Bersih 2.0 – The Paranoia Had Started


Congestion caused by a road accident, Algarve,...
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The real madness have started…

I guess one becomes very paranoid all over when one enters the Home Ministry. But with Bersih 2.0, it has gone beyond the realms of paranoia to an extent where wearing certain colored T-shirts could get you arrested.

Early this morning, as I pass the toll plaza and headed towards the city center, I realized that there was a massive traffic jam just after the toll plaza. It was too early in the morning for a traffic jam so at first I thought there must have been an accident. But when I saw flickers of blue lights, cars squeezing into one controlled lane and several policemen standing by the vehicle, not really watching the traffic, I shook my head and cursed silently at those who manned the roadblocks.

I wonder how the situation would be when the peak hours starts but I know it will be very bad. Basically I am not sure how the setup of roadblocks so early in the morning will help in bringing public order – it only going to get worse. I am not sure how many people is going to get their plans for the morning ruined or delayed getting to their destination or workplace.

Today is just Wednesday – there is still 3 more days before the purported rally day and already we are seeing roadblocks. So, do expect more insane measures and more roadblocks as we move nearer towards the weekend even though the street rally have been called off and the rally will be held in a stadium.

And interestingly the acceptance to have the rally in a stadium have certainly put the Government in a fix as highlighted in Anilnetto’s post titled “Stadium it is…“.

How the Government is going to go about it now considering there has been major crackdown on the Bersih 2.0 in past few weeks? Can people wear yellow Bersih 2.0 without fear now? Najib took the easy way out by leaving that decision to the police. The police informed that despite Bersih 2.0 agreed to have the rally in a stadium, Bersih 2.0 still need to apply for a police permit for the rally.

The interesting question would be – since the Bersih 2.0 had met the King and agreed to follow the King’s suggestions and it was the Government who mooted the idea of having the rally in the stadium – will the police now agree to grant the the permit to the organizers?  Because if the police denies the permit, then it is back to square one for Bersih 2.0.

It will be an interesting to see what the Government (who is also controlling the police) will do in the next few days especially after Bersih 2.0 had toned down on the key location of their rally.

In the meantime, be prepared for the insane roadblocks – things like leaving home early, picking the best routes and having a full tank of petrol in the car would helpful.

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Bersih 2.0 – The King’s Response


Finally, some light at the end of the tunnel…

(The King who presided over the previous Bersih 1.0 is once again have made declaration that should bring the Government and Bersih 2.0 on talking terms again – hopefully. Image source: http://pinkturtle2.wordpress.com)

Well, it could have been an indirect warning to Bersih 2.0 or it could have been the lifeline that Najib been looking for to bring the tug-of-war between the Government and Bersih 2.0 to a friendlier conclusion but still, it is an interesting and timely statement from the King.

From theSun:-

“I am following closely the developments of the proposed gathering and procession by Bersih with the aim of handing over a memorandum to me as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and how the government, particularly the agencies and departments concerned, is handling the issue.

“However, I believe that the nation’s leadership under Yang Amat Berhormat Datuk Sri Mohd Najib Tun Haji Abdul Razak is capable of handling this problem in the best possible way.

“I urge that amid the political fervour of a section of the people to bolster democracy in our country, it must also be ensured that this demand on democracy does not bring destruction to the country.

“Generally, we cannot be following too much the practices in other countries, as harmony and stability are vital foundations for a country and which all quarters must protect.

“I also urge the government to carry out everything that is entrusted to it by the people in a just and wise manner, and it is important that I as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong do not want to see this country with a plural society in a situation where there is animosity among them or a section of the people being enemies with the government, on whatever grounds.

“When any problem arises, we as a civilised society must resolve it through consultations and not follow our emotions, as the Malay saying goes, Yang Dikejar Tak Dapat Yang Dikendong Berciciran (Not getting what we chase after and spilling what we carry).

“The fact is, street demonstrations bring more bad than good although the original intention is good. Instead, we should focus on our main objective to develop this country, and not create problems that will cause the country to lag behind.

“Remember that there is no land where the rain does not fall, there is no ocean that is not turbulent. That is how important moderation and compromise is, which has been long been in practice by our nation’s administration.”

Yes, it is a translated text (read here for the BM version) but there are wise messages for both side of the divide from the King and if one read between the lines (rather widely, of course), is the King telling the Government that they are not handling the situation wisely?

