June Rubis responds to the question, “Haven’t we done enough to highlight the issues?”
This article was first published in The Malaysian Insider, June 30, 2011.
I’ve noticed something interesting of late.
A few middle-class intellectuals back-pedalling on their initial support for Bersih 2.0. They say, yes I support this (in theory) but do we really need to march now? Haven’t we done enough to highlight the issues? Haven’t we won the PR (public relations, not Pakatan Rakyat) war?
I’m sorry, but I’m a bit confused.
The point of Bersih 2.0 isn’t about who gets best publicity, but rather for electoral reform.
These same intellectuals will admit, like you and me, that the current electoral process is unfair and biased. They are just feeling really uneasy about July 9. They want to know, isn’t there a better way to do this?
But yet, they cannot provide any credible solutions that could work.
How many more dialogues can civil society have with the Election Commission? Do we think that another dialogue out-of-the-blue just before July 9 would magically solve our valid concerns of the current electoral process? Are we that naive?
Fair enough, the pressure is on but I believe the person who feels it most is Ambiga Sreenevasan herself. The fact that she has been holding on so strong gives all of us the continued strength to carry on.
Along with the waffling from some moderates comes the more intense criticism of Bersih 2.0. Critics say that if the electoral process is unfair, how did Pakatan Rakyat win five states?
Indeed despite a grossly unfair electoral process, Pakatan Rakyat managed to win five states. And now maybe, just maybe, they could take over Putrajaya come the next general election.
Bear with me for a minute.
Say, they did. They win the next general election.
Some of us are ecstatic; some of us are very upset. All in all, we have just received a new government. A change for the better, something different from Barisan Nasional, we will say.
Yet how do we know that after taking Putrajaya, they would be able to reform the electoral process? Perhaps some of Pakatan Rakyat leaders would have very good intentions to do so, perhaps some wouldn’t.
And we would be back where we are today.
This time, with Umno on the civil society front, urging for electoral reform.
We will then wonder why did we let this important opportunity slip away on July 9, 2011?
Regardless of which political parties are supporting Bersih 2.0, its aim is purer and clearer than any political party of the day.
To not support Bersih 2.0 because it currently receives massive Pakatan Rakyat support, in my humble opinion, is short sighted and very childish.
In 2007, we did not really have a problem with Pakatan Rakyat being involved in the Bersih march. In fact, we were more than happy that the PAS Amal Unit was there to keep us safe (I know I was).
Suddenly, in 2011, we are morally outraged that Pakatan Rakyat has yet again completely embraced Bersih 2.0.
Let’s not be hypocrites.
No matter how we feel about Pakatan Rakyat, we have to admit that they are playing the role that they need to play. And it would be no different if the roles were reversed.
Let’s imagine an alternate universe.
A corrupt Pakatan Rakyat government is terrorising our citizens. They say it is for our own good, to keep the peace. We all know that the only way they can keep in power is to manipulate the electoral process. We are outraged.
Despite our fears, our concerns, the countless dialogues we have had with the Election Commission appealing for good sense, we have not made any headway in bettering the electoral process.
And so, we take our concerns to the streets, for only two hours, and with hope that the police would not side with Pakatan Rakyat just once, and instead, do their job with fairness and decency.
The maligned Barisan Nasional, which has been struggling to fight against all odds to gain political representation, has embraced the civil society’s call to change the electoral process. They say we will support you and protect you against the Pakatan Rakyat-led police, with our Umno Youth unit.
So you see, no matter how we flip it, no matter how we intellectually dissect it to pieces, in the end it does not matter which political parties of the day support us.
And I have so much faith in our average good Malaysian that come July 9 there will be no riots similar to those in the Middle-East, as some of us fear. We proved that in 1998 when our deputy prime minister was arrested and beaten in jail, and while there was intense public outrage, more so than today, we did not burn cars or smash store windows.
Instead we took our outrage, as much as we can, through our votes, despite the grossly unfair electoral process. But now we realise, it is time to revamp the electoral system for five more years for a fairer political representation.
The Bersih 2.0 march will bring about change, whatever that brings, but we cannot fear that. The alternative is to stay unhappy, complaining, morally outraged but not doing anything significant about it until the next generation has enough of our staid complacency.
We need courage, and we need faith. We need you — the average good Malaysian — in large numbers to come down on July 9 to stand together, and say, we need a better electoral process for our country. We need a better democracy that works.
This is why we need to march.