BERSIH 3.0: On the Integrity of Electoral Rolls in Malaysia

April 26, 2012

BERSIH 3.0:  On the Integrity of Electoral Rolls in Malaysia

by Terence Netto@

COMMENT: Like two prizefighters intent on proving their worth, the long running feud between BERSIH and the Election Commission over the integrity of the electoral rolls comes down to the wire this Saturday for the third time in five years.

bersih rally 271207 02There was BERSIH 1.0 on November 10, 2007, the first mass gathering for polls reform in Kuala Lumpur whose size was a an early signal of the changes to the political landscape ushered in by the general election held four months later.

There was BERSIH 2.0 on July 9, 2011, a stirring demonstration of popular support for the same agenda, an exhibition that forced Prime Minister Najib Razak to announce he would introduce a raft of “liberalising” reforms as a response to populist pressure.

Alas, those reforms to laws affecting public demonstrations, internal security, a clean electoral register, and media freedoms, fell short of what the Prime Minister himself said he would like the country to be – the “best democracy.”

The upshot: a third edition, called BERSIH 3.0, is planned for staging, pitting the forces for reform in Malaysian politics and the forces affecting to make a pretense of reform.Unless of course one side concedes, a showdown between BERSIH and the powers-that-be is certain to eventuate on Saturday at the Dataran Merdeka.

Historic venue

The venue, Dataran Merdeka, is historically resonant for a resolution of the argument between Bersih and the EC. This is where Malaya’s emancipation proclamation was read out by founding Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman as the clock in the tower at the iconic Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad chimed the midnight hour on December 30, 1957.

One can understand why BERSIH is reluctant to shift the venue for their sit-down protest from the Dataran to, say, Merdeka Stadium close by. The Merdeka Proclamation, read out by the Tunku, on the night contained the charter of promises that ought to be delivered to a people being made independent.

tunku abdul rahman merdeka declaration 261004The Merdeka Stadium was later that morning (August 31, 1957) the scene for the reading out, again by the Tunku, of the Declaration of Independence.

The difference between a freedom charter and an independence declaration does not revolve on semantics alone. The one contains pledges by which a nation intends to give meaning to its freedom; the other announces that freedom as empirical fact.

By insisting on the Dataran Merdeka as venue for their sit-down protest over the inadequacy the EC’s response to its long running drive for polls reform, BERSIH underscores the point that several freedoms vouchsafed in the Merdeka Proclamation remain to be delivered to Malaysians.

Needless to say, there can be no true emancipation for a country’s citizens without the free and authentic exercise of the ballot.

Thus Dataran Merdeka on Saturday is set to become the metaphorical equivalent of Tahrir Square in Cairo, the venue of massed protests from January 2011 that set large swaths of the Arab world on fire for change.

If BERSIH can summon a sizeable, racially mixed and generationally diverse gathering, then the momentum generated by the first gathering four and half years ago would be unstoppable.

The powers-that-be don’t seem to understand that repression is oxygen to those striving to shed their shackles. Also, the fact that repression is a contagious reflex is suggested by yesterday’s announcement by the Kuala Lumpur ayor that BERSIH would have to face the consequences of City Hall’s disapproval of their planned sit-down protest at the Dataran.

A civil servant grandee is emulating the repressive accents normally reserved to the enforcement crowd in the Police contingent.

Ambiga vs Khairy debate

By late evening yesterday, tell-tale signs that repression was going to be counterproductive were seen in the outsize crowds that turned up at a club in a city suburb to hear BERSIH co-chair Ambiga Seenivasan debate Khairy Jamaluddin of UMNO Youth.

NONEA sizeable number could not gain admission into the hall for they had not registered with the organisers, the Malay Mail, which hosted the debated.

This group clustered around two internal TV monitors in an adjoining passageway that featured the debate.

Although, volume-wise, the feed was not distinct, the standing crowd showed admirable patience in following the debate whose subject was the adequacy or rather its lack of polls reform, with Khairy playing the EC apologist and Ambiga its critic.