Consider these statements:-

“…Najib Tun Haji Abdul Razak is capable of handling this problem…”

The King says Najib is capable of, he did not say Najib IS handling the best possible way. As at todate, instead of engaging Bersih 2.0 in a more matured ways, the Government unfortunately has only acted irrational and with a pinch of paranoia from labeling the organizers as trouble makers, banning yellow Bersih T-shirts under an unnamed law, arresting groups of protestors under unimaginative charges, to stopping pre Bersih 2.0 rallies.

“….a section of the people being enemies with the government…”

Instead using the label “trouble makers” for the organizers of Bersih 2.0, the King calls them “a section of the people” which is true and admirable because Bersih 2.0 at the end of the day is nothing but ordinary citizens who have certain demands for the Government. And when the ordinary citizens are deemed to be enemies of the Government, it is actually reflecting badly on the Government, not the people. This is because Government is elected by the people and once you fall out with the people, it could mean the end of you in the next elections.

No doubt, there were messages for Bersih 2.0 as well – to continue with direct engagements with the relevant stakeholders instead of doing it through street rallies and demonstrations. And there seems to be some positive development towards that both from Bersih 2.0 and the Government (they seems to agree on rally to be held in a stadium now) but do expect massive traffic jam during the weekend especially towards the city centre.

The ball is in the Government’s court now – demands of Bersih 2.0 only calls for betterment of the election process (minus the call for street rally perhaps). We would not have even gotten to Bersih 1.0 if the whole election process has been well managed and fair from the very start but the truth of the matter is that it is not – one must admit that loopholes still exists and even the EC has admitted that there is “only so much” they could do although many may disagree with this – certainly “cleaning the electoral roll, reforming postal balloting, use of indelible ink, and minimum 21 days campaigning period is well within the ambit and ability of the EC.

P.s. In the meantime, it seems that Ibrahim Ali is now so upset because the King is willing to see the organizers of Bersih 2.0 and not him. His quote of the day – “We at Perkasa have written many times to meet with the King on several issues but we’ve never gotten that” was timely responded by one of reader with this statement “Ibrahim Ali? Perkasa? I am not surprised with Istana Negara’s decision”. Now that is funny!

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Putting it in Perspective

Bersih 2.0


Imagine reading this news on 10th July 2011 morning:-

I have been busy with an assignment lately and I have been traveling too but as much as possible, I do try to keep abreast with the latest news at home. And one that has been quite hot in the news recently is the Bersih 2.0 rally on 9th July 2011.

It is amazing that 500 – 600 police reports have been lodged against Bersih 2.0 todate and it has gotten Perkasa and UMNO Youth into the act as well although their objectives may differ from what Bersih 2.0 is standing for.

No doubt, public rallies in Malaysia have always been chaotic and not in all circumstance, we can say that the blame needs to be put on the shoulders of the organizers. As Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa had said it will be chaos and we agree to that but it only get even more chaotic when there are opposing parties striven to throw the spanner into the woodworks. Still remember the rallies by Anti ISA organizers and the Pro ISA organizers that happen on the same time. The Pro ISA rally was cocked up only after the Anti ISA rally was announced.

And whenever we have public rallies, there is this famed “mother of roadblocks” by the police which does nothing to prevent the public rally from happening but gets into the nerve of every motorist that have to pass through these insane traffic jams that is created by these road blocks. It is more productive for these policemen to doing real policing work rather stand around by the side of the highway, manning road blocks which cause 3 lanes of traffic to be squeezed into 1 and as no ones passes these road blocks wears a large “I am Public Rally participant” signboard, the effectiveness of such road blocks is highly questionable. Bersih 2.0 organizer did not get the permit for the public rally but so did Perkasa – so it will be interesting to see how police will act against the two.

And why we should oppose this rally which calls for fair election practices? Doesn’t it promote the very principles of democracy? There are still loopholes in the way we conduct our elections although the Election Commission and the Government will think otherwise. Postal votes for example remains a pain in the neck for the oppositions and it is no secret that gerrymandering is practiced wide spread by those who intend to keep themselves in power. Yes, our election process has not reached the level of maturity that we have hoped it to be.

Bersih 1.0 was unprecedented and was a great success and a couple of weeks later, the Government had another headache dealing with Hindraf rally. Both rallies, coupled with high handed tactics by the previous Government helped to steer the nation to hand over the worst election result to BN and helped the opposition to gain control of 4 states. We have seen the progress made by the oppositions since 2008 – some is good, some is bad.

