Politics, political, politicking, politicised, politically hijacked!
Was Bersih 2.0 any of these?
Bersih is a coalition of NGOs and political parties concerned with the poor pathetic performance of our amazing Bolehland Wonder, the Election Commission and its ‘conduct’ of both federal and state elections.
Thus Bersih’s aim is of course political, though being political doesn’t mean it is promoting the agenda of a particular political party or political group.
Unlike another political NGO, Perkasa, Bersih is not promoting the maintenance of special economic privileges on the basis of race, nor is it demanding the dissolution of what Perkasa demands to be continued.
Bersih’s goal is free and fair elections in Malaysia.
Bersih’s recent rally, commonly known as Bersih 2.0, has the following eight demands:
1. Clean the electoral roll
2. Reform postal ballot voting
3. Use of indelible ink
4. A minimum campaign period of 21 days
5. Free and fair access to media mainstream media
6. Strengthen public institutions
7. Stop corruption
8. Stop dirty politics
... though it may be reduced to only 3 essential, namely:
1. use of indelible ink to ensure that voters may only vote once
2. clean out the electoral rolls to remove entries that are no longer valid such as those of deceased people
3. abolition or at least reforms of postal votes to prevent their abuse
While Bersih also demanded that all candidates and political parties have equal access to print and broadcast media, I personally doubt the EC can do much even if it wants to, given that the BN controls most if not all of the mainstream media.
Thus Bersih's campaign has been only about the issue of '1 vote for 1 person'. On this, I would have thought there should have been one more demand, that boundaries of electoral constituencies be redrawn to support this universal adult suffrage.
As an example, take the blatantly gerrymandered case of Putrajaya constituency (approximately 6600 registered voters) versus that of Kapar constituency (112, 200 registered voters) where 1 vote in the former is worth about 17 in the latter. Obviously some Malaysian citizens are more equal than others.
While of course everyone recognises it's not possible to have absolutely equal number of votes for every constituency, the EC should have ensured that every constituency be as near equal as possible, say, around 50,000 voters per.
Putrajaya with its list of voters less than even that of a typical state assembly seat definitely does not deserve to be a federal constituency on its own. Its creation as a federal constituency on its own is typical of the EC and the reason for its loss of credibility.
Gerrymandering is not new when one looks at sardine-packed constituencies like Kapar, Bukit Bintang, and various other urban districts. But the Putrajaya federal constituency certainly takes the cake, cream and corruption home.
That the BN and its associates like Perkasa have objected to the call for free and fair elections seems to signal that the fears of Bersih has been justified, namely, elections are not as free and fair as it should be. I’m of course merely saying something every Malaysian (even those in BN) already knows, that so-called public institutions like EC, Civil Service, Police, MACC, etc aren’t (politically neutral) public services as such but UMNO institutions, though Utusan Malaysia called them ‘Malay’ institutions.
Has Bersih been politicised?
Yes, because the dictionary tells us ‘politicise’ means ‘to engage in or talk about politics’. In Malaysia, one cannot talk about EC, Civil Service, Police, MACC, and other so-called public institutes without mentioning politics, specifically the political involvement or direction of UMNO in their conduct against the opposition. Another classic example of an organization serving UMNO is the equally amazing Bolehland Wonder, the PDRM.
Was Bersih politically hijacked?
There were attempts but unsuccessful ones. Recall how Anwar Ibrahim attempted to act as if he was the leader of Bersih, declaring that he would call off Bersih 2.0 if the EC ... yadda yadda ... when he didn’t even have that authority. But then, that's Anwar. He was correctly, curtly and coldly dismissed by Ambiga Sreenevasan, the real top honcho of Bersih 2.0.
During the rally on Saturday my matey OKM confirmed there were sporadic shouts of reformasi, a call, wakakaka, associated with PKR, but these were too few to change the character of Bersih 2.0 as a rally for free and fair elections (directed at the EC), into one for Anwar Ibrahim as he must have dreamed of, wakakaka again.
Would stirring cries of Allahu Akbar imply PAS’ attempts to hijack Bersih? Though normally identified with PAS, the Islamic praise of Allah swt is not exclusively PAS and has been used by UMNO as well. I reckon it's hard to accuse PAS of any hijacking of Bersih on the basis of religious calls of inspiration.
What about the other side? We know that Perkasa, Utusan and UMNO (clumsy clowns like Hishamuddin) have collectively attempted to politicise Bersih in the worst light, with even the police involved in conducting its 'usual investigation', this time into the financial sponsors of Bersih.
And I wonder what Khairy Jamaluddin, an Oxford educated man, would have been thinking when UMNO Youth selected the slogan of 'Patriot' on its red T-shirt?
Surely he would have heard of Samuel Johnson’s famous pronouncement "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel" when he attacked John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute and his supporters for the false use of the word ‘patriotism’. Imagine KJ as the new Earl of Bute wakakaka.
But alas, that Hang Tuah-ish word may find resonance with the Heartland who wouldn't know or give a fig about Samuel Johnson, which no doubt KJ would have already taken into account.
Yes, scoundrels throughout the world love that word as it accords (so they believed) them protection, and respectability and credibility in the eyes of some (or even many). Some even brazenly and shamelessly draped themselves (and their bigoted nastiness) with the national flag.
But in the Bersih 2.0 rally, three non-party sweeties stood out for praises of their amazing courage, dignity and examples – Ambiga Sreenesavan for her leadership and cool courage, Marina Mahathir for, firstly, her courage and sense of fairness in defending Ambiga against the scurrilous ad hominem attacks by the rightwing Bolehland Wonders, and secondly, especially given the particular circumstance of her personal connections, for her walk in Bersih 2.0, and finally but not least, Aunty Bersih, the Lady of Liberty.
I salute you sweeties - you're the real patriots.