Bersih 2.0’s fair and just demands

By Toh Kin Woon
June 21, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 21 — In recent weeks, many negative, unfair and unreasonable statements have been made against Bersih 2.0. Some of these bordered on vicious personal attacks, in particular against its Chairperson, the highly respected Ambiga Sreenevasan. These attacks arose following the announcement by, and firm commitment of, the entire Steering Committee to hold a peaceful walk to demand for electoral reform and upholding of democracy on 9 July. As a member of Bersih 2.0’s Steering Committee, I feel duty bound to come to its defence.

Allow me first to reiterate the overall objective of our coalition, which is to help the Election Commission realise its noble goal of conducting elections that are fair and clean. All will agree that the attainment of this goal is a must, if Malaysia is to be a fully developed country. Apart from high income, a just and democratic electoral system is an important institution of a first world country.

Unfortunately, the way elections have been conducted in our country up till now leaves much to be desired. Many weaknesses in the process and conduct of elections still remain. Some of these include an electoral roll that is still full of defects; campaign periods that are far too short to allow all contesting parties to effectively disseminate their stands and positions on various issues to the voters; unequal and uneven access to the media, especially state-owned broadcasting; the refusal to use indelible ink in order to eliminate the possibility of multiple voting; and disenfranchisement of many citizens who are resident overseas. The result is that electoral outcomes may not be a full, clear and accurate expression of public will.

In a bid to help move our country towards making our elections fairer and cleaner, Bersih 2.0 has therefore asked via its 8 demands that these weaknesses and defects be overcome and measures further strengthening the electoral system be adopted. Among these are cleaning up the voters list, the use of indelible ink, a minimum campaign period of 21 days, automatic registration of voters, reform of postal voting, equal access to state owned broadcasting and the media, wiping out corruption and the strengthening of public institutions. Bersih 2.0’s goal is simple, which is to help install a system of elections that is beyond reproach and whose outcomes unchallengeable. It is therefore a surprise to many that this good and innocuous goal should meet with so much contest and opposition.

Some, however, would claim that they are not so much contesting and opposing our demands as the way we press for their realisation via the holding of the walk on July 9. All kinds of reasons have been put forward to stall the walk. It will disrupt business, cause massive traffic jams and even create chaos and disorder, so claim the walk opponents. For a start, we have reiterated many a times that our walk will be peaceful. If, in addition, the police come in to lend a hand by controlling and managing traffic, I see no reason why any of these concerns will happen. Indeed this was the case with some recent events, such as the holding of a peaceful protest against the putting up of the Lynas Advanced Materials plant in Pahang, which was organised in Kuala Lumpur. Likewise, countries such as Hong Kong have witnessed even more massive demonstrations and yet they are still prosperous. Besides, there is such a thing called freedom of assembly which is one of the tenets of our Federal Constitution. Opponents of the walk will do well to respect this basic right, failing which all calls for the creation of a highly developed country will come to naught.

Finally, may I appeal to all who are engaged in this discourse to look at the core matter of clean and fair elections. Unfortunately, however, many of those opposed to Bersih 2.0’s big rally on July 9 have chosen to divert from it. Instead they have chosen to launch vicious personal attacks against its Chairperson and even blamed Bersih 2.0 for the recent hacking of government websites. All these are clearly off the mark and are not part of rational debate that we should be engaged in.

* Dr Toh Kin Woon is a member of Bersih 2.0’s steering sommittee

  1. #1 by chinkimwah on Tuesday, 21 June 2011 - 11:00 pm

    Kudos to the Steering Committee of Bersih to stand up for a fair and transparent electoral system. Those opposing the walk cannot justify thieir actions so they resort to threats and disrupting the peace.

  2. #2 by bruno on Wednesday, 22 June 2011 - 7:48 am

    For the first time in Umno’s history it is feeling its position in the Federal level threatened.The general accepted feeling is that a really huge Bersih crowd could put Umno and BN in an akward position.The word Bersih scares the hell out of Umno.Bersih to the public means clean but to Umno it means ‘clean house’.

    And Bersih is being led by Ms. Ambiga.So it is natural for Umno to let its attack dogs attack the leader of the organisation they feel threatened by.That is the Chairman Ms. Ambiga.This has to be accepted because it comes with the territory.I think Ms. Ambiga can handle this personal attacks very well.

    The Umno camp is in a panic mood now.They are throwing everything they can including the kitchen sink.What ever dirty tactics they can think of is going to come out soon as the rally date draws near.Umno will be going all out to have this rally cancel.In the end I hope that this sassy lady with a big broom in hand will be able to lead her Bersih group to their doorsteps.

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