Saturday, May 05, 2012

Writings On The Wall

Dr. Mahathir is spot on when he predicted HERE that the next BERSIH rally will be bigger but wrong to suggest it will be more violent unless the protestors are instigated and set up. The pattern we saw over the previous rallies has been that the participants came unarmed and with the common spirit and desire to give collective strength to demand the government level the playing field to allow the opposition coalition an even chance to challenge the ruling coalition in the upcoming elections through a reformed electoral process that is free and fair. Any reasonable person will not have any reason to disagree and although the government paid lip service to the demands it wasn't as quick to walk the talk. Many people have persuaded the prime minister to declare his support by joining in the walk but he refused, which is seen as a gutless reaction to the the slow and reluctant reform demanded. It is only in its weakened and unpopular position now that it, via its proxy, the Election Commission, agreed to introduce the use of indelible ink at the upcoming elections to prevent fraudulent voting at more than one polling stations. But the EC has refused to look into the other 7 demands (refer HERE) and lately the opposition coalition produced evidence that both the chairman and the vice chairman are members of UMNO, the major partner of the ruling coalition thus rendering them bias and subservient and therefore unable to discharge their duties independently. This charge has been challenged in court.

People protest when a government either fail to rule to the general expectation of the citizenry, and refuses to make changes, either through continual process of handling crisis and problems every human society faces or through public proposals which may elevate into memoranda and later demands when situation worsens. This is the progression we see in my beloved Malaysia. I've not seen this many ordinary people, including retirees older than me, deciding to walk their beliefs to tell the government the time is NOW. It will be too late to promise reform AFTER the next general election because there is the uneasy fear and feeling that the ruling coalition will play dirty to win and has no real interest to accept electoral reform earnestly.

Dr. Mahathir is right. In the next few months if the government fails to move towards the reform agenda it is very likely that BERSIH 4.0 will be organized. Many more people will take part and it will surely include members of the opposition coalition. What else can we expect? It is the natural progression. And the government will respond in the typical fashion of banning it, barricading its venue, deploying police and riot squads to squash the protestors through their arsenals of tear gas and water cannons. God knows if the police will be armed next with batons to beat up protesters rather than bare hands. God knows if some protesters will learn how protesters in other disturbing cultures respond through stones and hand weapons. And God knows whether the next time there will be real blood shed.

I dare not think how BERSIH 4.0 will turn out but I know if the government do not behave aggressively the next rally will not turn ugly. I pray for sanity to prevail. Listen, Mr. Prime Minister, don't end up as the PM who cause innocent Malaysian blood to be shed on our roads. That will make a mockery of what you believe in, 1Malaysia, or was that just politics?

BERSIH 1.0 on November 10, 2007 drew an estimated 30,000 - 40,000 crowd, BERSIH 2.0 on July 9, 2011 attracted between 50,000 to 60,000 participants and BERSIH 3.0 on April 28, 2012 saw 200,000 to 300,000 people gathering. The exponential increase can only mean a more agitated middle rising up to send a warning to the government. At this rate can we discount BERSIH 4.0 to attract less than 300,000? You can figure that out based on whether the government starts to listen.

Finally, an observation. After BERSIH 1.0 the 12th general election was held on March 8, 2008, just 4 months thereafter, and the ruling government lost 5 states. It wasn't listening fast enough. The government promised reform in the hope to regain their position. BERSIH gave them time before firing their next salvo at BERSIH 2.0 when NO reform took place. At BERSIH 2.0 demands to reform the electoral process were urgently made as the 13th general election could be called anytime before May 2013. When the government hardened their stand it then bred BERSIH 3.0 9 months later. If the government hardened their stand still, conceivably BERSIH 4.0 will take place within this year.

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