Thursday, July 7, 2011

BERSIH - A Dirty Dream

A Dream Of The Sea
Yesterday, I had a dirty dream. (No, you dirty bugger not THAT sort!) I dreamed of a sea of yellow clad figures. There was a huge clamour, voices rising above the din of the lightning storms, calling for a better future for the nation. They invoked a calm in me, like a sea of bright, smiling sunflowers, radiant and hopeful .... Until an ocean of blue dots came swiftly, and clashed with the yellow. From my bird's eye view, it was like blue drops of paint plunging into a vat of yellow, smearing and mixing into dirty swirls. The blue, the yellow, mixed and matched, back and forth.... Till oddly enough... the world was red, a dirty red that sullied my vision.

And then, I awoke.

Sweating from my "premonition", I hurriedly clutched my mobile phone, profusely apologizing to the SIM card within for switching from DIGI to Maxis.Yellow to red. From clean.... To the stained.

Anyway, on an entirely unrelated note, there has been a whole hue and cry concerning the yellow BERSIH rally coming up. With so many articles and learned professors condemning the act, I feel compelled to point out the flaws in their arguments and insert my two cents worth on the way.

Politically motivated?

Firstly, the BERSIH Rally is a peaceful rally organised by over 80 NGOs, with the support of Pakatan Rakyat component parties, DAP, PAS and PKR. The allegations of many are that the rally is politically motivated. But they have all ignored that if Pakatan Rakyat feels it should support efforts to promote free and fair elections, there is nothing wrong with that! They have made it sound as if whenever a political party throws its support behind an event, it automatically ceases to be beneficial, and becomes political propoganda. That said, following this flawed sense of logic, the Tak Nak campaign, OneMalaysia campaign and many others have automatically become a political weapon by virtue of their affliation with BN.

Illegitimate organisation?

Secondly, the BERSIH Rally has 8 demands, demands that are perfectly reasonable.
1. Clean the electoral roll- Ensure dead people are deregistered, introducing automated voter registration upon reaching eligibility.
2. Reform postal ballots- Letting all Malaysians who cannot be there physically vote.
3. Use indelible ink-To prevent electoral fraud. Even Afghanistan uses this!
4. Minimum 21 days for campaigning- Allows Malaysians to properly evaluate policies. Our first election in 1955 had 42 days!
5. Free and fair access to media- Media access for opposition parties too. After all, you need to know them before you can decide on them.
6. Strengthen public insitutions- Reform the police, judiciary, and Election Commission. All the "suicides" in MACC, the court decision of "unknown" on the Teoh Beng Hock case should more than demonstrate the need for reform.
7. Stop corruption- No vote buying, and beyond.
8. Stop dirty politics- I don't think I can make Malaysian politics sound any dirtier than it is.

Instead of evaluating and acknowledging these demands, our government has gone all out to condemn BERSIH as illegal and illegitimate. The Election Commission on the other hand, has stood beside Government officials to speak out against the rally, whereas the EC is supposed to remain and appear neutral at all times.

Destroying our image?

Thirdly, many have spoken out saying the Rally will destroy the country's image, causing us to lose revenue in terms of tourism and so on. Now, these tourists are mainly from Europe. To these tourists, demonstrations, strikes, protests are a way of life, a part of their functioning democracies, it is part of their freedom of assembly. To say that one protest will scare away these veterans who have seen, and probably participated in many, is foolish and capitalizes on ignorance. If the Government were to ban such a rally, what with its reasonable demands, then it would depict the country as draconian, undemocratic and unreasonable. Should the Federal Reserve Unit retaliate, the Government would have proven itself to belong to the likes of Gaddaffi. Instead, the Government should allow the BERSIH Rally, to prove itself a cut above the rest of its Muslim peers in the Middle East. In any case, I can't imagine our nation's image being destroyed any further after that whole ridiculous Obedient Wives Club debacle.

Danger to Lives

Regarding the "massive danger to public property, and lives", this is clearly an argument that presents only one side of the case. The protesters are normal citizens like you and me, this country is theirs as well, and their friends and family are all watching. They have nothing to gain by throwing Molotov cocktails around, as some commentators would have us believe, and everything to lose by violence. Besides, most of these confrontations results from FRU actions as reported by SUHAKAM regarding the 2006 Bersih Rally, where police struck the first blow, and resorted to I quote, "excessive force". Has the Government made any provisions at all to protect the citizens, any directives to the police not to strike at protesters? I'm afraid not. It seems to me that the danger imposed is not from the protestors, but rather by the Federal Reserve itself. Irony in its highest form.

Economic Losses

As for the so called economic losses, money is like water stored in a bottle. Tilt it one way, the water will follow it. But the amount of water remains the same. If people cannot buy goods, go to cinemas etc on Saturday in Jalan Maharajalela, they will buy goods a day or so earlier or later, go to watch Transformer a week or so later. Or at worst, they will turn to an alternative location to purchase the goods. Furthermore, logically whenever thousands of people congregate at one spot, business booms and not drops. The protestors, being Malaysians, standing in the heat, will have need of food and drink. This will cause an influx of customers to the hawkers there! The same applied during the Hindraf rallies a few years back, hawkers set up stalls along the route to the King's Palace. In any case, this rally is only one day long. The point is, the "massive economic losses and depriving people of their livelihoods" argument is completely flawed.

Dirty Tactics

After the audience with the King, the BERSIH organising committee agreed to hold the rally in a stadium instead. Prime Minister Dato Najib agreed, having offered the option prior to this. And now, the BERSIH rally has been rejected of its request to hold the rally in Merdeka stadium. In addition to that, the National stadium and Bukit Jalil stadium have also been declared off limits, because Bersih 2.0 is an illegal entity. Illegal, despite the fact that S. Ambiga is a respected former member of the Bar Council that was given an award by Hilary Clinton in recognition for her human rights efforts; despite the fact that over 80 legitimate NGOs are backing the rally.

Depriving Bersih of stadiums, after having made an offer to supply them with one, is treachery of the highest handed order. It also shows how desperate, and afraid BN is of the power of the people. Ironically, all this demonizing of BERSIH has only brought greater publicity to it, and proven the integirty of S. Ambiga, who has remained calm despite name calling from even the Prime Minister himself.

Bersih this, bersih that.... BN best be concentrating on its efforts to clean up... Or be cleaned out!

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