Khairy, ostensible representative of what passes for liberalism in UMNO, dredged up recondite details purporting to show the EC as impartial referee. Ambiga confined herself to secreting details of why EC impartiality is suspect.

The salience of one tidbit was incontrovertible. She revealed that PKR Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah’s agents had on successive weekends been arrested while on rounds in the constituency to verify residential details of voters on the ward register.

A monitoring exercise on successive weekends thwarted by the exercise of the police powers of the state. Sounds like some people haven’t heard of the Merdeka Proclamation by the country’s progenitor and what it contained.

These is reason aplenty that the looming gathering at Dataran Merdeka this Saturday should be regarded as an imperative exercise in the recovery of a vital bit of historical memory.

34 thoughts on “BERSIH 3.0: On the Integrity of Electoral Rolls in Malaysia

  1. There is nothing to fear if the ruling government has done the right things for Malaysia. Denial of basic freedoms is a sign that our government is scared of its own shadow. If not, why fear your own citizens?

    Remember History has shown that governments that do not respond to the will of its citizenry will eventually fall. Take the cases of the Philippines, Egypt, Tunisia, Shah’s Iran, Liberia, and so on. People Power when it comes is unstoppable.

    If General Election 13 is rigged, the next elected government loses legitimacy. It is not about winning at all cost; it is about winning genuine support from the people of Malaysia to govern. It is also about restoring trust in government. So,for this to happen we need to ensure that our electoral rolls are clean. That is what BERSIH is all about. BERSIH champions the cause of all Malaysians via peaceful means, and deserves our support.–Din Merican

  2. With the master internal affairs minister Hishamuddin in the background,the mongrel mayor has been unleashed to counter Bersih3.0 crowd ,with help of the wolves in blue from Peaceful Hill ( Bukit Aman ) by the thousands !!
    It will again be a show of strength by the authorities. They would have scored a lots of points from the Malaysian public and others abroad, if the Mayor and the Police not only allowed the Dataran Merdeka sit-down but also made it possible to conduct it without untoward incidents. As things stand now, it would appear that the Police and the FRU are itching for a fight.–Din Merican

  3. Tahrir Square? Doubtful.More like the Pearl Roundabout, Manama, Bahrain in Feb-March ’11. Read up what happened there on 19th Feb, should the numbers breach critical mass. But don’t take things for granted. ‘Occupying’ is a dirty word, and is in the province of foolhardiness.

    The Amal will have their hands full ‘cuz of agent provocateurs. Keep a tight lid on the language and be civil to the Goons, even if they aren’t – and all will be all right. Might as well start planning Version 4.0. Sometimes the dirt is so ingrained that no cleaning suffices. Bleach needed.

  4. Taxi drivers, stall holders, shop owners and the thousands caught in traffic jams, also deserve our support. Will these people deliver their support? “Occupying is a dirty word.” Powerfully true! Isn’t history full of dirty occupations?

  5. “nothing to fear” for BN is everything to fear…BERSIH 3 is symbolic and will not erase the foul apanamabad genes already encoded into the majority of the population. We shall, come Saturday, see if even God/Allah/Jesus/KwanYin/Buddha/Ganesan/Mighty Nibokanizer had given up and abandoned Malaysia to apanamasyaitan$…

  6. CLF., if BERSIH 3.0 has no influence and the 13th GE is held without reform you can forget about BERSIH 4.0 or 5.0. the election process is further screwed-up that its going to be ’till Death do us apart’! yes, occupying is a dirty word that being cleaner than corruption and abuse of power.

  7. No effect? Assuredly so; for the GE drama is already way past due date. Delayed by daisy cutter mines aka Lembuginis. But the process will continue by hook and especially by crook.

    Success of 3.0 is important. If nothing more than to show up the duplicity of the Goons. Ver 4.0 is no longer called Bersih – it’s gone beyond that – sort of Na hypochlorite-like which you’d find in Harpic. There is no need for ‘Occupying’ as endurance and perseverance is not a basic character requirement for a Goon. They are probably divesting to Central Asia already.

