Friday, July 8, 2011

Dirty treatment for a clean cause

Despite all the dirt thrown at Bersih, the movement has emerged cleaner than the tainted powers that be.

Shamefully desperate. This best describes Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is going all out to finish off election watchdog Bersih 2.0.

Applying all the dirty tactics in the book, Najib sought the help of his cousin-cum-Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, and got Bersih 2.0 declared as an illegal outfit.

Then, there were claims that Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan was the beneficiary of illegal funding including from controversial currency speculator George Soros.

It did not end there. The police claimed it found a bag full of the yellow T-shirts with the word Bersih on it, Molotov cocktails and other weapons days ahead of the July 9 rally.

Still unhappy with the people’s show of support towards the rally, Najib has ordered the police to apply for a court order and arrest the 91 individuals including Ambiga, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang should they set foot in certain parts of Kuala Lumpur.

All that could be done to tarnish the image of Bersih 2.0 and cast doubt on its “Walk for Democracy” rally was being done by Najib and his team. Yet, all that failed to brainwash the people who staunchly support Bersih 2.0.

Utterly desperate, Najib’s last attempt was to “instruct” the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to interfere, which the former dutifully did, urging that the rally due tomorrow not happen on the streets because of the chaos it might lead to.

Bersih 2.0 respectfully abided by the King’s request to not take to the streets, not realising that the “powers that be” were not trustworthy.

Bersih 2.0 agreed to hold the rally in a closed-door environment and identified Stadium Merdeka as the preferred venue, due to its historical significance, that is, being the site where the country’s independence was proclaimed by the country first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.

But the Stadium Merdeka management refused to entertain that request from Bersih 2.0, giving reasons that the stadium was already booked for July 9.

Passing the buck

While the tug-of-war goes on between Bersih 2.0 and Stadium Merdeka, Najib watches from afar, pleased that he succeeded in giving Ambiga the run-around for a venue, passing the buck of dealing with an illegal organisation to the police.

The latest scenario has the Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar telling Bersih 2.0 to seize the “golden opportunity” offered by the government for the rally to take place indoors – but best they do it outside Kuala Lumpur.

“Malaysia is a big country. Why do you want to hold it in the heart of the city which could potentially become chaotic? Please listen to my advice,” Ismail said at a press conference at the federal police headquarters at Bukit Aman.

Meanwhile, Ambiga is adamant that the rally will take place at Stadium Merdeka.

So intense has the situation become that with the people’s support towards the “Walk for Democracy” growing by the day, so has Najib’s fear of not enjoying control over Putrajaya, come the 13th general election.

The police crackdown, the clampdown on public transport to prevent supporters of the rally pouring in to lend support plus a series of manipulation adopted by Najib have all failed to scare Ambiga from going ahead with the “Walk for Democracy”. This former president of the Malaysian Bar remains focused on the objective behind the rally, which is to reform the electoral system.

Provoking the people into street riots is not Ambiga’s agenda. To make sure the nation is “free” of corrupted influences during elections is what Bersih 2.0 is working so hard to achieve.

But then, as history has shown, fighting for the truth is always painful and difficult. The case with Bersih 2.0 is no different. Its office was raided and the now symbolic yellow T-shirts seized.

Still, Najib was not satisfied. He turned to instilling fear in the people, which was done with the arrest and re-arrest of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) activists under the Emergency Ordinance, one of them being Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, the good doctor who dethroned veteran politician S Samy Vellu from his Sungai Siput constituency seat in the 2008 general election.

A humble Malaysian poet, A Samad Said who supported Ambiga’s call for a reformed electoral system was also taken to task over a poem he dedicated to Bersih 2.0 and its efforts to weed out manipulation at the polls.

Using the monarch

Still, the vendetta against Bersih 2.0 was far from over. Threats to her life aside, the well-intentioned Ambiga became the target of hate by the “powers that be”. To the ultra-Malay group Perkasa and Umno Youth, they had the task of foiling the July 9 rally and that too by holding counter-rallies of their own on the same day of the rally.

While Umno Youth has pulled out from organising a rally, Perkasa mouthpiece Ibrahim Ali who is infamous for being crude and brute, says his rally is on and that too at Stadium Merdeka, failing which it will take place at Stadium Titiwangsa, that too for free since Perkasa is an NGO and is not “flush with cash”.

Despite all the damage done to Bersih 2.0 and the July 9 rally, the people however are in no mood to swallow whatever venom the government “servant” Radio Televisyen Malaysia has been spitting against the “Walk for Democracy”.

That too failed to garner Najib the desired results. Now completely desperate, he made the final move, that of asking the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to come to his rescue.

So on the night of July 3, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin sent out a message that street demonstrations bring more harm than good, albeit the original intention being good.

Trusting Najib to handle the rally “problem” in the best possible way, the monarch urged “the Barisan Nasional government to carry out everything that is entrusted to it by the people in a just and wise manner”.

The problem is that it is this very mandate of the people that for 53 years had been sacrificed for personal agendas by these so-called leaders.

Now that the Bersih 2.0 clarion call has been made for changes to the electoral system and the people too have agreed, the insecurity facing Najib and the rest of the BN leaders might just turn fatal.

Dealing with the “Walk for Democracy” in such a seedy manner has earned Najib nothing but disgust as far as the Human Rights Watch (HRW) is concerned.

Its deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, said none of the demands made by Bersih 2.0 warranted a spate of arrests including using the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) and deploying the army on the day of the rally.

Reputation tarnished

He said the government’s clampdown on the rally oganisers and supporters was likely to tarnish Malaysia’s reputation within the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“For some reason, the Malaysian government has decided to make this rally a test of its power. It almost seems like it has a screw loose. It is very clear that this is a campaign of intimidation,” Robertson was quoted by FMT as saying.

Robertson dismissed accusations that Bersih was politically motivated due to the support from opposition parties. He stressed that even a member of a political party still has the rights of a citizen.

“The issue here is of freedom of peaceful assembly. If a non-governmental organisation and a political party decide to walk hand-in-hand that is their right. The government is just churning out excuse after excuse to stop the rally in the hope that the people will believe at least one of them,” he said.

Robertson said Malaysia is bound by Article 21 of the United Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) to allow this rally.

Article 21 states that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of the government: this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures”.

Said Robertson: “Bersih is asserting its right under Article 21 and that right should be respected.”

Does all this mean anything to Najib? Or is the BN way of rigging the polls the only way it dares attempt?

That then sums up Ambiga’s determination to carry on with the rally tomorrow.

“Our first and foremost responsibility is to our future and our children, and we have resolved that they shall inherit a nation ruled not by fear, but by the principles of justice,” she said.

[Source: FMT]

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