Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Media Statement on Bersih 2.0 Rally by Friends of Suaram Working Committee, Johor 5 July 2011

Media Statement on Bersih 2.0 Rally 
by Friends of Suaram Working Committee, Johor
5 July 2011
Following the first media statement issued on 22 June 2011 concerning Bersih 2.0 rally, and in view of the current situation obtaining, that Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein had declared Bersih 2.0 as an “unlawful society”; that “709” Bersih rally cum “Walk for Democracy” is upcoming; and that BN-UMNO ruling clique and the Home Ministry appear extremely ferocious against Bersih 2.0, FOS Johor (Friends of Suaram Working Committee, Johor) feels compelled to issue another media statement relating to Bersih 2.0, touching on the following 4 points:




1. Bersih 2.0 Rally cum “walk for democracy” serve to express the common aspiration of the Rakyat



The purpose of the upcoming “709” Bersih rally cum “walk for democracy” is to present a memorandum to the Yang Di Per Tuan Agong for an electoral reform comprising “8-point demand”. It is the continuation of the first Bersih rally held on 10 November 2007. In the first Bersih rally, about 40,000 people took to the streets in Kuala Lumpur, with a view to demanding a fair and clean election.


In view of the fact that the UMNO-dominant BN regime remains oblivious of the strong aspiration for electoral reform pending the 13th general election, the current action of Bersih 2.0 is justified, legitimate and appropriate.

Since Independence, 54 years have passed. Rakyat are now fully aware of the true nature of UMNO. UMNO is in its nature anti-Rakyat, whereas the other component parties in BN (mainly MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC) are merely its accomplices.

Under the current constitutional milieu, it is understandable, for the purpose of effecting social reform and improvement of their lot, the Rakyat choose to pin their hopes on the opposition parties as well as some pro-Rakyat leaders. The past long experience shows that the Rakyat long for a clean and fair election, so that elected Federal and state legislative assemblymen will form a government truly representative of the will of the Rakyat, to protect the interests of the people.

In brief, the “709” Bersih rally cum “Walk for Democracy” initiated and led by Bersih 2.0 leaders is a just action taken by the NGOs. It is in line with the common aspiration of the various communities for an electoral reform. It has been put forward to the UMNO-dominant BN government, but the BN-UMNO leaders wilfully distorted and maligned the justified, legitimate and appropriate action taken by the Rakyat.  They attributed the popular move to a manoeuvre on the part of the opposition parties “colluding with foreign spies”,  “waging war against the Rulers”, and “subverting the state power”, etc.

The BN-UMNO leaders fully utilised the state apparatus and their linked organisations to create an atmosphere of fear in order to thwart the just struggle of the people. They even went to the extent of creating public opinion aimed at launching an all-out crackdown on the Bersih 2.0 rally. All this serves to reveal their true nature of going against the people.

2. Bersih 2.0 Rally cum “Walk for Democracy” has serious impact on BN ruling power

Since the independence till the 2007 Bersih rally, the UMNO-dominant Alliance/BN ruling clique has been utilising the “rules of game” formulated by a parliamentary election system manufactured by the British colonial administration hand in glove with the Malay ruling clique. They have run the country in the name of a “popularly elected government” for half a century. 


However, the Rakyat have learned from their past experience that the UMNO hegemonistic ruling clique (created under the “rules of game” introduced by the flawed electoral system) is the main cause of all forms of exploitation and plight suffered by the Rakyat; the emergence of rampant corruption; and the polarisation of rich and poor. For the past 50 years, the Rakyat have been duped by the UMNO-dominant Alliance/BN government!

Of particular importance is the recent awakening of both the Malay and Indian communities. This has been demonstrated by recent significant events, such as:

1.  The Bersih rally in 2007, which saw 40,000 people take to the street, demanding an electoral reform. 


2. Two weeks after the 2007 Bersih rally, Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force Committee) mobilized 30,000 people to submit a memorandum to the British High Commission, demanding compensation for the suffering of the Indian community, caused by the British government in coaxing them to migrate to this country more than 100 years ago.

