Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Clean & Fair Elections

For the past couple of weeks, my twitter and FaceBook were abuzz with only one thing: Bersih 2.0. Bersih 2.0, for those who don't know, is an organization spearheaded by a brave and amazing lady Ambiga Sreenevasan, who's agenda is to push for free and fair elections in Malaysia.

Naturally, the ruling government opposed this movement, claiming there is nothing wrong with the current system despite many discrepancies in the electoral roll which the Election Commission of Malaysia could not provide proper answers to.

And naturally, the opposition party jumped onto the bandwagon and somewhat hijacked it to a point that many thought Bersih 2.0 was organized by the opposition. Still, most knew this is not about the ruling or opposition party, but the fight for fair elections for Malaysia.

So it was planned that there would be a rally on 9 July 2011 (Bersih 1.0 was held in 2007 and was said to be so successful that it brought many losses to the ruling party during the elections in 2008). The theme colour was yellow. Now that the next general election is rumoured to be coming up, it may cross the ruling party's minds that history would repeat itself and they would be in trouble in the next elections. Hence, there was a clampdown days prior to the planned rally.

The King actually stepped into the foray and granted an audience to Ambiga, requesting that the rally be held in a stadium where it would be more controlled. She accepted, since the Prime Minister also gave the same suggestion. Having cornered her into an agreement with the King, the PM then rejected any use of any stadium and the Home Minister continued declaring Bersih as illegal.

 This didn't stop the people supporting this cause and despite the ridiculous efforts and obstacles thrown at discouraging people from coming, Malaysians took to the streets on 9 July. People wearing the shirts (heck, even people wearing yellow!) were arrested. A group of silat experts had apparently threatened to appear and well, promised to do what they did best, but did not turn up. A couple of other groups promised to march and cause disruption to the rally only managed to fizzle out with a handful of supporters. So, Bersih 2.0 became a peaceful rally, with people from all walks of life united with one purpose.

 The stories that have appeared on my twitter timeline on Saturday were very moving. Tear gas and water canons only made the supporters more united as they helped one another. Old and young, abled and disabled were all there. There were no race differentiation. These are the true Malaysians, no racial divide. The rally not only garnered support locally but it took place worldwide, starting from Melbourne and Sydney (or was it Japan?) and ended in San Fran.

Feeling warm and fuzzy from all the personal stories on social media, it was with bad aftertaste when the mainstream media had very biased reports immediately after. It made me realize that folks who do not have social media do not actually know an alternative news. If change were to happen, there needs to be more awareness and it certainly won't come from the mainstream media.

Here are a few blogs which described the event. Suanie, Marina Mahathir ... there are just so many out there. And for the top tweets on #bersihstories, click here.

Anyway, I am one of those who feel proud to be Malaysian now, a feeling that was evasive during the ra-ra of the 1Malaysia mantra preached by the PM years ago.

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