Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bersih3.0 and the clamor for change




The first Bersih rally held on 10 November2007 saw over 40,000 people from all walks of life taking to the streets of Kuala Lumpur demanding for fair, free and clean elections. The rally organized by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) reflected the people’s yearning for change. However after more than 3 years on we did not see any substantial changes to our electoral system towards that end as the Barisan Nasional(BN) government did not take the calls by the people seriously. This lackadaisical attitude towards the demands by the people led to the second rally, Bersih 2.0 on 9 July 2011.
  
Bersih 2.0 was a great success as despite being declared illegal, the tightened security, extensive police road blocks and threatening tactics, the people came out in droves, braving the high handed  and brutal tactics of the police to defy the ban and demand for something simple and basic rights of every citizen – a free and clean elections.

The eight demands of Bersih 2.0 were:
  • 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 were very reasonable and just but the Election Commission (EC) and the BN government refused to heed the calls of Bersih2.0 which reflected the sentiments of the vast majority of Malaysians. Due to tremendous pressure, from the opposition and in particular non-political civil rights groups, the government finally set up the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) to study the proposals and recommend electoral reforms. Regrettably after months of deliberations only one of the demands, the least important of them, use of indelible ink was accepted. All other 7 demands were not acted upon accordingly. 

The more important issues of alleged fraudulent electoral roll, phantom voters, sudden unexplained surge in voters in selected areas, fair access to the media and abuse of government machinery by the ruling party remain unresolved. The new allegation of large number of foreigners being given citizenship and voting rights is a serious one that must be addressed and rectified immediately. Otherwise it would be a mockery of the democratic process that allows foreigners to elect our government.

As time was running out and it was clear that the expected electoral changes will not materialize before the elections, the people had no choice but to proceed with another public rally to re-demand for reforms to be implemented before the elections due to be held by March 2013.They want to impress the government of the urgency and seriousness of the flaws in the election system. They are fearful that the wishes to elect the government of their choice will be marred by this unfair system in place. 

The country is at the crossroads and the people have to decide its course as this is the first time in history they have a genuine choice for an alternative government in the form of the Pakatan Rakyat. The BN government of 54 years is straddled with major scandals involving mega corruptions and power abuses which the people at large are fed up. The people’s calls for change and reforms go unheeded. The people want a change and the sentiment on the ground for that change is gaining momentum which the BN is fearful and is resorting to all means to arrest that growing clamor for change. Instead of showing seriousness and sincerity in introducing reforms by engaging the people, the BN is adopting a confrontational stance and resorting to unwarranted tactics to gain the support of the people. 

When all attempts to remain in power seem to be failing the BN is resorting to abusing the electoral process to its advantage. This could have worked before but not today with the increasing maturity of the people and highly facilitated communications. Facts cannot be suppressed anymore. It is now a battle between the people versus an incumbent government of more than half a century. Who will come out as the winner in this most crucial 13GE which is being described as the Mother of all elections? The people may not win this time but they will not be losers either as history has shown they will be the winners finally.  

This Bersih3.0 is not about politicians or political parties. It is not about the EC, police, DBKL or any other government agencies. Instead it is about ordinary Malaysians who want to show the authorities that they are the real masters of their country. They want to exercise the power vested on them to elect the government of their choice freely and fairly without fear, favor or harassment from any parties. They want to be given full freedom to vote in the people they choose. Is it wrong for the people to claim their constitutional rights which they fear are being robbed from them?

Bersih3.0 is just the beginning in our clamor for change where we demand for a clean and fair election. More important is what we do at the 13GE that comes next. Let us not take for granted the power invested in us as citizens, the power of our vote. Let us not trade in that vote for anything else. Let us join hands to make the difference and together vote to make Malaysia a better place for all Malaysians regardless of race, creed or political affiliation.






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