  8. Let’s cut to the chase – and stop chasing the Magic Dragon!

    The purpose of the parade (sit down, lie down, squat whatever) is so that the international media get all the images it needs to grab headlines for whatever they are worth. Having it in a stadium, in a controlled environment would convey the wrong message. Where are the baton wielding riot police in full gear, the water cannons and images of protestors reeling under gushes of water laced with chemicals, skulls bruised and bleeding, broken fingers and dislocated shoulders and knees. Let’s not forget these are powerful images.

    All for a message. And the message? Here is a nascent struggling democracy that has missed Obama’s message of ‘change’ which could well be in its death throes. Death throes? Really?

    Look. The world doesn’t care.

  9. Look! Where would grandma – the opposition’s best weapon – who has come out of retirement to stand in the path of rioting riot police, be?? In a stadium her role would be reduced to that of a cheerleader with nothing to flaunt. Don’t expect her to do the split at her age.

  10. The world doesnt care – Mr Bean.

    Thats ok. Malaysians are fighting for their lifves here. Never have they ever had to fight so hard for in their life . Good on ya for living life to the fullest and fighting for what you believe in.Every nation has to do this. Sacrifices are made every day so that people can live better no matter where they are and M’sians are no different.

    This is also confirms that Malaysians are not afraid of the other. Contrary to whats being fed to the people, the fear instilled. Instead when it really matters, they are coming together .

  11. “The former Perak MB also claimed that the army, however, would back the people should the ruling party be shown the exit.”

    This only goes to show that the elections would be so rigged, so full of holes that the grandma – brought out of retirement to stand in the path of marching riot police the symbol of power for a government that has lost its legitimacy to govern – is reminded of panties she had retired in exchange for the latest in Victoria Secrets.

  12. UMNO has paraded out the country’s Armed Forces Chiefs to make a public statement denying that there ever was a call by Najib Razak made to any of the Chiefs to be ready for their role. So far so good. Everything is according to script.

  13. I watched the debate live on net last nite. I thought KJ was brilliant, he came well prepared. I’m afraid (and this is my view) Ambiga came across as quite truculent, implacable.. She has dug herself into a position and won’t listen to reason anymore. Melayu kata tak mau terima fakta langsung.
    She demands for GE to be postponed (as someone said : Who died and made her queen?) Then she expressed complete distrust of EC. Like this susah lah. Like that we have to wait for utopia lah, in which everyone is 100pc satisfied and happy. Then she said they can sit down with EC. Then why do you need to take to the streets?
    I keep hearing pr leaders confidently saying they can take putra jaya. Be confident then, with or without bersih demo. Better without. After all, PR managed to win big in the last GE. Or we have to have the protest demo, in case we lose big and blame it on flawed electoral process?

  14. Funny thing is, there was actually no such meeting in the first place.
    That’s why it’s called ‘trawling’ for trash, with untoward and disproportionate response.

  15. Where’s grandpa in the middle of all the chaos?? Old Frank no doubt would find some use for his tattered old jeans, stained with semen a reminder of the lost care free years as an undergrad now full of holes that would make grandma Hyacinth Goddard still blush after all these years!

  16. “Ambiga came across as quite truculent”

    Truculent? She’s anything but truculent. She’s treading the fine line – when she’s not straddling it.

  17. (as someone said : Who died and made her queen?)

    Blix – April 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Is that someone Rosmah Mansor? fighting for top Queen Bee spot eh?

  18. Blik, we deprived BN of 2/3 in 2008 because of Bersih1.0 and Hindraf….despite electoral fraud. Bersih3.0 is necessary because they are determined to continue cheating shamelessly….unless you do not want to be aware.

  19. Khary is good commodity for the nation..He is bright and for a politician – relays his messages well unlike most umno deadwoods coupled with an excellent command of the english language.. He is the kinda guy you’ll be happy having as a spokesman over a wide range of issues…He is a convincing guy. Some people are endowed with this ability and kj happens to be one of them.. Nonetheless , convincing as he maybe , facts remains as just that-facts.. While gerrymandering of the electoral in all its biasness is argued as a legitimate manuver applicable , and to the advantage of the incumbent regime , opposed to the covert issuance of fake documents to illegals done in broad daylight primarily in the sub-rural arreas of sabah and passing them off as genuine voters , which is not… What else is there to argue about?

  20. Despite electoral fraud. Yes. And so what makes you think they will NOT be better prepared this time round??

    They could ban it entirely but they didn’t. That’s a victory in itself. They are interested in playing ball because Najib Razak wouldn’t want to have it any other way. He is right now PM by default. Not exactly where he wants to be.

  21. There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the head leads on to fortune. We must prevail. We must show the powers that be we want good governance. All races MUST come together, 1 Malaysia to show we are serious. We want a good democratic govt. Catch the tide. BE THERE.

  22. If an agreement cannot be reached for a venue other than Dataran Merdeka then this is what I would do if I were head of our government… On Saturday order that not a single member of the security forces,( police, FRU etc) be present anywhere near. This was the mistake made at the earlier rally when there was overreaction to a crowd that was threatening nobody.

    For the sake of peace and the country, let Bersih organisers have the centre of our capital to themselves for the day despite all that has been said by both sides. Who knows, it may end up as a Bersih carnival of sorts.

    But then, maybe that is why I am not the head of the government.

  23. “But then, maybe that is why I am not the head of the government” Isa Mateqi

    You guess right.

    Let ‘Bersih’ anarchists romp free on the streets?? Then there will be looting by BN goons out to cause anarchy – paving the way for another Emergency.

  24. yes, Isa Manteqi. guess why the Mayor, police or the government taxpayer paid goons did’nt come up with this idea?

    CLF.,while wondering what a dread-lock is, I went out for a coffee and saw a blonde with dread-locks then it hit me what you meant; we need someone like Bob Marley to lead us, singing:

  25. If all they want is to gather in the square, I believe there will not be too much trouble and any eventuality can be contained.Their previous gathering was relatively OK until… even though it was technically illegal.

    The few goons should not be a problem.

  26. The BN government are a bunch of cowards. They know they are up against people power and are desparate and hell bent on not allowing any form of dissent by the rakyat. They are using all kinds of excuses and all resources to stop the rakyat from expressing their frustration and distrust with the EC. The organizers have tried to seek changes through the usual forum but have not been successful and as a last resort are taking it to Dataran Merdeka.

  27. Ambiga the queen of Drama .. ? 🙂

    Nah. With due respect to Ms Ambina, her disadvantage in the debate compared to KJ is that she is not a snake charmer cum politician like KJ who has most likely been coached by an image consultant to project himself well.

    “Remember History has shown that governments that do not respond to the will of its citizenry will eventually fall. Take the cases of the Philippines, Egypt, Tunisia, Shah’s Iran, Liberia, and so on. People Power when it comes is unstoppable.” – DDM

    I don’t think there is any comparison at all. UMNO under the tutelage of the grandson of mamak tonkang had perfected political corruption and fraud into a fine art. With the E.C. under its thumbs, gerrymendaring, vote buying, the civil service votes, the naturalised citizen votes, huge campaign funds and more at its disposal to bolster its incumbency, I will hazard a guess to say that the BN may still retain its power by a simple majority.

    If I were Ambiga, I will take up on KJ’s or Najib’s offer to hold the demonstration at an alternative venue, on condition that Najib will guarantee that the demonstrators will not be molested by the authorities during their peaceful protest. This will be an advantage to Bersih 3 as then many more will be encouraged to turn up for the protest to put their messages and demands across.

    The other scenario is just as scary if not, more. If BN wins the next GE in a “democratic” electoral process using its bag of tricks mentioned earlier and should the opposition camp take to the streets; will the police and/or the military personnel, charge against their fellow citizens ? That is the million dollar question when People Power kicks into full force…..

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