Stubborn EC refuses to listen to reasons and the constitution.
All the excuses that EC gave had already been addressed by Ambiga and
her explanation makes more sense than the ridiculous excuses made by
You cannot reason with liars.
This article was written in November last year, 2010.
The importance of Bersih
Shape of a Pocket by Jacqueline Ann Surin | 08 November 2010 | Read
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Bersih rally (pic courtesy of <em>theSun</em>)
Bersih rally (pic courtesy of theSun)
IT feels like only yesterday but it's been three years this week since
the historic Bersih rally of 10 Nov 2007 that demanded for free and
fair elections. For certain, that 40,000 strong rally, together with
the subsequent Hindraf demonstration in Kuala Lumpur, was partly
responsible for the political tsunami of the 2008 general election.
"The Bersih rally allowed Malaysians of all backgrounds to come
together, and feel empowered by a common goal in democracy," Bersih
steering committee member and resource person Wong Chin Huat explains
in an e-mail. "It also encouraged many Malaysians to come forward to
complain about electoral irregularities. Today, voter registration
campaigns are everywhere," he adds.
Bersih will be relaunched as Bersih 2.0 this Wednesday on the third
anniversary of its historic rally. Is it still relevant? And should
the public still care about what the movement is up to now since the
2008 elections brokered a new political landscape for Malaysians?
The difference between Bersih 2.0 and before is that the movement for
clean and fair elections will now be led solely by civil society, as
Bersih 2.0 chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan articulates in an
interview with The Fairly Current Show.
Bersih's forerunner was a forum of political parties known as the
Joint Action Committee for Electoral Reform. Bersih, meanwhile, was a
coalition of political parties and civil society organisations. Now,
Bersih 2.0 will be independent of political parties. "We can see the
maturing of Malaysian politics where electoral reform is increasingly
embraced by civil society," Wong, who is also a political scientist,
That piece of good news aside, Bersih's demands for electoral reform
remain just as important and relevant today as it did before. And
perhaps these electoral reforms are even more critical since there is
more at stake with the nation so much closer to a political tipping
Ambiga is adamant that some of these electoral reforms can be easily
implemented. For example, automatic voter registration, which even
Umno Youth supports, and the use of indelible ink to address the issue
of phantom voters.
"Automatic voter registration should be a matter of course since we
have an identity card (IC) registration system already in place," she
argues in a phone interview. "Unless of course, there is something
wrong with our IC system?" The Barisan Nasional (BN) government has
refused to consider automatic voter registration.
Indeed, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri
Aziz has said that automatic voter registration is tantamount to
forcing people to vote. Ambiga says that argument is flawed because
automatic registration does not equate mandatory voting. "The idea is
to allow everyone who is entitled to vote easy access to vote. It
should be the government's top priority to make it easier for people
to exercise their right to vote," she says.
Ambiga also points out that the use of indelible ink for voters was
already approved by the Election Commission (EC) for the 2008
elections but was then withdrawn because of the cabinet's
"They said there was fraud involved regarding the ink and yet till
today, nobody has been charged," Ambiga, who is the former Malaysian
Bar president, observes. She posits that the reason these do-able
electoral reforms have not been put in place is because it "does not
Ambiga stresses that Bersih 2.0′s main agenda is to ensure there is no
fraud in the elections, and that each election is won fairly. Among
others, its aim is to see the electoral roll cleaned up, free and fair
media coverage for all candidates, and that there is strict compliance
with the Elections Offences Act. Indeed, the EC and the authorities
seem unable to act despite attempts at vote-buying whether in Sibu,
Hulu Selangor, Galas or Batu Sapi.
Apart from these tasks, Bersih 2.0′s most immediate mission is to
educate the public about the impending delineation exercise. The
movement will be launching a report in due course that will
demonstrate how unreasonable the 2003 constituency delimitation of
Ambiga notes that some parts of the 2003 delineation exercise did not
make sense but the redrawing of those electoral boundaries was
implemented in any case.
Bersih 2.0′s plan is to get the public to participate in the next
delineation exercise which can begin anytime from March 2011. "The
public can take part in this process.
"It does not mean the EC will listen to the people but the public can
make it as difficult as possible for the EC (to redraw boundaries
unfairly)," Ambiga says.
She adds that that the purpose of a proper delineation every eight to
ten years should be to ensure that each vote is approximately
equivalent in worth. Over the years, however, and as recently as the
Hulu Selangor by-election, the EC has been accused of gerrymandering
to give the BN an unfair advantage.
Wong explains that delineation is a complex issue for most people. And
so, Bersih 2.0 will be highlighting just three criteria in minimising
gerrymandering for voters to look out for when the EC announces its
delineation exercise which must be completed by March 2013.
"Even if the EC doesn't propose changes for the current boundaries for
some constituencies, voters can still question these boundaries," he
says. Wong notes that with the current electoral boundaries, for
example, the largest state seat of Sri Serdang has 50,000 voters while
the smallest parliamentary seat of Sungai Besar has 34,000 voters
hence making a state seat much bigger than a parliamentary one. Other
discrepancies include neighbours belonging to different
constituencies, and parliamentary and state seats cutting across
several different local authority jurisdictions instead of just
belonging to one.
"The delineation exercise has become a partisan tool that is used to
increase the likelihood of winning for the incumbent. We're not asking
for everything to be changed. We just want to rationalise the existing
boundaries by eliminating the current deficiencies," Wong says.
Once Bersih 2.0 is launched, it will use its Selangor report to
educate voters in Selangor as a pilot project for the nation.
Additionally, Wong says the movement will provide training to voters
who want to understand the process better so that they can challenge
"The upcoming delineation exercise can affect the next general
election. It all depends on when the elections will be called," Ambiga
Making it matter
Wong states that Bersih's work is important because its core mission
is institutional reform "which is substantially different from merely
changing the government". He notes that many voters may not want to
give "unconditional support" to Pakatan Rakyat, preferring instead to
invest in reforming the country's political institutions.
"If we can convince the public that clean politics is where this
nation's future lies — rather than a 100-storey mega tower — the EC
would have to ensure they behave professionally or voters will revolt
by punishing BN for opposing the modernisation of Malaysian politics,"
Wong predicts. Additionally, if the EC does not respond to correct the
problems of gerrymandering, the next elections will suffer from a lack
of legitimacy no matter how big the victory for whichever party.
Ambiga says the EC, thus far, does not appear unwilling to meet and
listen to Bersih's demands. In fact, the EC has scheduled a meeting
with Bersih 2.0 on 9 Nov 2010, a day before its launch. "However,
whether or not the EC responds with concrete reforms is left to be
seen," Ambiga says.
For me, the Bersih 2.0′s appeal and importance lie not just in its
ability to galvanise people in a common, inclusive and non-partisan
cause for democracy. Its appeal for me, as a citizen, is its aim to
ensure that every single person's vote counts, and counts fairly.
After all, we are constantly told that Malaysia is a free and fair
democracy because we have elections once every five years. But we
cannot be a democracy just because we have elections. Our elections
must also be clean and fair. If not, what would be the point of voting
and the value of our democracy?