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Thread: BERSIH 2.0 RALLY: Analysis

   
   
       
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    BERSIH 2.0 RALLY: Analysis

    Najib has clearly declared: Let the issue be decided at the ballot box. So be it.

    If we want "Free and Fair Elections", we have to get rid of UMNO by the next elections!


    The political impact of Bersih 2.0

    July 20, 2011

    The BN is still haemorrhaging from the Sarawak state election of April 16, where it lost the urban vote. Bersih 2.0 shows a continuing slide.
    COMMENT

    By Johan Saravanamuttu



    The repercussions of Bersih 2.0 will no doubt be profound. It has already been dubbed as Malaysia’s “Hibiscus Revolution”. The question that is now uppermost in the public imagination is whether the current government will also suffer a severe blow for its inept handling of the event.
    Bersih started out in 2006 as a movement of civil society forces and political parties calling for clean and fair elections. Its demands for cleaning up the electoral rolls, reviewing postal votes, including allowing for voting from abroad, fair access to the media, the elimination of corrupt practices are nothing radical or revolutionary and yet the government’s resistance to it has allowed the opposition parties and those not in support of the present government to easily latch on to a ready-made platform for galvanising support.

    Bersih’s first political rally on Nov 10, 2007 saw some 40,000 Malaysian streaming into the heart of Kuala Lumpur, setting a benchmark for peaceful political protest in Malaysia.

    On July 9, 2011 almost the same number of demonstrators were out in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, as estimated by the independent “politweet”, despite a ban on the rally and police roadblocks at every point of entry into KL. If the political impact of Bersih 1.0 on the general election of March 2008 is now axiomatic, would Bersih 2.0 have a similar impact on the next general election?

    It is important to first understand the character of the rally itself. The outpouring of material on the social media and through social networking websites reached proportions which, in my view, have been unprecedented and have not stopped. At the point of writing, over 200,000 facebookers have called on premier Najib Tun Razak to resign. The webpage has picked up 20,000 votes or more in one day.

    The people who showed up at Bersih 2.0 came from a cross-section of Malaysia’s multicultural society, with Malays and youth as the dominant groups. This spoke well for the continuation of the trajectory of Malaysia’s non-racialised “new politics”. The involvement of national literary laureate A Samad Said who wrote a touching poem about Malaysia’s “wounded democracy” was highly inspiring to the would-be Bersih rallyers.
    Various attempts made to delegitimise Bersih by Umno-related groups had a counter-productive effect. Thus it was alleged that it would be “unIslamic” for Muslims to participate in an illegal rally. The bogey of May 13 was also invoked and the Chinese were asked to stock up on food and stay at home. Such racialisation of the event by Perkasa and the Malay paper Utusan Malaysia helped to further augment multiracial supporters on the other side. The lame counter march of a couple of hundreds of Umno Youth “patriots” proved to be the proverbial drop in the bucket in terms of its impact.

    The event received a crucial boost when Suhakam chairman Hasmy Agam weighed in to opine that it was legitimate. Najib had called for the rally to be held at a stadium and the organisers obliged after meeting with the King but the police were adamant about not giving a permit for use of the Merdeka Stadium.

    The heavy-handed action on the part of the police – some 1,700 arrests, heavy use of tear gas, water cannons, and some argue, responsibility for one death – has put the government in a no-win situation vis-à-vis the common Malaysian citizen.
    BN in damage control mode

    In public imagination, Bersih 2.0 would stand out even more than Bersih 1. Already folklore about Bersih has gone “viral” on the Internet. A few examples should suffice. “The Lady of Liberty”, an elderly woman well into her 60s, who braved the water cannons, holding a branch with two daisies has been reproduced ad infinitum in multiple incarnations and web designs.

    Numerous individuals present at the rally have written first-hand accounts to show why as ordinary citizens their participation was a morally and socially uplifting experience. Not least of all, Marina Mahathir, the daughter of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the patron of Perkasa, wrote in her blog that she had gone to participate in the Bersih rally in support of her daughter and all the young people who were drawn to the cause.
    Admittedly, Bersih 2.0 is largely an urban phenomenon. But this is not to be taken lightly, if urbanites are fast becoming the voting majority. The prime minister and his ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, are now in damage control mode.

    The BN is still haemorrhaging from the Sarawak state election of April 16, where it lost the urban vote. Bersih 2.0 shows a continuing slide. Umno’s vote banks in the rural areas alone cannot assure it of regaining a two-thirds control of Parliament – which Najib must get to prove he is better than his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

    The premier is now surely conflicted about waiting out till the mandatory date for the next election in early 2013 or holding it much earlier in 2012. Another difficult budget awaits in October this year and with the Malaysian economy invariably on the verge of a dip, prospects are somewhat dim for the ruling coalition.

    Larger than the issue of the next general election, which would now likely to be in early 2012, is the changing nature of Malaysian politics. Political parties like his, which continue to mobilise support purely on the basis of race, after Bersih 2.0, are on a short political tether.
    The writer is senior visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. The article first appeared on Aliran. http://aliran.com/6077.html
    py

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    "But while one man standing in the road is a nuisance, a mere distraction, 10 men standing together are far harder to ignore. And if those 10 become 100, a thousand, a million, a billion even, they become a force so big, so strong and so united in their common cause that those who espouse hatred will face a very simple choice." : Prime Minister Najib Razak's Oxford speech - 17th May 2011

    Thursday, July 14, 2011
    Bersih – my final thoughts

    By Art Harun

    “Wise men profits more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.” – Cato the Elder (234 BC – 149 BC) from Plutarch, Lives.

    In my opinion, the biggest mistake that the government had made in the Bersih issue was to isolate a large section of the society from itself, anger them and convert them into a Bersih sympathiser and/or supporter.

    At some point of time before the Bersih rally – in my opinion it was about the time Pak Samad Said was hauled to the police station – the Bersih movement had transcended its electoral reform objective into a full scale platform for the people to vent their frustrations, disappointments, angst and anger to the government.

    To put it crassly, from that point of time, Bersih became a platform for many people to show their middle finger to the government, for whatever personal reason(s) they may have.

    All the government had to do in the early days of Bersih 2.0 was to deal with Bersih and its demands. The demands were not about the escalating inflation and price of household items; not about Teoh Beng Hock or Sarbaini; not about corruption; not about electricity rate hike; not about Astro price hike; not about the police, MACC or whichever agency.

    The demands were just about a fair and just election or what was perceived by Bersih as such. That was it. It was politically related but not politically motivated. (For the uninitiated, there is a difference between the two). The fact that some opposition political parties were in solidarity with Bersih did not demote Bersih into a political party with the inevitable and attendant political baggage.

    The premise of Bersih was an idea, a thought. The idea was our election process is not fair. The resulting conclusion from that idea was that our electoral process needs reform or at least a change. That was all.

    Being an idea, or a thought, Bersih operates and infects the masses insidiously. It is in their head that the idea is planted. It is not in their behaviour. A Bersih sympathiser or supporter, with the said planted idea, would not act in a way an Al-Qaeda member would. He or she was not going to strap C4 around his or her body, go to the mall on a Sunday, and buy the proverbial ticket to heaven by blowing himself or herself up.

    Planted with that idea, a Bersih sympathiser or supporter would try to convince others that that idea was correct. That idea will infest and continue to infest.

    The wearing of yellow t-shirts with the word Bersih was just a way or means employed by carrier of such idea to make known that he or she subscribed to that idea to the open world.

    The yellow t-shirts were not even a manifestation of the idea which he or she carried. With or without the yellow t-shirts, the idea still infests their mind. Similarly, the colour of the t-shirts, did not matter. It could have been pink for all they cared but the idea stayed the same.

    The idea, as I said earlier, was that the election process is not fair and it needs reform.

    And so, this was what, allegorically, the government was facing about a month before the rally. There were some yellow mosquitoes flying around in some wet markets; shopping malls; seminar rooms and on the streets. That was it. Nothing more.

    It was like the proverbial bloody fly in the car cockpit. Irritating, yes. Annoying, yes. Threatening, absolutely not.

    And how exactly did the government react to these handful yellow mosquitoes? Well, it took out some really large and heavy cannons and shot the mosquitoes!

    The government firstly denied that our election process was not fair. That was okay. Because by doing that, the government was actually trying to supplant an opposing idea. But what it did later was beyond rationale. Any strategist, political or otherwise, worth his or her salt, would cringe in disbelief.

    It went out seizing the yellow t-shirts. People who wore the offending attire were arrested. How did arresting people wearing yellow and seizing the yellow item assist in erasing the idea which Bersih had planted? The idea was in the head. That idea did not reside in the yellow t-shirts. That was the government reacting according to the proverbial “marahkan nyamuk kelambu dibakar” (loosely translated, angry with the mosquitoes, burn the mosquito net) way.

    First, the public reaction was one of disbelief. Soon it became a joke. The government, the police, the Home Minister and all else who were perceived to be the instigators of the act of banning the colour yellow became a big joke.

    The joke then became even a bigger joke. That was when the government and its machinery, direct and indirect, embarked into phase two of their “war propaganda”.

    I have stated in The Doctor is Not In that an oppressor would cling to every “fact”, even manufactured ones, to justify its oppression. I quoted Umberto Eco, in "Turning Back The Clock" who said:

    "In general, in order to maintain popular support for their decisions, dictatorships point the finger at a country, group, race, or secret society that is plotting against the people under the dictator. All forms of populism, even contemporary ones, try to obtain consensus by talking of a threat from abroad, or from internal groups." (emphasis is mine).

    How true is that? Umberto Eco could have been talking about Malaysia actually. Did he have a digital crystal ball or what?

    Barely recovering from shaking our collective head over the arrest of people wearing yellow, the government went into ape mode. Bersih was infiltrated by communists. It was also funded by Christian groups. Some Ministers and the police then said there were evidence that Bersih had certain “foreign elements” bent on creating havoc and overthrowing the government.

