter as the EC and the government turned a deaf ear to their plea. This could have been done through the mass electronic and print media if only they were given the opportunity to do so thus making rallies unnecessary. As they have no free access to such means of communication what other choice do they have other than street demonstrations. If this is done in a peaceful and civil manner there is no reason for the government to stop them, in fact it would be unjust to do so. How else can they voice out their displeasure of the unfairness in the electoral system?
It would be wise for the EC and the government to adopt a more cordial attitude in dealing with those who disagree with them. They must learn to accommodate dissent as it is going to be the way forward with a more literate, mature and discerning populace.
The Bersih 2.0 rally is a renewed yearning for change of the people at large and it is unfortunate the government seems to be missing the point and continues to confront and not accommodate dissent. Confronting the people with threats of arrests and violence will only accelerate its premature political demise.