Or should trust honest lawyers like Ambiga.
The words of the constitution is very clear. No need to register
first. Every Citizen is entitled to vote.
Subsequent verses must be interpreted in accordance with this right.
Any deviance, will make the verse unlawful.
This is simple language for honest people to interpret. Clearly
Chandra Muzaffar is not honest.
I also made the mistake of giving the EC the benefit of the doubt.
Luckily I reread the constitution.
Once this is verfy clear, all his comments on other matters are
suspect, like his comment on the media.
Sunday July 3, 2011
Understanding context of July 9
By Chandra Muzaffar
Malaysia is one of the few countries in the Global South that has held
regular elections participated by parties with totally divergent
IT is a pity that almost 54 years after Merdeka, there is still a
great deal of uneasiness among the authorities about a fundamental
right which is so essential to the functioning of a democracy. They
forget that the "right to assemble peaceably and without arms" is a
freedom enshrined in Article 10 of the Constitution. It is a freedom
whose observance will not, in most circumstances, threaten the well-
being of society.
Nonetheless, like all rights and freedom, the actual expression and
articulation of the Freedom of Assembly has to take into account its
context. It is this context that is critical in the case of the July 9
There are various dimensions to this context which Bersih, the
proponent of the rally, and Perkasa and Umno Youth, its opponents,
will have to take heed of.
1. Bersih claims that the primary purpose of the rally is to highlight
weaknesses and defects in the conduct of our elections. Since it has
had discussions with the Elections Commission on this, it should
continue to talk to that body. The EC chairman is prepared to
dialogue. He should now publicly invite Bersih to resume the
discussions, its July 9 rally notwithstanding.
Bersih, in turn, should respond positively to the EC. In a mature
democracy, any and every opportunity to dialogue in order to resolve
issues should be taken up.
2. Some of the issues that Bersih has focused upon, such as the
automatic registration of voters (which I endorse), are beyond the
purview of the EC. They would require legislative approval.
If Bersih cannot persuade the Barisan Nasional government to introduce
new electoral laws, has it succeeded in getting Pakatan Rakyat (PR)
MPs to table a private member's bill on any of the electoral reforms
it is now demanding?
On how many occasions have such bills been tabled since March 2008?
Were attempts to table such bills thwarted by the Speaker of the Dewan
Since Bersih includes opposition parties represented in Parliament, it
should inform the public in detail on how it sought electoral reform
through Parliament in the last three years.
3. In making its demands, Bersih has not distinguished the actual
conduct of elections from the larger electoral-cum-political process.
The actual conduct of elections in Malaysia since 1959, from the
maintenance of electoral rolls to safeguarding the integrity of the
ballot paper, has been largely fair and just given that no electoral
system in the world is totally devoid of flaws.
This was one of the conclusions that the Election Watch group headed
by the late Tun Mohamed Suffian Hashim that looked at the 1990 General
Election (I was a member of that group) came to.
We also pointed out that the lack of fairness in the electoral-
political process was manifested in the incumbent's misuse of state
facilities for campaign purposes and in the biased role of the
mainstream media. Since these very legitimate concerns have not been
addressed, Bersih has every reason to raise them.
4. If Bersih is sincere about rectifying them, the political parties
who are in the forefront of this coalition should set the example in
the states which are under PR rule by ensuring that state facilities
are not misused in any election or by-election. And yet, in by-
elections in Selangor, Penang and Kedah, it is alleged that the state
government had deployed some of the resources of the state, directly
and indirectly, for their campaigns.
Similarly, if Bersih wants equitable access to Barisan-inclined print
and electronic media, it should also encourage opposition-oriented
online newspapers to be fair and balanced in their coverage and
analysis of political issues.
After all, cyber media in Malaysia today is an important source of
information and disinformation.
5. While some of Bersih's demands are reasonable, its failure to
locate these demands within a larger framework has tarnished its
For all the shortcomings in its electoral system, Malaysia is one of
the few countries in the Global South that has held regular elections
participated by parties with totally divergent ideologies ever since
independence in 1957.
It is equally significant that these elections have been completely
free of violence which is a rarity in the Global South. In the first
general election itself, two states came under an opposition party.
Today, four out of the 13 states in the Federation are in opposition
hands. There has never been a single moment in Malaysian electoral
politics when the Opposition has commanded less than 35% of the
1. If the issues raised by Bersih should be viewed in their proper
context, so should the public give due consideration to the question
of security which is expressly stated in Article 10 (2), a, b, and c
of the Constitution.