    All classic wartime propaganda. But really, who was at war? Nobody except for the government.

    Sticking with the “war” theme, the government’s well known, but the most laughable and idiotic shit stirrer, Perkasa and its leader, Ibrahim Ali, launched a counter movement and called themselves Gerak Aman (Peace Movement, in English), with Ibrahim Ali as its “war general.”

    So, we had a peace movement with a war general. And a war general without any war to go to. He then promptly issued a really peaceful statement, ie, the Chinese had better stocked up food and not come out to the street on July 9th.

    This was followed by some silat organisations declaring that it will “wage war” against Bersih participants. The next day this organisation appointed itself as the “3rd line of defence” of Malaysia, an appointment which was duly accorded official approval by none other than the Prime Minister himself later.

    At this point in time, the government’s handling of the Bersih issue had moved from disbelief-dom, to jokes-ville and now to a surreal and burlesque town. The government had then managed to anger the Bersih sympathisers and supporters; isolated the Christians and Chinese; and turned itself into some kind of a mixture of Robin Williams and Russell Brand (no insult meant to Katy Perry, of course).

    Ambiga, the Chairperson of Bersih was instantaneously declared as an enemy of Islam. Quite how Bersih’s electoral reform agenda became intertwined with race and faith is quite beyond many to conjure. But enemy of Islam she was. That managed to isolate the non-Muslims and even the thinking Muslims from the government’s stance.

    So, after that, the pesky yellow mosquitoes problem had turned into a full scale stampede of biblical proportion, joined in by the elephants, lions, tigers, snakes and what have you. Congratulations.

    The climax of all of these – the mother of all fcuk ups – to me, was the mounting of roadblocks during the morning peak hours from Wednesday the 6th of July onwards. The object of this “war counter propaganda” tactic was obviously to make the people believe that they had to go through difficulties – ie the traffic jam – because of Bersih. Shallow does not even begin to describe this action
    .

    Admin: The Police sincerely believed that they could screw the Rakyat and that there was nothing they could do about it!

    By this time, even the normal apathetic middle-class Malaysians who could not even be bothered to register themselves as voters became agitated and upset.

    This apathetic middle-class are a very comfortable lot. They will not move their ass to do anything if that would mean bringing themselves out of their comfort zone. Finding the TV remote control is bringing themselves out of their comfort zone, to these people. They will not be arsed to do anything until and unless they become uncomfortable.

    And of course, being stuck in a traffic jam in their second-hand BMWs, Benz, Alphard and whatever was uncomfortable to them. And they told themselves, enough with this crap. I am going to show my middle finger to the police!

    By this time, almost the whole section of the urban society was isolated by the government. Even the civil servants who were late for work were thinking of joining the rally.

    Speaking of the police, apart from being busy carrying guns and waving the traffic to pass by, they managed to find parangs and molotov cocktails at Sogo. There you have it. Bersih was bent on creating havoc.

    Why parangs? Why not guns and bombs? And to think about it, the molotov cocktails were made in plastic bottles. Who in their right mind would make molotov in plastic bottles, hullo? From which university did the guy graduate? Off campus? Online course?

    Disbelief. Joke. Burlesque. Ridicule. Anger.

    What a transformation.

    The easiest thing to do was to fight the idea that our election process needs reform. That was all that was needed. An idea is fought by firstly, showing that that idea is not quite correct. Or that it was not credible. Then neutralise that idea with a better and more acceptable idea.

    An idea is not fought by arresting the people having that idea. Or by banning a colour depicting subscription to that idea. Or by declaring the person heading the movement perpetuating that idea as anti-Islam. Or that it was Christian idea. Oh my God. Fail!

    Now, let’s not talk about what happened during the rally. Suffice if I say that the people joining the rally were not the hooligans they were made out to be. We all could watch all the YouTube videos and decide for ourselves as to who the real hooligans were.

    The thing which I want to comment about is this.

    If the government’s handling of Bersih before the rally was beyond belief in its irrationality and unreasonableness, its handling AFTER the rally is not any better, if not far worse.

    The IGP became a laughing stock when he quickly announced that only 6000 people attended the rally. Then the Home Minister chipped in to say the police was fair and in fact very restrain in their approach on the 9th of July. The Prime Minister said the police were a picture of tranquillity and displayed a monk-like attitude towards the rally goers.

    Ha ha and bloody ha.

    Then came the I-could-do-better-than-you rhetoric. This is the preferred 8 year old strategy. My father has bigger kahoona than your father, you know? I could bring out 3 million people if I want to, sais the Honourable Prime Minister. This was recently followed up by Chua Soi Lek who said he could bring 50000 Chinese to the street. MIC however had remained mum. That’s either because it is a clever party or because it doesn’t know how many member it could bring to the street.

    The Minister Liow denied teargas was fired into the compound of Tung Shin hospital. Chua Soi Lek, not be left out, chipped in to say the police had to teargas the hospital in order to protect the patients. And today, 11 doctors from that hospitals states their willingness to affirm affidavits under oath that the police did in fact shoot water and teargas into the compound of the hospital on July 9th. They said the police even entered into the buildings to search for rally goers. (the full report is here).

    In relation to the incident at Tung Shin, faced with irrefutable audio-visual as well as oral evidence, the least the government could do is to admit that it happened. Then it should apologise. Even YB Khairy Jamaluddin this morning had the clarity of mind to say that on twitter.



    The Prime Minister had left for the UK. The mainstream media went ape-like in blaming Anwar and mocking his injury. This obsession with Anwar Ibrahim is actually quite irritating. let me tell you all something. Most rally goers did not give a hoot about Anwar that day. That day was not about Anwar. It was about their middle finger which they had wanted to point to some others.

    The international press – which of course, in the government’s book, are always bias and out to pursue their secret agenda against our country – have not been kind to the government. Even the Jakarta Post editorial (Malaysia is rich but not free) was not flattering. Yesterday, Bloomberg’s William Pesek was scathing in his opinion. Pesek is an influential writer and Bloomberg is a reference point for many foreign investors. (his article is here). The UN thinks the government had gone way over the top. The US is concerned.

    So, what’s the plan here? What is the plan to bring back credibility to our reform plan? Where is the plan to persuade the foreign fund managers and investors that Malaysia is indeed a moderate multi-cultural society with immaculate tolerance for dissent?

    Someone died during the rally. Have we heard a word of sympathy or condolence from the government’s side? I have not. All we had was the usual defensive “don’t blame me” statements.

    Are we human? Or have we stopped being human?

    Since when?
    py

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    Thursday, 28 July 2011 02:11

    Teach us to fish, don't give us the fish

    Written by Maclean Patrick, Malaysia Chronicle
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    John Malott, a former US ambassador to Malaysia, in his article Malaysia’s Political Awakening: A Call for US Leadership has brought to the attention of law-makers in America, the plight of democracy in Malaysia. It is a call for the US leadership to pay more attention and be more vocal during a time when Prime Minister Najib Razak's government seems to be reneging on democratic practises.

    In an interview with Malaysia Chronicle, Malott had explained what he meant by "US leadership" and stressed that US concerns did not lie in who formed the government of Malaysia but about the continuation of and support for democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.

    "I called for US leadership. By that I mean, we need to be more visible and vocal in expressing our concerns about developments in Malaysia. We need to be more supportive – moral support and encouragement - of those members of civil society in Malaysia who want Malaysia to become a true democracy and have the same freedom that we and others have. We should support the call for electoral reform. It is not up to America who forms the government in Malaysia. But we should be concerned whether the playing field is level," Malott had said.

    Help civil society, pressure the Najib administration

    Yes, the US should not take it upon themselves to be the mastermind of change in Malaysia, but rather stand by the Malaysian people in supporting the drive for reform and a better Malaysia. Teach us to fish, don’t give us the fish.

    Help the civil movement in Malaysia by being the partner that highlights our plight on the international scene. And continue to exert pressure on the current administration to push for reforms in every aspect of government.

    Pressure on the Najib administration has been stiff in the aftermath of the high-handed tactics employed to disperse the Bersih marchers, the blatant demonizing of a coalition of NGOs calling for free and fair elections and the abuse of authority in the police and judiciary in the days leading to and after the July 9th rally.

    Yet, despite the scare-mongering, everyday Malaysians still turned out in droves to support a cause they believe in. 50,000 people did not get it wrong when they sent a message that reforms are needed to clean up the elections process in Malaysia. And though the Najib administration and the Election Commission continue to deny the truth, Malaysians know better and the time for change has come.

    "I don’t believe that the situation is near the boiling point. Malaysians don’t boil. They are a very patient people. That is why July 9 was such a remarkable event. The temperature went up, but it is nowhere near the boiling point. But if people don’t follow through – if the leaders of civil society, the opposition and others don’t follow through, the temperature will go down. If the government carves out more space for those who don’t agree with them, they also could lower the temperature," said Malott.

    Greatest resistance to come from UMNO

    Mr Malott is right in his assessment here. Malaysia’s civil societies need to keep the pressure on. The follow-through has to be strong and decisive. It still remains the prerogative of the everyday Malaysian to engineer and strive for democratic reforms in Malaysia.

    However, there is bound to be resistance against Mr Malott’s call for more attention from the US administration - firstly from Barisan Nasional and specifically from UMNO.

    Barisan Nasional will never be receptive to outsiders telling it how to go about its business. Thus, any show of support would be jumped upon as grounds for further arrests, repression and oppression within the civil rights movement in Malaysia. This was evident in the demonisation of Bersih when everything from Christians, Jews, Indonesians, the Opposition and Communists were used to build a skewed perception of Bersih in the minds of everyday Malaysians.

    Indeed, the greatest resistance would come from the present day government that is not afraid to place the blame on its people first than its own poor administration.

