October 23, 2012
BERSIH’s Ambiga connects with the People for Free and Fair Elections
by Susan Loone (10-22-12)@http://www.malaysiakini.com
“We are not fighting for BN (Barisan Nasional) or Pakatan Rakyat. We are fighting for you. We want your vote to mean something. We want to make sure they do not steal the value of your vote.
“Whoever comes into power, we should be able to remove them in five years if they are not good,” added the BERSIH co-chairperson, as the largely Indian crowd in Paya Besar clapped thunderously.
“We also want the government to support BERSIH (the electoral reform coalition). It’s been 55 years, one of the longest (rule) in the world. It is time to make our politicians accountable”.
The pouring rain in Padang Serai failed to deter the crowd of 1,500 who turned up at the BERSIH event yesterday evening, led by Kulim Hindraf chief M Asokan, and other local NGOs.
Asokan said he had prepared some 2,500 seats and if not for the heavy rain, a 5,000 strong crowd would have been expected.
Ambiga was accompanied by a string of other speakers including Kedah state executive council member Aishah Ghazali, Selambau assemblyperson S Manikumar, PKR Vice-President N Surendran (right), Kedah senator Saiful Izham Ramli, Suaram secretariat member Cynthia Gabriel and National Indian Action Team chairperson Thasleem Mohd.
Cynthia, who is on a road show, took some time to explain the details of the “Scorpene scandal” to the Kulim participants, her voice almost drowning in the splashing rain beating vociferously on the zink roof canopies.
‘Vote in large numbers to cancel fraud’
Ambiga, the former Bar Council chief, was given a celebrity’s welcome when she arrived from Kuala Lumpur at about 4pm.
With a huge garland of yellow flowers around her neck, Ambiga was given a standing ovation by the crowd when her turn came to speak, and was earlier honoured with a poem by one of the participants.
During her speech, Ambiga asked if everyone has registered to vote and if they are sure of participating in the voting process, while the crowd responded with a big “yes”. “We believe that if we turn up in large numbers, we can cancel out the fraud. We are not telling you who to vote for but we are asking that you come out and vote in large numbers. This is your right and your duty,” she said.
Ambiga (right) also told the crowd that life has been difficult for human rights activists this year, with the crackdown on Bersih and Suaram, who has for the past three months been investigated by six government agencies for its registration as a company.
She rubbished the harassment by the authorities, especially the accusation that those who receive foreign funding are out to “destabilise” the ruling government, adding that it was all instituted because the organisations were critical of its leaders.
EC slammed for not being serious
Ambiga, and at least five other BERSIH activists, claimed they were temporarily stopped from leaving the country, while Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar has passed the buck to the Immigration Department, who cited the existence of “police file” of the activists for their actions.
“They criticise us for receiving foreign funds but there are no answers for the RM40 million (allegedly attempted to be smuggled) into Sabah (UMNO by businessman Michael Chia),” Ambiga said.
“There are also no answers to the millions that have been wasted, as pointed out by the recent Auditor-General’s Report. This money could have been put to better use for our children,” she added.
Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan has defended Sabah UMNO, saying the monies are a form of donation and has been audited by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Meanwhile, Ambiga continued to expressed dissatisfaction at the Election Commission’s delay in implementing Bersih’s eight demands, saying it is not serious in reforms.
“BERSIH doesn’t believe that they are ready to bring about change. If they (EC) are serious, they will work with the relevant groups to clean up the electoral roll,” Ambiga explained, saying the coalition has pointed out the many errors therein.
“The EC has also yet to implement even the ‘simplest’ demand of freeing the press. All it takes is a phone call to the editors to give everyone equal access to news coverage,” she pointed out.
“If they (EC) are not prepared to do something as simple as this, how can they ensure that the polls would be free and fair?”