There is no denying that with three organisations asserting their
determination to hold rallies and marches without police permit, the
political temperature has increased by a few degrees. Leaders of two
of the organisations have received death threats.
2. There is another contextual dimension to the security question
which we cannot afford to ignore. In the first Bersih demonstration on
Nov 10, 2007, a number of people were injured.
There were also similar casualties in the Hindraf demonstration on Nov
25 in the same year. In almost all the reformasi demonstrations from
September 1998 to the middle of 2000, individuals and some police
personnel were hurt.
3. I had thought initially that Bersih demonstrators should be allowed
to congregate in a stadium, in accordance with their constitutional
right, but I didn't realise that there was a security issue lurking in
the shadows. Apparently, if the stadium option had materialised,
certain elements in Bersih, it is alleged, would have turned the
stadium to a Tahrir Square, with demonstrators camping there day and
night for weeks on end.
Of course, the Western media would be there to dramatise the event,
especially since both the de facto and de jure leaders of Bersih Datuk
Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk S. Ambiga have such close ties with the
It would be a terrible travesty of justice since the Malaysian
situation bears no comparison to Mubarak's Egypt or to those
autocratic Arab monarchies and republics which are now being
challenged by their people. None of them is an inheritor to more than
five decades of continuous civilian rule legitimised through
competitive electoral politics.
1. How the proposed July 9 rally and counter rallies will impact upon
taxi drivers, traders, shoppers and the general public is yet another
factor that deserves our attention.
There is a high probability that the rallies will cause a degree of
dislocation, especially since three different groups with their own
agendas are involved.
Traders and taxi drivers in the affected areas will inevitably suffer
a loss of income. Here again, the past is a good teacher. In previous
demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur, people from various walks of life have
had to pay the price.
2. It is quite conceivable that July 9 will reinforce yet another
unhealthy development which has become more and more obvious in the
last two years. Partisan political polarisation is increasing in the
country. The BN-PR schism is deepening within the populace. If we do
not make a serious attempt to reverse the trend, we may move in the
direction of Thai politics which has been severely hamstrung by the
cleavage that separates those with the government and those with
1. There are also ulterior motives behind the Bersih plan that any
reasonable person would probe. I am very much aware of this partly
because of my own experience with demonstrations and the self-serving
politics of the prime mover behind July 9.
When I was PKR (Parti Keadilan Nasional, now Rakyat) deputy president
from 1999 to 2001, the party was solidly behind the reformasi
After a while, I realised that the demonstrations were taking us
nowhere; they were not leading to any democratic awakening among the
masses. On the contrary, the people were turning against the party
because of the hardship they caused. A number of our activists were
arrested, some under the ISA.
Most of all, I could see that the demonstrations instigated by Anwar
from behind prison walls served only one purpose: to keep him in the
limelight, and to get him out of prison.
Within the party leadership, I took an unambiguous position against
demonstrations. With the exception of Keadilan president Dr Wan Azizah
Ismail, no one else supported me. The Malaysian public came to know of
my opposition to the demonstrations, and the then Prime Minister Tun
Dr Mahathir Mohamad even alluded to it in the media.
2. Anwar's ulterior motive is even more brazen today. He desperately
wants to become Prime Minister, and will resort to any means to
achieve his ambition. He is hoping that July 9 will help him overcome
some of the obstacles he now faces and give him the boost that he
A massive mobilisation of his supporters and fence-sitters on July 9,
he thinks, will divert attention from his sodomy trial which begins
later in the month and from his sex-video scandal.
At the same time, he is expecting the demonstration to create the sort
of momentum that will erode support for the BN and shore up his own
position. If this impresses his allies and endorsers in some Western
capitals they may even give him stronger backing to achieve "a regime
3. Apart from Anwar's own party, both his PR partners, PAS and the
DAP, are also driven by the desire to gain power through the quickest
route. For them also, the end justifies the means. July 9 whatever the
arguments against it is an important stepping stone towards that goal.
Once Malaysians understand the context, especially the ulterior
motives, they will be wary about July 9. They will be able to
distinguish the self-serving agenda of a deeply flawed politician from
the genuine quest for electoral reform and political transformation.
They should not allow such a politician to undermine their future.
> Dr Chandra Muzaffar is a political scientist who has written extensively on Malaysian politics.