    The detention of opposition leaders in the 1987 Ops Lalang accomplished more than just arresting vocal and critical politicians under ISA. The incident provided Mahathir's government with the excuse to further tighten the executive branch of the government's stranglehold on politics. In the following year, the Printing Presses and Publications Act was amended so that it would be more difficult for printers and publishers to retain printing licenses eliminating the renewal process. They would have to annually re-apply. In addition if any license is revoked, it could not be challenged in court. A prison term was added for publication of false news, jail sentence for up to three years.

    Amendments were also made to the Police Act making it practically impossible to hold any political meeting, including a party's annual general meeting, without a police permit. A conviction could mean a fine of RM10,000 and a jail term of one year. Even an assembly of more than five people in a public area is considered an "illegal assembly" and could not be held without a police permit. This law was intentionally made to be so restrictive in order to give the police arbitrary rights to detain any group in public by citing it is an illegal assembly.

    Awakened generation

    Such restrictions on civil liberties contravene the rights of the citizens as stated in the Federal Constitution, yet this does not seem to bother those who are only interested in remaining in power.

    Against this backdrop, Bersih has awakened a generation that has long been conditioned to believe that they cannot make a difference. It is an intelligent generation that sees beyond the smokescreen and intimidation tactics of the establishment, and realises their true potential as Malaysians.

    "The actions of the government, before and after July 9, backfired against them. Matthias Chang wrote that they acted with sheer stupidity. The Government still has a chance to turn this around, but that would require them to give more political “space” to those who don’t agree with them, and to make sure that the people get to enjoy the rights that the constitution guarantees them. Will they? I have my doubts. This is a government – even though they have spent millions on PR firms and management consultants – that keeps shooting itself in the foot. The deportation of the French lawyer is only the latest example. Now, for the first time, all the juicy details of that scandal – including the model who was murdered by the PM’s bodyguards – have appeared in the Washington Post. It just adds to the confusion among people here – what kind of a country is Malaysia, anyhow? And is Najib really the person that he has portrayed himself to be?" Malott added.

    A call for concern and support from the US government towards the civil movement in Malaysia is indeed much welcome. However, we should also be aware that Malaysians are more than capable of standing on their own two feet and dictate the process of change at their own pace. We cannot be a tool for another government to resell their brand of democracy, but it sure is nice and extra comforting to have a solid and reliable friend watching our backs.

    - Malaysia Chronicle


    ---------- Post added at 12:59 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:18 PM ----------

    UMNO/BN is gone. They know it. We know it. Now it's a question of how much they can grab and make a run for it.

    The death knell of tyranny

    20 July 2011 | Let's Get Together | Posted by NH Chan



    The picture on the front page of the Sunday Star, 10 July 2011 spoke louder than words. It showed the huge crowd of peaceful but bold Bersih supporters flying in the face of the cowardly might of the police who were decked out in full riot paraphernalia. They must be daunted by the sea of placid, mostly young, people facing them. Those in the front rows were seated on the road and those at the back were standing. All were unarmed and none were menacing the police. They were all peaceful demonstrators who were trying to put across to the imbeciles in power the people’s right to peaceful assembly and to show that they were united in their call for a clean and incorrupt general election. The BN regime may say anything they like but the fact that the common people could come out in large numbers in silent protest only goes to show that the regime has lost its credibility. The regime and its underlings the police behaved as expected of tyrants – typical of all bullies they were afraid of their own shadow – they saw the ghosts of the insurgency of Chin Peng and the CPM (Communist Party of Malaya) being revived; see the Sun of Friday, July 8, 2011 where the former Perak chief police officer and Special Branch commander Yuen Yet Leng gave his thoughts to Maria J. Das in an interview. He said: Admin: We still have cold-war warrriors living in a time warp. Or are they speaking to protect their interests?

    If you are going to sport a picture of Chin Peng on your t-shirt, you are only asking for trouble. How do you expect the police not to take action?
    I agree with what the Special Branch had done. This problem has been thrown in the police’s lap and involves national security and public order.

    The CPM has the same ideology as … Mao Zedong who believed that the highest form of struggle is an armed struggle, and not a political struggle.
    He must be joking! I am astounded by the man’s naivety. I think he is still living in the past which is a pity for one of our country’s heroes (but then I also have the same problem, I could remember the past vividly but I could not remember what I said or promised yesterday). He was the CPO Perak when I was a Judicial Commissioner in Ipoh back then in 1970. He was one policeman I have admired for his dedication to make Ipoh safe from criminals. He brought down the crime rate in Ipoh. I remember the occasion when he told me that at a police road block at Simpang Pulai which is on the outskirts of Ipoh, the police had arrested the occupants of a car when they found weapons for committing armed robbery hidden in its boot. On interrogation they admitted they were en route to Penang because it was perilous for them to commit the crime in Ipoh as there was a fierce Chinese judge there.

    To be fair I must also point out that Mr Yuen was supportive of the reason for the people’s negative perception of the police. For example:

    Das: … many people question why the police seem to act against only certain parties, while others who make seditious comments and threats get away. Won’t the public equate this with police persecution?
    Yes and no. The police usually back the effort of the incumbent government of the day so long as it acts by the rule of law, but they need to be more courageous to act when supporters of the government go too far. When they are hesitant, they are bound to be accused of being unfair. Being balanced will earn the police some respect.
    He also said:

    … there is nothing wrong with Bersih 2’s demands and the incumbent government must hear the genuine worries of the people. They need to pry things apart and deal with people who are sincere with their concerns. Then legitimate complaints can be looked into. … the timing is such that there appears to be a united front against the government, and this frightens them.
    Returning to the hullabaloo of the police on the involvement of national security and public order, don’t they know, as all of us already know, that communism as an ideology had collapsed with the fall of the Berlin wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union? There is no more threat from any idea of communist expansionism from Chinese communists as China has turn to capitalism and has prospered as the world’s second largest economy next to America. It is true that China is still being governed by an oligarchic regime. One must be a member of the communist party to form the government because it is the ruling party as China is a one party totalitarian state, just as Malaysia has also become an oligarchy with the UMNO led Barisan Nasional remaining in power for some 54 years. To say that this country is a democracy is laughable. Democracy has become an anachronism in Malaysia. As in China the ruling BN coalition will not tolerate dissent in any form as the Bersih episode on 9 July 2011 had graphically exposed to us common folk that the police have used excessive physical force to quell the rally of peaceful protestors who were only asking for the reformation of the electoral system to a fairer and incorrupt one – so that when the crowd was heard to have shouted “reformasi” it did not mean that they were for the opposition party PKR. We have read about police brutality against peaceful demonstrators from eyewitnesses account in loyarburok and in Malaysiakini and we also see them in graphic detail as the incidents of the use of excessive force by the police on the hapless protestors were recorded live on mobile phones by those who were there for all the world to see on Youtube.

    Yet in the Star, Monday 18 July 2011, the deputy prime minister Muhyiddin said that what had emerged through the alternative media and YouTube were scenes that seem to show the police had acted in a cruel manner. “What was not shown were prior scenes where the police were provoked and taunted”, he said. Obviously the deputy prime minister has never heard of the well known proverb, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me’. In any case, a policeman should be patient and tolerant when conducting crowd control. They should try to defuse the anger instead of being short tempered and responding with unequal force. However, I think the negative public perception of the police in this respect will be difficult to erase.

    In any case, one notices the glaring difference in the integrity of the government in the UK and ours. In the hacking scandal involving the News of the World and the London police we do not see the prime minister or the home minister or any minister coming out to defend the police. Instead they were embarrassed and concerned so much so that an emergency session of parliament was called. Even Britain’s police chief had to resign. On the other hand, in Malaysia, we have the deputy prime minister Muhyiddin coming out in defence of the police when in fact he should be concerned and should suggest an investigation into the heavy handed conduct of the police in handling the crowd. In this country we throw integrity to the wind! Even our police chief did not resign – the fact that in some areas the police had responded and reacted with unequal force should have made him responsible as a commander.

    The police have justified their harsh crackdown on the peaceful demonstrators of Bersih for the reason of national security and public order. But as I have explained above any prospect of a revival of a communist insurgency in this country is a myth. To say that the CPM has the same ideology as Mao Zedong (whose ideology should have died with him) who believed that the highest form of struggle is an armed struggle and, therefore, there is every danger of an armed insurrection being revived in this country is an unjustifiable assumption in this day and age. Only imbeciles could have imagined that! That is why I say these people are afraid of their own shadow. If you are afraid of your own shadow then you must be a coward. You are also a coward, if not a madman, if you donned your suit of armour like Don Quixote who battled imaginary dragons in the form of windmills or riot gear ready to do battle with unarmed and peaceful street protestors to quell a whimsical or imaginary insurrection in the farcical interest of national security and public order.



    To be fair, it is reported in the Star, Wednesday 13 July 2011 under the headline “No plans to hold another Bersih” that the Bar Council has said something nice about some policemen:

    The Bar Council thanked Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar for allowing the council’s monitoring teams to observe the rally and for acknowledging the council’s impartiality in conducting the observation exercise.
    “Many of our monitors noted a significant number of police officers were polite towards the leaders of the public rallies, participants and the monitoring team,” council president Lim Chee Wee said …
    However, the council said unnecessary physical force was used in some instances.
    I suppose not all policemen are the bad guys. There are some decent ones still around. Just as there are some decent Umno guys around like the chief of Umno Youth Khairy Jamaluddin who has shown magnanimity to Ambiga. When we leave matters to the younger generation we do not find animosity and recrimination. They are prepared to talk and discuss on how the country’s electoral system could be reformed. Bravo and I salute them.

    Next, there is this pithy assessment from the Star, Thursday 14 July 2011 by Baradan Kuppusamy:

    Awakening the young voters

    The Bersih 2.0 rally was a success by some measure because Pakatan Rakyat supporters braved police restrictions, roadblocks and barbed wire to gather in the city centre calling on the Government to institute electoral reform.

    There eight-point demand included issues that the opposition had been campaigning on for many years, like a clean electoral roll, reforming postal voting and a minimum of 21 days campaigning.