Having thousands of people on the streets will not only be a logistic nightmare for the organizers but also for the law enforcement agencies. Can they keep peace and order? The easy way out for the police would be to deny the permit for the rally in the place, mitigating the expected chaos if the rally goes through. And that is what the police had done too but certainly it is not going to stop the rally. And what about the inconvenience that it creates for those who is not involved in the rally but had to drive in to the city for urgent matters. Think of the traffic jams and disruptions to the daily routine for the day. And we have yet to count the expected losses by businesses that had to close their premises for the day in fear of riots and public disorder.

Thus arriving to the question that many may be asking – whether we still need a Bersih 2.0? To answer that question, we probably need to see what Bersih 2.0 is demanding.

Bersih 2.0’s 8 demands are not surprisingly something new – it is something we have been hearing from NGOs and the oppositions all over the years.

1. Clean the electoral roll
The electoral roll is marred with irregularities such as deceased persons and multiple persons registered under a single address or non-existent addresses. The electoral roll must be revised and updated to wipe out these ‘phantom voters’. The rakyat have a right to an electoral roll that is an accurate reflection of the voting population.

In the longer term, BERSIH 2.0 also calls for the EC to implement an automated voter registration system upon eligibility to reduce irregularities.

2. Reform postal ballot
The current postal ballot system must be reformed to ensure that all citizens of Malaysia are able to exercise their right to vote. Postal ballot should not only be open for all Malaysian citizens living abroad, but also for those within the country who cannot be physically present in their voting constituency on polling day. Police, military and civil servants too must vote normally like other voters if not on duty on polling day.

The postal ballot system must be transparent. Party agents should be allowed to monitor the entire process of postal voting.

3. Use of indelible ink
Indelible ink must be used in all elections. It is a simple, affordable and effective solution in preventing voter fraud. In 2007, the EC decided to implement the use of indelible ink. However, in the final days leading up to the 12th General Elections, the EC decided to withdraw the use of indelible ink citing legal reasons and rumours of sabotage.

BERSIH 2.0 demands for indelible ink to be used for all the upcoming elections. Failure to do so will lead to the inevitable conclusion that there is an intention to allow voter fraud.

4. Minimum 21 days campaign period
The EC should stipulate a campaign period of not less than 21 days. A longer campaign period would allow voters more time to gather information and deliberate on their choices. It will also allow candidates more time to disseminate information to rural areas. The first national elections in 1955 under the British Colonial Government had a campaign period of 42 days but the campaign period for 12th GE in 2008 was a mere 8 days.

5. Free and fair access to media
It is no secret that the Malaysian mainstream media fails to practice proportionate, fair and objective reporting for political parties of all divide. BERSIH 2.0 calls on the EC to press for all media agencies, especially state-funded media agencies such as Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM) and Bernama to allocate proportionate and objective coverage for all potlical parties.

6. Strengthen public institutions
Public institutions must act independently and impartially in upholding the rule of law and democracy. Public institutions such as the Judiciary, Attorney-General, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC), Police and the EC must be reformed to act independently, uphold laws and protect human rights.

In particular, the EC must perform its constitutional duty to act independently and impartially so as to enjoy public confidence. The EC cannot continue to claim that they have no power to act, as the law provides for sufficient powers to institute a credible electoral system.

7. Stop corruption
Corruption is a disease that has infected every aspect of Malaysian life. BERSIH 2.0 and the rakyat demand for an end to all forms of corruption. Current efforts to eradicate corruption are mere tokens to appease public grouses. We demand that serious action is taken against ALL allegations of corruption, including vote buying.

8. Stop dirty politics
Malaysians are tired of dirty politics that has been the main feature of the Malaysian political arena. We demand for all political parties and politicians to put an end to gutter politics. As citizens and voters, we are not interested in gutter politics; we are interested in policies that affect the nation.

Certainly reforms like automatic registration of voters for example will eliminate the need for manual registration of voters that creates the notion of phantom voters. We have the right tools and resources, so what’s keeping us from deploying them to ensure everyone of the right age automatically qualifies to vote on who will represent them in Parliament.

And if the EC and the Government are of the opinion that they have done the best to ensure a fair and just election process, just have a look at the recent Sarawak State Election where there were incidents that prevented a fair and just election process.

In the past, we have called for fair and just election process through the press statements, letters, memorandums, petitions and more but progress towards fair and just election process has been rather slow. Sometimes, it does take a public rally with thousands of people from different background and cause to drive the point home. It happened with Bersih 1.0 and we can expect the same awareness with Bersih 2.0.

What we request in the end from the Government is a promise to allow the rally to proceed and end peacefully and thereafter to take Bersih 2.0’s demands for reforms. After all, doesn’t the needs of the nation takes precedent over the needs of political agendas?

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Give me one reason why I should march on 9th July 2011

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