Friday, July 22, 2011

BERSIH 2.0 aftermath

On the 9th July 2011, many Malaysians, regardless of races, language and religion, numbering up to 50,000 (estimates vary depending on the source, 50,000 claimed by Bersih 2.0,
6,000 claimed by police) walked out on the streets, supporting the call for free and fair elections.

They were walking towards a Stadium previously granted by both the King (Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin) and the Prime Minister (Dato' Sri Haji Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak). However, the Home Minister (Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein) still refused to acknowledge BERSIH 2.0 and declared that Bersih is illegal. Thus they were not able to obtain a police permit to gather at Merdeka Stadium. Despite this, the supporters of BERSIH 2.0 marched down the streets on that day only to meet a well prepared police line of defence which had been on the street blocking the road to the Stadium since the day before.

What followed was internationally condemned for police brutality and violating human rights. Police thrown tear gas into the peaceful crowd and splashed water cannons at them. They evenattacked a hospital after cornering the citizens into it. One citizen died after collapsing and only receiving help from an ambulance after one and a half hour. His family blamed the police for withholding medical aid to the victim. Over one thousand demonstrators were arrested that day.

The aftermath came down hard on the government of Malaysia, Barisan National (BN). Not only does Amnesty International denounced the crack down, they supported a small group of BERSIH 2.0 UK in London doing street protest (by giving protest signs) while the Malaysian Prime Minister visited London from the 12th to the 15th July. Even Queen Elizabeth wore a yellow dress in greeting Najib and his wive. The author personally joined in the protest on the last day on the 15th July and had a great time singing "Yellow Submarine" outside the Intercontinental Hotel where Najib was to have his dinner.

Yellow being the colour of BERSIH 2.0 T-shirt is banned and deemed illegal in Malaysia. While submarine was for the sandal case involving Najib. Even the United Kingdom police supported the call for democracy as they recognise that democracy involves having demonstrations from time to time. (In fact even having just been in the United Kingdom for only 10 weeks, I had already witnessed 3 other demonstrations held for various other reasons.)

Before the demonstration on the 15th July, there was a short briefing for us, reminding us of the peaceful spirit of demonstration and non-political involvement of BERSIH 2.0. The main message of that particular demonstration was to demand the release of six person still being withheld by the Emergency Ordinance (dubbed EO6). After the demonstration, the organisers for the BERSIH 2.0 UK debriefed us, saying that the movement for free and fair elections does not end with the 9th July rally but to be continued on. Having a presence at London is important as well as the unprecedented numbers of Malaysians having spoken up. Also, in a play of words, they said that the government of Malaysia only banned BERSIH, not BERSIH 2.0!

Following up on continuing the movement for electoral reform, BERSIH 2.0 has released a guideline on their website asking individual Malaysians to take the spirits to the core and initiate their own events. This is relevant in view that the Malaysian government has been busy covering up (via local mainstream media) almost everything bad about what happened in the 9th July rally and trying to win over the hearts of the common people. One report in the Economist on the BERSIH 2.0 rally was partly censored before distributed to the people and the police released their own version of what happened on that day. In my personal view, it all seems to be a foolish attempt that will succeed only if the internet did not exist or that fewer Malaysians cared.

With the next General Elections in Malaysia coming up before March of 2012, the outlook does not look good for BN. In a facebook page unrelated to BERSIH 2.0, more than 200,000 people liked "100,000 People Request Najib Tun Razak Resignation". One blogpost said that the Malaysian Prime Minister should learn from Singapore Prime Minister "to share power".

As for the global view, the author must apologise for the previous article for not being able to find anything about Singapore BERSIH 2.0 rally at the time of writing the previous piece. According to the facebook page Global BERSIH 2.0, more than 4000 people in over 38 cities around the world joined in the 9th July rally at their respective local time. These included Singapore Online (63), Singapore Picnic (200). "The organisers in Singapore, aware of the restrictions on public gatherings posed by the Singapore authorities, quite cleverly decided to do an online show of their love for Malaysia and their support for the Bersih 2.0 campaign. However, there were some folks who decided to gather informally for a picnic at a popular park."

It is impressive that there are so many Malaysians out there. As a Malaysian student in NUS, I can say it is unsurprising as Malaysia has been allowing brain drain to continue for a long long time by now. The latest case can be seen with the First Malaysian Gold Medallist in the International Physics Olympiad 2011, Chew Kok Wei who is going to Peking University to study Physics. Hopefully, whatever government comes to power next in Malaysia can fix what has been long broken in the country.

No comments: