Brave New World

Published: Wednesday August 19, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday August 19, 2015 MYT 8:03:16 AM

For clean elections and governance

TO go, or not to go – that is the question. Whether `tis nobler to post very angry tweets, or to bear the discomfort of mosquitoes and heat.

I am of course speaking about Bersih 4 (with apologies to Billy Shakespeare).

The planned rally on Aug 29-30 is the fourth instalment of the Bersih rallies.

And they are pretty much calling for the same kind of things.

This time round their demands are clean elections, clean governance, saving the economy and the right to dissent.

I saw a flyer which has added “preserving parliamentary democracy” in there as well.

Considering that there appears to be a warped view as to what preserving parliamentary democracy means amongst the authorities, maybe it’s not a bad idea to push forward a true interpretation of this concept at the rally as well.

Now of course there are detractors of this rally.

The Inspector-General of Police claims that the organisers are selfish because they want to protest and this will force shops to close and taxi drivers will be unable to get fares.

Well, first of all there shouldn’t be any reason why traders have to stop trading as long as there is sufficient cooperation between the organisers and the police.

Apart from when heavy-handed tactics were used against the demonstrators and when a tiny handful of agent provocateurs did their dirty work, Bersih rallies have been extremely peaceful.

And I am sure taxi drivers can ply their trade in other parts of the city.

But also it seems to be a rather petty reason to be opposed to the rally.

It is undeniable that we have serious problems with our electoral system, our scandal-mired system of governance, and our economy.

Many people are fed up and they want to make this feeling known in no uncertain terms and to demand improvements.

The next general election is three years away, so please, no “protest at the ballot box” fallacies, thank you very much.

Besides it is, after all, their Constitutional right to express their unhappiness. And surely the Constitution is something the cops are meant to uphold.

But that’s not all; our head of police goes on to say that Bersih wants to topple the government. Really? And how are they going to do that by gathering for just over a day, making speeches, chanting slogans and singing songs?

Will Putrajaya crumble just because of a peaceful gathering in the heart of KL over forty kilometres away?

By asking for clean elections, the ultimate goal would be to ensure that governments can change in a peaceable manner, where a person’s vote is equal to all other voters and democracy can then work; nothing wrong with that.

Then there are those who cast aspersions on Bersih, implying shadowy funders and the exchange of cash for people to attend. Whoever thinks like that really is living on cloud cuckoo land.

Bersih is a grassroots movement whose pathetically small funds come from the Malaysian people themselves, and there is nothing to show otherwise.

But even those who may support the demands of Bersih have been highly critical, sneering at the efforts being made, saying that it is not enough and that more drastic measures have to be taken.

To them I say this, I agree with Bersih, in that what we should demand is a system that is fair and clean so that political parties can be voted into parliament and, when we tire of them, voted out.

I do not demand anything other than that because I still have faith in the democratic system; with the proviso that the democratic system is improved; which is what Bersih is all about.

I understand the frustration and the seeming bleakness of it all, especially in the light of the court decision regarding the Sarawak delineation exercise, but I still hope for a peaceful solution.

And there is no better way to express that hope than by physically being out there in numbers.

In this age of Facebook and Twitter, people may feel it is enough to have a rant online and maybe sign a petition and that is that.

I don’t think so; such things can be ignored and not necessarily noticed.

Thousands upon thousands of Malaysian putting up a united front in a peaceful demonstration cannot.

This is not to say that things will change after the 30th.

The fight for democracy is a long one, and we have merely been taking one ponderous step after another.

Bersih 4 is merely one more of those steps.

And we must take those steps for the sake of the future of our nation, as I strongly believe a peaceful country needs a good democratic system which respects human rights, for when we know we can change things in a peaceful ordered manner that is when we do not need to resort to other less desirable means.

So, to go or not to go? For me the answer is obvious.

  • Azmi Sharom ( is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Tags / Keywords: Azmi Sharom, columnist

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