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Making Progress

Published: Tuesday September 1, 2015 MYT 4:19:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday September 1, 2015 MYT 5:54:26 PM

Bersih 4 a discordant demonstration

AS we inch closer to 60 years of independence, Malaysia finds itself confronting a new set of challenges – economic, political and social.

Over the weekend, a number of Malaysians protested against the government and demanded the resignation of a duly elected Prime Minister. To me, Bersih has strayed so far from its objectives that it is no longer recognisable.

Bersih started as a coalition of a number of non-governmental organisations demanding free and fair elections. The climax for Bersih, before this weekend’s demonstration, was the Bersih 3.0 “Duduk Bantah” demonstration in April 2013 and the much vaunted eight-point demand which hailed, rather pompously, as a mini Magna Carta by some.

As a result and in the interest of openness, the Government offered Bersih an olive branch and started negotiations that were facilitated by the Performance and Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu). Meetings were held and I attended a number of them myself.

I realised at the very first meeting that there was certain resistance to all government proposals to meet the conditions of the demands. After one very testy meeting I remember remarking to one of my colleague’s that if Bersih’s end objective was the defeat of Barisan Nasional, which was always apparent, then nothing we offer will be acceptable. I was proved right on this point and negotiations broke down after a while because nothing the government offered was good enough to the group.

In the end, prior to the 13th general election, six of the eight demands were met. The only two, which remained outstanding, was to end corruption and money politics; both of which were open ended and nebulous. Also, a number of opposition parties had rejected Pemandu’s proposal for political funding reform which would have ensured greater transparency on political spending.

During GE13, Bersih continued to display partisanship by backing allegations that 40,000 Bangladeshis had been brought in to vote for BN candidates. And after BN prevailed the election, the so-called popular vote argument was propounded and the BN government was called a minority government. Well ,even if I were to accept that argument as logically sound (which I do not) it no longer holds water because PAS is not a part of Pakatan Rakyat any more.

While most Malaysians who attended the Bersih 4 rally over the weekend expressed their dissatisfaction peacefully and decorously, I must state my utter disappointment and disgust at the foolish and felonious antics of a group of individuals.

There were mock funeral processions, a picture of a young man pretending to defecate on a sketch of the Prime Minister, a prayer alter containing a sketch of the Prime Minister and his wife and many other instances where all decorum and respect were discarded and what was left was surly and churlish actions influenced by a political culture that is completely alien to Malaysia.

We may disagree or even be angry with our leaders but never should we allow ourselves to degenerate to a level where denigration and vilification is seen as fair game.

Furthermore, Bersih allowed its so-called independence to be openly compromised when Pakatan leaders were prominently featured. In my opinion, it has allowed itself to be used by PR politicians for their own political objectives and quite frankly the group lacks credibility.

Furthermore, Malaysia is much larger than its urban pockets and as evidenced by the Merdeka Research Centre’s poll released days before the rally – the demonstration lacked broad support. Most Malaysians are peace loving and using a demonstration to procure the resignation of a duly elected Prime Minister is not the Malaysian way.

Malaysia is a democratic country and we have elections every five years and this is the opportunity to change the government if one so pleases. But until Aug2018 (when the 14th general election is due), the BN led by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will be the government and will continue to do its best for all Malaysians.

I do accept that there is a prevailing anger especially amongst the urbanites and younger Malaysians. And while a lot of it is a result of constant incitement by the detractors, there is a need to better understand and neutralise this anger because Malaysia cannot prosper if it is an angry nation.

BN risks falling into the trap laid by its opponents if the demonstration is analysed along racial lines. I do not think that the ethnicity of the rally participants is of any consequence but more importantly, BN needs to do more in explaining the issues and countering the slander. The trust deficit must be actively addressed and besides political funding reform, a more mature political system must be engendered and the way in which the authorities and most participants of Bersih 4 conducted themselves is an inspiring sign.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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