    These are fundamentals of a basic election system in a democratic society and few citizens would find these objectionable.
    Saturday’s rally, therefore, had an unprecedented impact on society at large and on the election system …

    While Saturday’s rally was smaller in size compared to Bersih’s first rally in November 2007, the effects were the same – the awakening of young people to political action to rally for a basic right in defiance of the police.


    The rally proved its point that a large number of Malaysians can gather, despite police action, and march peacefully.
    The message of Bersih is unequivocal, the people, especially the young people, of this country have been awakened and are no longer afraid of being intimidated by a bullying police force and they will take political action to rally for their basic rights in defiance of the police who they know are the minions of the avaricious people who are greedy for power. For after all, the awakened young people are only exercising their universal right of assembly that has been endorsed by the United Nations as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says that “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”.

    For after all the Bersih demands are not outrageous nor are they extravagant or unusual – most are matters that the opposition has been canvassing in Parliament perennially. As the writer of the above article has said, “These are fundamentals of a basic election system in a democratic society and few citizens would find these objectionable”.

    Yet the Bersih movement and those who support them are being suppressed by those people who are clinging on to power and their minions the police force. Decent and normally law abiding citizens are suppressed just for voicing out their grouses for electoral reforms. The answer is plain for all to see. When we, the people, see our elected representatives failed us in Parliament; when our grouses or grievances have fallen on deaf ears in Parliament where the majority is the errant BN coalition which has been clinging on to power for more than half a century; when all else failed in the legislative process, the common people of this country have no other choice but to resort to political action of their own and the only avenue that is available which can carry their massage across most effectively is to rally for their cause even to the extent of open defiance of police action against them.

    Strange as it may seem, the powers that be seemed to have missed the point. The point is that the Bersih movement does not belong to or support the opposition or any political party. It is an apolitical movement. But it supports democracy which is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. When a government does not listen to the people’s grouses and does not take action on them then it is not a government for the people. And a government which is not for the people is not a democratic government, it is a dictatorship. The message of Bersih, which is in fact the people’s message, is loud and clear – we, the people of this country, do not want a dictatorship! Since we do not want a dictatorship, at the next general election we will vote the dictators out of office and replace them with a new coalition even to the extent of voting in the opposition. And if the new order were to fail the people too, then we will replace them at another election. And finally if any of our political parties were still to fail us again then, as a last resort, we may have to vote only for individuals who are for the people and who are incorruptible. There must be plenty of suitable candidates to choose from for our representation in Parliament from the Bersih movement itself. Like Ambiga I do not have the stomach for politics in this country. There are much braver souls around.

    Having said all that, one may still ask, what is the point then for a street demonstration albeit a peaceful one? The point is to bring out the people’s dissatisfaction and their grouse for a clean and incorrupt government. The multitude’s belief is that the only way to attain their goal is for a clean and incorrupt forthcoming general election. And when that had fallen on deaf ears the only avenue left for the people to voice their discontent is to rally in an orderly and peaceful demonstration like the Bersih walk to Stadium Merdeka although they never made it there as they were blocked by the police.



    Now that you know what is at stake, my dear readers, you can go straight to loyarburok.com to read about how the police have used excessive force on the peaceful demonstrators. In particular, do read this article “Ambushed like Animals, I Had to Walk-Crawl”. Here is an excerpt:

    There was no sense of danger because the police had so far let us go ahead. Sure, we all knew that eventually they would arrest the BERSIH and political leaders but we had no clue of how inhumane it was going to be.
    When we found ourselves maneuvered into the tunnel, we started running as fast as we could.
    Even if we had never imagined that we would be tear-gassed in the tunnel, there was that imminent danger.
    I was in the middle of the crowd when I reached the end of the tunnel, relieved to be out of the ominous place. But by then, there was screaming because the FRU had started shooting tear gas straight towards at us. I saw it with my own eyes, the FRU was aiming directly at the people, and not over our heads.
    The message was clear to me: to hurt and maim as many as possible, even though these were peaceful demonstrators, many of whom are respected political leaders of our country. It was only after that I had heard that Anwar Ibrahim and his bodyguard were badly hurt for being shot at, along with another PAS politician who was in front of the crowd.
    After reading this you should also read the other articles about the Bersih rally in LoyarBurok.

    After you have read all those articles in LoyarBurok, do you want to support Bersih? We should not be afraid of threats and coercion anymore. Bersih is not a society or association or club. There is no subscription or membership. You don’t have to join it. It is a movement and whenever there is an outcry by the people we can show our support for the movement by voting out the incumbent government of the day at the next election. We have the power of the people. You don’t have to be loyal to any political party. Always be ready to tell those in government that they are our servants who should serve the people. We, the people, have put them there and we the people can remove them in the next election. Any government must be for the people. It is not to be a government for those in authority or in power. That kind of attitude among those who governed us will no longer be tolerated by the people who had put them there in the first place. Shortly stated, we do not want a dictatorship at all. It is democracy that the people want and that means the government must always be for the people.

    A government for the people does not incarcerate its citizens without a trial or on trump up charges or use draconian laws to terrorize and overawe its citizens or to stifle dissent. A government for the people are not intolerant of the people’s grouses. A government for the people does not shoot tear gas cylinders directly at peaceful demonstrators nor would it use physical force on them – they should not copy the violent methods used by the dictators of the Middle East on their own people. I could go on and on. But I think you have got the picture.
    py

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    More fuel for Malaysia's fire
    28 Jul 2011
    By Simon Roughneen

    BANGKOK - Recently-released United States diplomatic cables from 2008-2010 shed light on Malaysia's political scene in the aftermath of a controversial crackdown on an opposition-backed electoral reform demonstration in Kuala Lumpur where over 1,600 people were arrested, including opposition politicians.

    On July 9, Malaysia's police fired teargas and water-cannon at thousands of protesters who defied a ban on the rally, which was organized by Bersih 2.0, a coalition of non-governmental organizations that says it wants changes to how Malaysia stages elections, including the mandatory use of indelible ink to prevent voters from casting multiple ballots.

    Prime Minister Najib Razak's government was widely criticized for its heavy-handed and disproportionate response to what was a peaceful demonstration by civil society groups. Putrajaya alleged the protest was a front for the ambitions of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who says he was injured during the crackdown and faces the next stage of an unrelated and controversial sodomy trial on August 8.

    Hints as to why the government reacted as it did are contained in an August 2008 assessment by US ambassador James Keith, who wrote:
    The ruling party wants to stay in power indefinitely, and that means Anwar and the multi-racial opposition front he is leading must fail. At least so far, there is scant evidence of a more thoughtful and forward-looking analysis within UMNO [United Malays National Organization]. In fact, the ruling party could find some common ground with the opposition if it were willing to countenance gradual development of a two-party system of checks and balances.
    Najib's Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has ruled continuously since Malaysia achieved independence in 1957, with power centering around the UMNO, the mainstay of the BN coalition. Allegations of vote-rigging and manipulation have long-tarnished elections in Malaysia, which the BN has consistently won by comfortable margins. However the most recent vote, in 2008, saw the BN lose its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time and suggested that the BN's grip on power could be loosening.

    In the months after the 2008 vote, the Pakatan Rakyat (People's Alliance) opposition had high hopes of taking power by persuading enough parliamentarians to defect from the BN to its side. Anwar declared a September 16, 2008 deadline for taking power, but the date came and went without event. This prompted some speculation that the opposition, an unwieldy amalgam of diverse political interests, was losing steam.

    Before Anwar's September 2008 deadline, the US Embassy estimated that Anwar was unlikely to take power, with an August 28, 2008 cable saying that "some key Anwar aides seemed to be hedging on their leader's stated pledge to oust the government by September 16 and neutral observers were even more skeptical, but most agreed that Anwar is now enjoying a surge of momentum".

    The 2008 election result was a shock to the BN and UMNO, who see street protests and electoral reforms as a threat to their monopoly on power, according to US ambassador Keith, who opined that UMNO will play the national security card as a means of "ensuring that 'people power', or a level electoral playing field, cannot become the opposition's means of toppling the ruling party".

    The opposition coalition now claims that it has evidence to show that the governing parties have the means to cheat at the next elections, which are expected to be called within the next calendar year. On Tuesday, PAS, one of the People's Alliance's member-parties, said that it has compiled a "shockingly huge" list of "cloned voters", according to the party's vice-president Husam Musa.

    Rather than introduce the opposition's desired indelible ink option, which has been used in other countries' elections that were subsequently declared free and fair by international observers, the Malaysian election commission has proposed instead a biometric voter verification system to eliminate multiple voting and so-called "phantom" voters.

    Sharing a platform with the election commission on Tuesday, Ambiga Sreenavasan, head of the Bersih 2.0 coalition that organized the July 9 rally, expressed caution about the biometric plan, saying that it would need rigorous testing before the elections. The polls will likely to be held before legally required in 2013, as many analysts believe Najib will seeks electoral advantage from a wave of recent economic growth.

    The weeks since the Bersih protest have been politically-fraught, with pro-government newspapers alleging that Jewish and Christian plots were behind the recent rally and hinting that electoral reform is a nefarious foreign-backed attempt at subverting the Malaysian state. After the July 9 rally, the pro-government Utusan, the country's biggest-selling Malay language newspaper, said that the government "cannot allow anyone, especially the Jews, to interfere secretly in this country's business".

    A US cable dated January 12, 2010 gave insight to the dynamic, estimating the use of such loaded language was an attempt by Malay elites in government to rally Malay Muslims, who make up 60% of the population and are subject to Islamic law, behind the BN.

    At that time, the government was trying to implement a ban on the use by non-Muslim religions of the word "Allah" to denote "God", which has long been the nomenclature in some countries where Islam is the dominant faith but where there are Christian minorities, including Malaysia. Christians represent around 9% of Malaysia's population.

    With PAS an ascendant force in the People's Alliance opposition, UMNO was likely trying to outdo the opposition party's Islamist zeal. According to the leaked US cable "the conventional wisdom among most non-ruling coalition Chinese and Indians, for example, seems to be that the ruling party has orchestrated the 'Allah' issue so as to increase support among Malay voters by fomenting division between Muslims on one side and Christians or secularists on the other in the opposition coalition."

    The revival of such sectarian, conspiratorial tones in newspapers such as Utusan have been dismissed by Najib, who said that the anti-Semitic allegation "did not reflect the views of the government". "Regardless of their political views, it is unacceptable for anyone to stir up hatred and suspicion against any religious group in the way we have seen today," Najib's statement said.

    Najib traveled to Europe in the days after the July 9 rally, meeting Queen Elizabeth II in London and then traveling to Rome to meet with Pope Benedict XVI to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See. After returning to Malaysia, he was quoted as saying - somewhat quixotically - that "we wish to tell our friends, the Malaysian Christians ... that if they respect us, we will also respect them."

    The remark sparked angry reactions from Christian clerics and online commentators, suggesting that the US Embassy view as expressed in the January 2010 cable, that the "widely and deeply held among non-Malay, non-Muslims that the Government is antagonistic toward other religions and is engaged in a long-term effort to expand Islam's primacy in Malaysian society", is not too far off the mark of what's driving Malaysian politics today.

    Simon Roughneen is a foreign correspondent. His website is www.simonroughneen.com.

    (Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
    py

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    Bersih 2.0 rally: Analysis - Significance and Implications

    709 Rally - Significance and Implications

    LETTERS/SURAT
    Thursday, 28 July 2011 Combat



    By Friends of SUARAM (FOS) Working Committee, Johore

    Despite all forms of deception, destruction and intimidation and eventually an all-out suppression by the ruling clique of the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional Government, 709 rally cum “walk for democracy”, was successfully held in Kuala Lumpur City Centre, the heartland of Malaysia. It was a remarkable achievement resulting from a high-degree collective wisdom and correct leadership of Bersih 2.0 leaders, coupled with the extremely huge response and courageous participation of the people.

    The Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein deployed a large number of fully-armed FRU (riot squads) to block with barbed wire all streets leading to the Merdeka Stadium. Thousands of police were instructed to arrest people, and to disperse any public gathering of people. Only a few thousand demonstrators managed to break through the barricades and successfully entered the area surrounding Merdeka Stadium.

    Since a peaceful assembly could not be held in the historic and ideal venue chosen by Bersih leaders, more than 50,000 disgruntled participants had no alternative but to take to the streets.

    Bersihl eaders, including Ambiga and others, in defiance of the restriction order issued by the Court, entered Kuala Lumpur City Centre, braving the possibility of being prevented from entry, or of being arrested. They were eventually stopped and arrested on the way to attend the rally.

    The “memorandum of 8-point demand for electoral reform” could not be submitted to Agong on that day as a result of the brutal suppression by Barisan Nasional government headed by Najib, Bersih 2.0 had no choice but to appoint another date to submit the memorandum to Agong.

    709 rally cum “walk for democracy” was unexpectedly turned into a public demonstration that boosted popular morale. It signified a strong demand for reform of the parliamentary election system as well as for political democracy, after a period of 54 years since Independence. It reflected the unity and co-operation among all ethnic communities, particularly the 3 major communities (Chinese, Malay and Indian).

    The rally can be interpreted as a severe criticism levelled at the racist blackmail and attack launched by hegemonistic UMNO ruling clique.It took place simply because of UMNO-dominated BN ruling clique stubbornly brushing aside Bersih 2.0’s “8-point demand” for electoral reform, which is justified, legitimate and appropriate.

    The situation was aggravated by Najib going back on his own word, disallowing the rally to be held in Merdeka Stadium. Instead, he gave the green light to the police to resort to brutal repression of those taking part in the rally, including the Bersih leaders.

    The “709 Bersih rally” can be aptly described as a popular movement of the three ethnic communities launched for the purpose of achieving electoral reform for clean and fair elections.

    It was a mass struggle unprecedented in the history of Malaysia. The occurrence of this historic event followed by its development is of great significance and of far-reaching implications for democracy and human rights movement in Malaysia. The implications are as follows:-

    1. The people realised the unreasonable and deceptive nature of the“rules of the game” of parliamentary elections.

    The “709 Bersih rally” has brought to light the following points:

    (1) The past 54 years of practical experience in parliamentary elections since Independence, has taught the broad masses that the “rules of the game” (i.e. election rules, election system and procedures) designed by the British government, and implemented by the UMNO-dominated Alliance and the present Barisan Nasional government are unreasonable and deceptive in nature.

    (2) The people, through their personal experience in life, have realised that the continuing existence and implementation of the “rules of the game” of parliamentary elections, favouring the ruling clique of the day, would never bring about a popularly-elected government, genuinely representing and protecting the interests of the people.

    (3) The broad masses have, through the past 54 years of untold suffering, realised that the UMNO hegemonistic ruling clique is the root cause of all racial discrimination, corruption, abuse of power, polarization of wealth and poverty, and social disharmony. The BN component parties (MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC especially) are merely accomplices and lackeys of UMNO’s ruling clique. They are working hand in glove against the people;

    (4) A large proportion of the populace have also realized that, in order to have a better life, the UMNO hegemonistic ruling clique which has ruled our country for 54 long years, must at an opportune time be booted out of the political arena.
    2. Daring to put up popular struggle is the answer to the UMNO’s racist blackmail

    It is common knowledge that the BN ruling clique never fails to engage in political blackmail with racist overtones (resorting to lame excuses to intimidate the people ) whenever the Rakyat rise on any occasion to demand justice.

    In September 2000, after being pressured by Suqiu (the electoral demands made by the Chinese community touching on various national issues). The then Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir decided to settle accounts with the Suqiu Committee not long after the General Election. He summoned leaders of the Suqiu Committee headed by Mr Kuek Hian Hiang of Dong Jiao Zong (the United Chinese School Committees’ & Teachers’ Associations) to his office. He administered threats to them, pressurizing them to back down on their demands.

    Meanwhile, MCA and Gerakan leaders coaxed and threatened the leaders of the Suqiu Committee and other Chinese community leaders into setting aside their demands, or risked facing racial backlash.

    At the same time, the UMNO Youth was stirring up racial sentiments by vowing “to burn down the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall”and shouting slogans like “the Chinese Malaysians go back to China”, etc. The UMNO ruling clique headed by Dr. Mahathir practised “white terror” by way of clamouring that “Suqiu has infringed upon the Malay special privileges” and “Suqiu has caused social unrest”. By resorting to such “white terror”, the government succeeded in thwarting the Suqiu movement.

    In 1987, the current Prime Minister Najib was the UMNOYouth chief cum Minister for Culture, Youth and Sports. 1987 was the year when the government created a political turmoil when it assigned non-mandarin speaking school administrators to Chinese schools.

    Najib, in his capacity as the UMNO Youth chief, convened a 10,000-strong rally. A banner bearing the slogan “to soak the Malay keris in Chinese blood” (“Basahkan Keris Dengan Darah Cina”) was conspicuously displayed in the rally. In the same rally, Najib delivered a speech highly charged with racist sentiments while waving a keris in his hand.

    He has now denied having uttered such seditious words as “to soak the Malay keris in Chinese blood” after assuming the post of prime minister (refer to the Chinese news reported by Merdeka Review at http://www.merdekareview.com/news.php?n=9969). But when Bersih 2.0 announced its intention to hold the 709 rally at the Merdeka Stadium, Najib openly supported Melaka chief minister Ali Rustam in mobilizing members of the Malay martial art organization known as PESAKA (Malaysian National Federation of Silat) to take part in the so-called “patriot” rally led by UMNOYouth on 9 July, allegedly to protect the National Palace. Ali Rustam claimed that PESAKA had a total membership of 4000,000.

    Najib utilized the state machinery (mainly institutions resorting to violence and mass media owned or manipulated by the government) and the racist organization PERKASA to unleash an atmosphere of “white terror” against the people of various communities, in an attempt to frighten them into distancing themselves from the Bersih movement. But such sinister plot failed miserably.

    The success of Bersih 2.0 rally goes to show that daring to put up popular struggle is the answer to the UMNO’s racist blackmail. In the face of the determined action taken by Bersih leaders and the participants of the rally, the racist political blackmail of the UMNO ruling clique has met with total failure.
    3. 709 Bersih rally fostered greater awareness as well as unity and cooperation among all ethnic communities

    709 Bersih rally has been the biggest popular struggle for human rights and democracy in Malaysia for the past 54 years since Independence. It was estimated that more than 50,000 people from various ethnic groups participated in the rally (mainly the three major ethnic groups - Malays, Chinese and Indians - and other minority groups like Ibans and Kadazans). They were believers of different faiths (largely Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, etc.) and were from all walks of life (workers, farmers, petty traders, professionals, businessmen, academics, artists, political parties, retirees, etc.).

    The huge crowd of people from different directions, and from all nooks and corners, converged towards the direction of Merdeka Stadium in a peaceful and orderly manner. They were chanting “Hidup Bersih! Hidup Reformasi! HidupRakyat!”, expressing their strong desire for reforms. Some of them were seen wearing yellow Bersih T-shirts; some had yellow Bersih 2.0 head banners; while some others were waving national flags. No one was carrying any offensive weapon and such like. Banners which were normally displayed in rallies, but they could hardly be seen in 709 Bersih rally.

    Those who took part in the peaceful march were however demonized by the UMNO ruling clique as a mob out to create commotions. They were crudely handled with violence by fully-armed anti-riot squads. Tear gas canisters and chemical-laced water cannons were used against them.

    In the crackdown, a total of 1,667 persons, including the Bersih chairperson Ambiga and several opposition leaders, were arrested, making the number of arrests a record high in history. The mass arrests drew public criticisms from all quarters. Because of that, the police were forced to release all the detainees within a day. It was indeed an embarrassment to the police force.

    It is to be noted that an overdose of tear gas released by the police resulted in the collapse and death of Baharuddin Ahmad, a participant of the rally. The anti-riot squad fired tear gas canisters and water cannons into the compounds of Tung Shin Hospital and Chinese Maternity Hospital. The police action was merely for the sake of giving chase to the participants who sought refuge in the hospitals.

    The anti-riot squad totally disregarded the safety of the patients, pregnant women as well as babies in the hospitals. Such repressive actions were immediately severely condemned by the public, and there was heated public discourse on the Internet.

    To allay public discontent, health minister Liow Tiong Lai convened a media conference with directors of Tung Shin Hospital. He declared that “Tung Shin Hospital and patients did not suffer any injury or damage”. That was a futile attempt to justify the government’s crackdown. The health minister even went to the extent of claiming that “the police were merely sending the injured to the hospital”. He went further to argue that “there would not have been such untoward incident if there were no Bersih rally”. All these allegations are sheer nonsense!

    The truth always prevails. 11 doctors (some of them were from the two hospitals concerned) issued a joint statement founded upon their personal experiences in the rally, served to rebut Liow’s false allegations. Numerous articles and photos depicting police brutality were uploaded on the Net. All this constitutes irrebuttable evidence of the repressive actions taken by the government and the police force.

    The spirit of being fellow Malaysians prevailed in the rally. In the face of violent crackdown, participants of the rally rendered assistance and support to each other, regardless of ethnicity. They marched towards the common goal. It was an invaluable experience and educational process for the Rakyat. It laid the spiritual and material foundation for the struggle on a larger scale for human rights and democracy in the future.

    Therefore, 709 Bersih rally is of far-reaching implications favourable to the inter-racial unity and cooperation among thevarious communities. This is undeniable.
    4. 709 Bersih rally shows NGOs the right direction tomarch forward

    The launching of “709 Bersih rally” cum “Walk for Democracy” eventually developed into a widespread “709 Public Demonstration”. The Bersih chairperson Ambiga and its steering committee have demonstrated theiroutstanding leadership.

    They won the full confidence and the overwhelming support of the Rakyat. This led to the success of the rally, making it possible for us to move a step forward towards democracy in this country. Ambiga showed her exceptional quality of perseverance and courage in leading Bersih 2.0. She proved herself a shining exemplary leader in civil society.

    Bersih 2.0 is a coalition of 62 legitimate NGOs (also known as “civil society”). It strives for clean and fair elections. Bersih 2.0 is neither a political party nor a subsidiary of any political party. Bersih 2.0 is to carry on with its struggle for clean and fair elections. It does not exist for the purpose of winning seats in legislative assemblies or seizing power on behalf of any political party.

    Thus, it is neither subjugated to any political party nor taking orders from any political party. Bersih 2.0 leaders will only act in the interests of the Rakyat, relying on the consensus among civil society groups, and on the final policy decision of the steering committee. Bersih will maintain its independence and autonomy as an NGO coalition.

    The non-partisan stand adopted by Bersih 2.0 while acting in the interests of the people, was well-received by the people, irrespective of ethnicity, class and religion, and it was also welcomed by various political parties. Bersih 2.0 rally was subsequently turned into a “709 Public Demonstration”. This is because the position taken by Bersih 2.0 was in accord with the aspirations and interests of the people regardless of ethnicity, class or creed. It also gained the support of various political parties.
    In brief, a number of factors contributed to the success of Bersih 2.0 rally, and therefore, the fruit of success ought to be shared and enjoyed by all and sundry.

    Without doubt, Bersih 2.0 has clearly defined its position, that is, to fight for “clean and fair elections”.

    PSM (Malaysian Socialist Party) launched a 3-day political publicity campaign (from 24 to 26 June) on “Udahlah tu----Bersaralah! BN”. The home ministry tried to equate such publicity campaign with Bersih 2.0’s electoral reform movement. This was obviously a mischievous attempt on the part of the government to confuse the people, designed to create a wrong impression that Bersih 2.0, like PSM, was calling for “the immediate overthrow of the BN government”.

    The home ministry, through the police, invoked the Emergency Ordinance to detain MP Dr. Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj and 5 others, accusing them of “waging war against Yang Di-Pertuan Agong” and “reviving communism”, simply because of the red T-shirts bearing portraits of MCP leaders (i.e. Chin Peng and Abdullah CD) found in their bus. The whole episode is ridiculous to the extreme!

    The undeniable fact is: On 4 March 2005, Chin Peng,the leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) had, in his “10-point statement”, said: “we have taken the oath of allegiance and loyalty to Yang DiPertuan Agong” “we have agreed to give up violence and armed struggle and everything”. Prior to this, in 1989, MCP had laid down arms, destroyed all weapons, disbanded its armed forces, and signed the “Haadyai Peace Accord” jointly with the Malaysian government.

    The detention of Dr Jeyakumar and 5 other members is no doubt a heavy blow to PSM. To some extent, it has tarnished the image of Bersih 2.0. It is detrimental to Bersih’s call for electoral reform.

    “Bersih! Bersih! Hidup Bersih!” was the unanimous slogans chanted throughout the Bersih 2.0 rally on July 9, where no flag or slogan of any political party was seen. The slogans used reflected the common aspirations of the Rakyat for clean and fair elections.

    Rakyat have given a thumbs-up to the Bersih 2.0 rally. The Bersih 2.0 rally is a mature and successful public demonstration. To sum up, 709 rally has no doubt far-reaching implications conducive to the healthy development of civil society in this country.


    ---------- Post added at 06:10 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:00 PM ----------

    Malaysia: Struggle For Democracy Intensifies – Analysis

    Written by: SAAG

    July 26, 2011

    By V. Suryanarayan

    On July 9, 2011, thousands of Malaysians defied the government ban and marched through the streets of Kuala Lumpur demanding democratic rights for the people. The march was organized in response to the clarion call issued by Bersih – 2, a coalition of 62 non-governmental organizations, who have been demanding a level playing field and free and fair elections.

    The unprecedented demonstration was in defiance of the Malaysian Government which had detained many Bersih leaders in the false pretext that they were planning the violent overthrow of the Government and were preparing to wage a war against the Agong (Head of State). The Government declared Bersih-2 to be an illegal organization and, what is more, banned the use of yellow colour (the followers of Bersih wear yellow shirts). The access roads to Kuala Lumpur were closed, private buses were prevented from transporting passengers to Kuala Lumpur and those wearing yellow shirts and scarfs were detained before they reached the city.

    However, the people in a rare display of courage and determination marched hand in hand and were singing “we shall overcome”. They were greeted with tear gas shells, chemical laced water cannons and police batons. The use of force, according to international human rights organizations like the Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch was “excessive”. The unprovoked attack resulted in 1670 arrests; one demonstrator, a Malay leader, Baharuddin Ahmad, died in the hospital.

    Never before in the history of contemporary Malaysia has such a demonstration taken place. The demonstration represented all ethnic groups – Malays, Chinese and Indians. The only comparable show of peoples’ strength took place on November 25, 2007 when the Hindraf mobilized the Indian community in a demonstration before the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. It was an exclusively Indian gathering and they were protesting against the marginalization and impoverishment of the Indian community since the dawn of independence. Anwar Ibrahim, the charismatic Malaysian leader, warned the Government of a “hibiscus revolution” (hibiscus is the Malaysian national flower) if the government did not heed to popular demands and introduce far reaching democratic reforms.

    Bersih stands for Coalition for Free and Fair Elections. The July demonstration was called Bersih – 2 because the first was organized in 2007. The Bersih is headed by Ms. Ambiga Sreenivasan, a leading lawyer and former President of the Malaysian Bar Association. Ambiga is the recipient of the US State Department’s International Women of Courage Awards. Recently Ambiga was awarded the honorary doctorate by her alma mater, the University of Exeter. She dedicated the award to the “brave people of Malaysia” who had overcome “fear of intimidation and harassment”. In her acceptance speech she referred to the July 9 rally and underlined the truth that “while it brought out the worst in some, it brought out the best in others and this is where our hope lies”.

    Malay Political Dominance

    In order to put the present crisis in perspective, it is necessary to keep in mind certain basic political realities of Malaysia. When the British extended their political influence in the Malay Peninsula in the 19th and 20th centuries they introduced Direct Rule in the Straits Settlements and Indirect Rule in the Federated and Non-Federated Malay States. As far as the Malay states were concerned, the fiction of sovereignty was still vested in the Sultans, but the Sultans had to seek and administer the State on the advice of British Residents/Advisors whose advice was binding on all matters “except Malay religion (Islam) and customs (adat)”. What is more, the Malays were recognized as the Bhumiputras (sons of the soil). The British encouraged large scale immigration of the Chinese and the Indians for the economic development of Malaya. Before the Second World War, there was not much of an anti-British feeling; politically the country, unlike Vietnam and Indonesia, was a backwater. As the British novelist Somerset Maugham has written “Malaya was a first rate country for third rate English men”.

    However, the political awakening of the Malays following the introduction of the Malayan Union proposals and the unity that they forged under the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) had far reaching consequences in the political evolution of Malaya. Not only did it compel the British to withdraw the Malayan Union proposals, but it also clearly revealed that the Malays will never surrender the pre-eminent position in Malaya. While in later years, the Malay leaders did take the co-operation of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) in the larger interests of Malaya as a whole, the dynamic leadership of Malaysian nationalism had always come from the Malays. The ruling Alliance, later expanded into Barisan Nasional, was not an alliance of equal partners; it was an alliance in which the UMNO was the dominant partner. The Malay political supremacy continued unabated until Anwar Ibrahim raised the banner of revolt against the undemocratic and high handed policies of Dr. Mahathir. After the split in the UMNO, the non-Malay votes have become extremely important in coming to power, but unfortunately this has not resulted in any dilution of Malay pre-eminence.

    Two important changes in the political system should be highlighted. While, in early years of independence, the leaders of the Chinese and the Indians – Tan Siew Sin and Sambanthan – accepted the political supremacy of the Malays without any reservation, the new generation of the Chinese and the Indians has started questioning the basis of Malay political supremacy. These Indians and Chinese – third or fourth generation Malaysia born – resent the special rights enjoyed by the Malays and ask, with certain amount of justification, for how many more years they should live in Malaysia to enjoy equal status with the Malays. What is more, they have started questioning the rationale behind many undemocratic features of the Malaysian political system. Equally important are the leadership qualities of Malaysian Prime Ministers. While the first three Prime Ministers since independence – Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Hussein Onn – had overwhelming support of Malays and non-Malays, the same cannot be said about Dr. Mahathir and his political successors.

    The long spell of Mahathir’s rule brought about a fundamental transformation in Malaysia. From being a producer of primary commodities, Malaysia has become an industrialized country, virtually an economic power house in the ASEAN region. But the negative side of the story was increasing authoritarianism and pro-Islamic policies. The unfair trial of Anwar Ibrahim and the third degree methods employed against him by the police officials have given a bad image to Malaysia. What is more, the fruits of development have not percolated to the poorer sections of Malaysian society, especially the Indians. The cumulative result was the political Tsunami in the 2008 election and the Barisan Nasional suffered unprecedented reverses. Not only it lost its two thirds majority in Parliament, it failed to regain power in Kelantan and lost power in Kedah, Perak, Penang and Selangor. The victory of the opposition parties had been a morale booster to pro-democratic forces in the country.

    Misuse Of The Internal Security Act

    An important political reality in Malaysia must be underlined. It is extremely difficult for opposition parties to function in Malaysia. The draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) provides for detention without trail. It was introduced by the British colonialists when they were fighting against the Malayan Communist Party which had launched an armed struggle for power. But the ISA continued even after independence and it has been used (misused) by the government mercilessly against both Malay and non- Malay opposition. It may be recalled that even Dr. Mahathir was detained under the ISA after the communal riots in May 1969 and his book, Malay Dilemma, was banned. Many observers of the Malaysian scene believed when Mahathir came to power in 1981 he will remove the ISA and usher in an era of democratization. Not only the hopes were shattered Mahathir turned out to be more authoritarian than earlier Prime Ministers. So stifling was the political atmosphere during Mahathir years that it used to be said that in Malaysia “the wise conform, the otherwise land in prisons”.

    The Internal Security Act is inhuman, because it denies the victim a fundamental human right, the right to a fair trial. Anwar Ibrahim underlined some of the evils of the Malaysian political system in an international conference in New Delhi few years ago: “What is an election if the political parties in the opposition do not have access to freedom of speech, assembly and movement, necessary to voice their criticisms of the government openly and to bring alternative policies and candidates to the voters? Where I come from, the opposition is banned from the air waves, rallies are not allowed and opposition newspapers operate underground”. Prof. Harold Crouch, an astute observer of the Malaysian political scene, has remarked, “It is hard to place Malaysia in a clear cut category between democracy and authoritarianism”. He concludes “Malaysia is neither democratic nor authoritarian — as the Malaysian political system has been oscillating between repression and responsiveness”. I am fond of comparing the Malaysian political system to the freedom enjoyed by the animals in the circus ring, the animals are free within the ring, but if they dare disobey the ring master, they meet severe punishment. At the same time, one notable feature during recent years should be mentioned. The opposition has started using internet in an effective way in highlighting the anti-people policies of the government. On the eve of Bersih rally important leaders of Parti Sosialis Malaysia – Choo Chon Kai, Sarat Babu, Sarasvathy Muthu, Sukumaran Munisamy, A Letchumanan and Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj – were all detained under the Internal Security Act. At the time of writing this essay, they still continue to be in detention.

    Delimitation Of Constituencies Favouring Malays

    A notable feature of the Malaysian electoral system is that the electoral system favours the electorate in rural areas. And the rural areas are predominantly inhabited by the Malays. This legislation was introduced on the eve of the formation of Malaysia in 1963. In Malaysia, as is well known, the Chinese were the single largest minority, 42.2 per cent, the Malays 39.2 per cent, the Indians 9.4 per cent, the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak 7.0 per cent and others 2.2 per cent. The new electoral system meant that rural constituencies need have fewer voters than urban constituencies. What is more, one of the main objectives of Malay leaders was to retain Malay political supremacy in Malaysia. This could be accomplished by reducing the political influence of predominantly Chinese Singapore in the proposed Federation. Thus Singapore was allotted only 15 seats in the Federal parliament, while Sarawak was given 24 and Sabah 16, though the population of Singapore was more than that of Sabah and Sarawak put together. Singapore leaders accepted these limitations because, Singapore, unlike other federal units, was given greater measure of autonomy and a larger share of revenue. Singapore separated from Malaysia in August 1965, but the delimitation of constituencies favoring Malays still continues in Malaysia. The Author made an in-depth study of the 1978 parliamentary elections and found that the predominantly non-Malay urban constituency of Petaling in Selangor State had an electorate of 90,611, whereas the rural Malay parliamentary constituency of Kuala Kari in the State of Kelantan had only 19,627 voters. In other words, Petaling had four times more voters than Kuala Krai. The number of voters has increased in Malaysia since 1978, but the urban-rural divide continues to dominate the Malaysian electoral scene even today.

    Demands Of Bersih

    The Bersih, as mentioned earlier, is a coalition of 62 non-political organizations. It was founded in November 2006. Bersih in Malay language means clean. It has received the support of three political parties – Parti Kedilan Rakyat (PKR), Partai Islam (PAS) and Democratic Action Party (DAP). The demands put forward by Bersih include independence of the Election Commission, elimination of electoral practices deemed unfair for the opposition candidates, elimination of corrupt campaign practices, equal access to the media for all political parties and institution of a care taker government during election periods. The immediate demands of Bersih before the July rally were 1) Clean the electoral roll; 2) Reform postal voting; 3) Use of indelible ink; 4) A minimum campaign period of 21 days; 5) Free and fair access to mainstream media; 6) Strengthen public institutions; 7) Stop corruption and Stop dirty politics. Bersih’s original plan was to have protestors gather at the KL Sogo shopping centre, KL City hall centre and Kampong Baru Mosque and then march to the Istana Negara to deliver the memorandum. After discussions with the Agong, the organisers decided to hold the rally inside a stadium. Their request for permission to hold the rally in Merdeka stadium was rejected by the police. Bersih accused the Government of reneging on its earlier promise.

    Unfortunate Fall Out

    The Indian observers of the Malaysian political scene are disturbed by one unfortunate development i.e. Bersih and Hindraf failed to make common cause on this important issue. The Hindraf leaders felt let down by many leaders of opposition parties who went back on their promise to look into the grievances of Hindraf once they assumed power in various states. The end result was the division in the ranks of the opposition, who have the same objectives. But it is heartening to note that many Indian political activists, especially those belonging to the Parti Sosialis Malaysia, were in the forefront mobilizing public opinion for strengthening democratic forces.

    Again from an Indian point of view, it is heartening to note that the Bersih has considerable following among the Malaysian Indians. Mention has already been made of Ms. Ambiga Sreenivasan who is the President of the Bersih. Equally important is the inspiring role being played by Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj, Dr. Devaraj shot into political fame when he defeated the President of the Malaysian Indian Congress Samy Velu in the Sungei Siput constituency in the 2008 parliamentary elections. As a medical doctor, he undertook medical practice in Sarawak and also among the Orang Asi, the indigenous people of Malaysia. He used his professional abilities to bring the much needed medical attention to the poor and the marginalized. One of the founding members of Alaigal, which championed the cause of the plantation workers of Sungai Siput in Perak State, he is in the forefront of championing the role of the State in providing medical care. Naturally he is active in the democratic socialist movement in Malaysia. He is the only member of the Socialist Party in Malaysian parliament.

    Reading about the life and socialist convictions of Dr. Devaraj, I am reminded of my field work in Malaysia in the late 1960’s. In particular I recall meeting the great Malay socialist leader Ahmad Boestaman. Boestaman was inspired by the Indonesian nationalist movement, especially the vibrant democratic socialist elements in it. Even before the UMNO championed the cause of Merdeka, Boestaman, along with thousands of Malay youth, demanded complete independence for Malaya. What is more, he spent his life popularizing socialist ideals in Malaya. He was the founder of the Partai Rakyat (People’s Party) He was convinced that the formation of Malaysia was a British conspiracy and the objective behind its formation was to retain vital British economic and strategic interests in Southeast Asia. But, at the same time, he believed that Malaysia provided an opportunity for socialists in the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak to come together and champion the democratic socialist ideals. Boestaman’s abiding faith that socialism alone could provide a solution to Malay poverty inspired many idealistic young people.

    Like Boestaman, who was detained under the ISA several times, Dr. Devaraj is also in detention today under the obnoxious Internal Security Act. But if the Malaysian political leadership thinks that his voice can be stifled it is mistaken. The famous lines of Richard Lovelace come to my mind:

    Stone walls do not a prison make,
    Nor iron bars a cage;
    Minds innocent and quiet take
    That for a hermitage.

    (Dr. V. Suryanarayan is former Senior Professor and Director, Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras. He is currently Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Asia Studies, Chennai. His e mail address: suryageeth@sify.com)

    About the author:
    SAAG

    SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding
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  6. #6
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    Malaysia's 'Silent' Awakening

    SPECIAL REPORTS
    Saturday, 20 August 2011 Combat



    By Natasja Sheriff, The Nation

    “In spite of all the attacks, the intimidation, the fear, that the government has put in, from race to violence to chaos and all that, the people have actually decided that they want to come forward to join this rally,” Chin Abdullah continues. “No more being the silent majority. We are hoping that from here it will be a stepping stone towards a formation in the future of a more democratic movement in Malaysia.”

    In early July, while eyes were on the unrest in the Middle East, another democratic movement was gathering momentum in Southeast Asia. Borne out of growing discontent with the ruling government, the people of Malaysia were experiencing their own awakening. Their movement for electoral reform, known as “Bersih” (meaning “clean” in the Malay language), reached critical mass on July 9, when an estimated 47,000 people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur, demanding action against voter fraud, press freedom and an end to “dirty politics”—slander and incessant claims and counterclaims of supposed sexual misconduct. The rally provoked an unprecedented government crackdown, widely condemned by international human rights agencies, leading to the arrests of more than 1,600 people. Police action has continued, with people frequently detained for as little as wearing a yellow T-shirt—a symbol of support for the outlawed Bersih movement.

    The reform movement has been growing since 2005, when a group of politicians and non-governmental organizations, dismayed at the level of fraud and corruption in the Malaysian political system, came together to form the Joint Action Committee for Electoral Reform. When the movement was revived in 2010 as the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, or Bersih 2.0—the now familiar moniker of the reform movement—the organizers made a strategic decision to exclude all political parties, including members of the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat. Bersih 2.0 emerged as nonpartisan, civil society movement to monitor progress towards electoral reform.

    Without the involvement of political parties, organizers had to find other means to reach out to mobilize their supporters. “We planned all these roadshows at the nationwide level,” says Maria Chin Abdullah, whose organization EMPOWER serves as the secretariat for the Bersih 2.0 Coalition, which would “entail us going to various states to explain the fifteen demands we had and why we prioritized eight of them.” But the police took a harsh position against protestors. “Before we could even start our roadshow, they already arrested about thirty people,” Chin Abdullah explains.

    With direct attempts to reach out to the public thwarted by the police, the movement took to social media. Facebook became the main source of information about the July 9 rally in Kuala Lumpur, and the Twitterverse lit up. A new generation, well-versed in the advantages of online activism and emboldened by the relative anonymity of social media, took courage from protestors across the Middle East and came forward to support the movement. On July 9, the number of Twitter users talking about the Bersih rally reached 19,188, according to the website Politweet. Both online and offline, many thousands of supporters wanted to make their voices heard despite the threat of the government’s harsh preventative laws like the notorious Internal Security Act (ISA), frequently and arbitrarily applied to suppress dissent.

    Many Malaysians feel they are powerless to change their government, yet the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, which has held power since the formation of the Federation of Malaya in 1957, is clearly uneasy. The Minister of Home Affairs, Hishammuddin Hussein, outlawed Bersih for spreading seditious propaganda and for “affecting the harmony of a multicultural society.” The police refused to grant a permit for the “Bersih 2.0” rally, and government ministers denounced the rally and its organizers.

    The government has also attempted to discredit the rally and its organizers by suggesting that the movement’s real goal is to cause disharmony and racial strife. Fear of igniting racial tensions among the country’s three dominant ethnic groups—Malay, Chinese and Indian—frequently colors the political rhetoric of Malaysia. References to the race riots that swept across Malaysia in 1969, leaving an estimated 169 people dead, are often cited as a warning to Malaysians who threaten the status quo, and are used to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Anil Netto, a Malaysian journalist who frequently writes on behalf of the reform group Aliran, explains that the government’s tactics are erratic, and increasingly ineffective. “Initially they were speaking of foreign powers, the next day about communism, another day that Christian groups were getting involved. Many can by now see through these tactics and they are not carrying as much weight as they might have in the past.” And attempts by the government to frame the rally as a threat to racial harmony appear to be unfounded—the movement cuts across racial and religious groups.

    ”What was good about Bersih 2.0 rally, as everyone now knows, is that it brought out a more multi-racial component,” says Chin Abdullah. “It’s actually a Malaysian rally.” It’s also a movement in which women have played a leading role: Ambiga Sreenevasan, a lawyer and former chairwoman of the Malaysian Bar Council, is the leader of the Bersih movement, and a recipient of the US State Department International Women of Courage award in 2009; and Maria Chin Abdullah, a central figure in the Malaysian women’s rights movement, is head of the Bersih Secretariat. Support also came from an unexpected quarter when Marina Mahathir, daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, attended the rally.

    The government likely fears that the movement will result in electoral gains by the opposition in the 2012 election. After Bersih’s first rally, in 2007, the opposition coalition gained control of five of Malaysia’s thirteen states in the 2008 general election, a victory commonly dubbed a “political tsunami.” “The government probably knows that these kind of reforms will strike at the heart of the current electoral process which has returned them to power since independence,” says Netto.

    Ironically, the government has only served to fuel public anger and provided the Bersih movement with all the publicity they could need. “To be honest, we didn't even need the roadshows to raise the publicity of Bersih 2.0, the government did the publicity for us,” says Chin Abdullah. “In spite of all the attacks, the intimidation, the fear, that the government has put in, from race to violence to chaos and all that, the people have actually decided that they want to come forward to join this rally,” Chin Abdullah continues. “No more being the silent majority. We are hoping that from here it will be a stepping stone towards a formation in the future of a more democratic movement in Malaysia.”
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    The significance of the rally — Hwn Yaul Len

    August 29, 2011
    AUG 29 — It doesn’t matter how negatively the authorities have described the assembly or even labelled it as being “illegal”, the rally has undeniably brought about positive impacts as the government must now listen to the people and attend to their demands.

    Yes, I’m talking about the July 9 Bersih rally.

    After making its way into news headlines, the spectacular street rally does not simply come to a quiet end following a few days of hot debates. In fact, the spirit to fight for a common cause lives on and with the impacts of the rally brewing, the government has pledged to improve the existing electoral system and mechanism.

    This is the significance of the assembly. The face-off between the people and the government has at least generated attention and the authorities are now addressing the people’s demands. Following this, we will see whether the government is going to fulfil its pledge by walking its talk.

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently announced the commitment to form a parliamentary select committee comprising members from both the ruling coalition and the opposition parties in a bid to reform our electoral system. The initiative is the first sign pointing to the acknowledgement of the current corrupt electoral practices and the need to reform the system.

    At the same time, the Election Commission (EC) has twice engaged in open debates with Bersih president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan following the Bersih rally. Having such rational dialogues and interactions is a good start to collect views in an effort to improve the electoral system.

    The EC must also respond to each and every demand raised by Bersih. For instance, the EC will reach a decision on the use of indelible ink or biometric system to prevent voters from casting multiple votes, clean up the electoral rolls, review postal voting system and others.

    In fact, Bersih had long ago requested the use of indelible ink in elections. Agreeing to the demand in 2007, the government spent more than RM2 million to import the ink from overseas. However, certain “security” issues prompted the EC to make a U-turn right before the 2008 general election and cancel the plan, much to the disappointment of the opposition members.

    Today, the call for the use of indelible ink has once again surfaced but the EC is more inclined to use the biometric finger print system. Though the final approach has yet to be decided, the opposition parties are not in favour of the use of the biometric identification for fear of human bias which may possibly happen.

    Apart from that, there are many other issues which must be resolved by the EC before the upcoming general election. They include the problem of phantom voters, as well as those involving permanent residents-turn-voters and others.

    The authorities may not be able to instantly improve or rectify the existing malpractices following the July 9 rally but at least, the people have voiced their dissatisfaction and the government can no longer turn a blind eye to the people’s demands.

    Can you still conclude that the assembly carries no significance? — mysinchew.com

    * This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.
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    It has been clear all this while that Najib and UMNO are too chicken to fight a Free and Fair Election because they fear they



    Pollster: 88% of M'sians back Bersih demands

    Nigel Aw
    Aug 29, 11
    3:33pm

    10 friends can read this story for free

    More than two thirds of Malaysians agree with the demands advocated by electoral reform group Bersih 2.0, says pollster Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.

    A survey of 1,027 respondents from Aug 11-27 found an overwhelming number of Malaysians - 88 percent - want a review of the electoral roll and for it to be cleaned up.

    The support cuts across ethnic lines, with 89 percent of Malays, 85 percent of Chinese, and 88 percent of Indians wanting the electoral roll to be cleaned up.

    The vast majority of Malaysians also support other aspects of electoral reform, with 70 percent of Malaysians agreeing to the use of indelible ink and the presence of foreign observers during elections.

    Bersih 2.0 and the opposition have been advocating the use of indelible ink to prevent the issue of phantom voting but the government has proposed the use of the biometric system, which will cost significantly higher.

    Further, Election Commission chief Abdul Aziz Yusof (left) recently conceded that the biometric system would inherently have more problems and has promised to consider both options.

    Also, 68 percent of respondents agree that the opposition should have access to the mainstream media, a medium that is controlled and dominated by the ruling coalition.

    Like other aspects of reforms, trends indicate that such support cuts across ethnic lines.

    While the pro-reform stance on the electoral system may reflect what Bersih 2.0 is advocating for, only 49 percent of those polled were aware of the group's actual demands.


    Degree of sympathy

    Despite this, there appears to be a degree of sympathy for the electoral reform coalition of 62 NGOs, as almost half, or 48 percent of Malaysians, disapprove the government's handling of Bersih's July 9 rally, with only 39 percent agreeing.

    The overwhelming dissatisfaction comes from the Chinese community with a record 68 percent followed by Indians at 55 percent.

    However, the majority of Malays approved of the government's handling of the July 9 rally which stood at 57 percent as opposed to 37 percent who disapproved.

    Bersih is calling for the electoral roll to be cleaned up, reforms to postal voting, use of indelible ink and free and fair access to the media.

    The group also wants a minimum campaign period of 21 days, the strengthening of public institutions and a stop to corruption and dirty politics.

    In reaction to sustained pressure from the coalition, the government has since announced that it will be setting up a parliamentary select committee on electoral reform.

    However, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's refusal to guarantee that the electoral reforms would be put in place before the next general election is called has dampened all hopes in the proposed committee.
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