Although these rallies did not bring about any positive results, they were an inspiration to the Rakyat. They began to understand the importance of democratic rights, the electoral reform and the urgency to unite against any hegemonistic domination. The following year (2008) saw the brewing of a huge political storm, witnessing the rise of the popular demand for political reform in the “308” general election. It culminated in BN’s loss of parliamentary two-thirds majority hitherto enjoyed by BN, as well as in BN’s loss of  5 state governments. In the meantime, the BN component parties (MCA, Gerakan, and MIC) suffered unprecedented ignominious defeat. 

Bersih 2.0 rally will be more massive than ever. The clarion call for electoral reform will be much louder. Without doubt, the Bersih 2.0 rally for sure will have a serious impact on the BN ruling power. Just think of the major defeat suffered by SUPP leaders in the recent Sarawak state election. That was the inevitable consequence of their betrayal of the interests of the Rakyat. Similarly, in Singapore, the strong popular desire for democratic reform compelled the autocratic Lee Kuan Yee to step down disgracefully. Confronted with the upcoming Bersih 2.0 rally with its unpredictable impact on the existing ruling power,  how could BN-UMNO ruling clique not worry?


3. Bersih reaffirmed peaceful assembly while BN-UMNO is out to provoke 


While intimidation and practice of deception failed to have any effect, BN regime had tarnished the image of Malaysia in the eyes of the whole world.  After declaring yellow T-shirts illegal, the Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, through the Registrar of Societies Abdul Rahman Othman, invoked Section 5 of the Societies Act 1966 to declare Bersih 2.0 an “unlawful society” with effect from 1 July 2011,  allegedly based on the following grounds:



1. Bersih 2.0 has engaged in activities causing anxiety and worry among the multiracial communities in the country.


2. Distributing certain leaflets designed to instigate the people to overthrow the government.


3. Bersih’s activities are prejudicial to the image of the country, threatening and undermining social order, public security, economy and the national sovereignty. Even racial harmony has been affected. 



But the harsh realities known to the Rakyat are as follows:


1. Bersih 2.0 is a coalition comprising many legal organizations. It need not be registered under the Societies Act. In concrete terms, Bersih 2.0 is a coalition of many NGOs (commonly known as ‘civil society’) which are legal entities. The coalition is aimed at seeking a fair and clean election.


2. Bersih 2.0 strives to realise the “8-point demand” for reforming the electoral system. The Rakyat be allowed to elect a clean and fair government through fair and clean elections. Bersih 2.0 is not a political party, nor will it field candidates to contest in elections, let alone “overthrowing the government” or “seizing the ruling power”.



3. The chairperson of Bersih 2.0 Ambiga has repeatedly made it clear that Bersih 2.0 rally will be conducted in a peaceful and legal manner, enabling the broad masses of various communities to exercise their right to peaceful assembly in accordance with Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution and Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


4. Ambiga has openly suggested to the police to recommend the route and venue for the rally, and the rally be escorted by the police. This amply shows that Bersih 2.0 believes in sincere co-operation with the police, and it put up concrete proposals to ensure that the rally goes on peacefully. But such proposals were not rationally dealt with by the police, nor was there any reasonable response forthcoming from the police. 



BN-UMNO connives at threats of violence by certain quarters. For instance, the UMNO Youth and PERKASA unscrupulously threatened to call for their own “patriotic” rally solely to confront the Bersih 2.0 rally. The BN-UMNO leaders frantically resorted to racist rhetoric and character assassination against the Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga, labelling her as kafir, vilifying her  as “anti-Malay, anti-Islam”. Some unknown persons even wrote anonymous letters, threatening her and her friends with death.
 
5. Melaka Chief Minister Ali Rustam, in his capacity as president of “Persekutuan Silat Kebangsaan Malaysia” (PESAKA), announced in a press conference on July 2 , among other things, that 4 million of its members would be mobilised to take part in UMNO Youth’s rally, and allegedly to protect the National Palace. He even warned Ambiga of having to face all possible consequences. He urged the government to revoke Ambiga’s citizenship. (This last act was reported in the Malay media only, but not in the Chinese media.).



So who is exactly threatening the peace, stability and the lives of the Rakyat? The Rakyat are too clear about this. They will sit in judgment at the opportune time.


4. Rakyat are concerned that the peaceful assembly will be sabotaged, but they will remain calm to face challenges

Apart from declaring  Bersih 2.0 an “unlawful society” with a view to foiling the rally, when Bersih 2.0 was holding roadshows across the country , BN-UMNO had, through organisations and media und­­er their control, repeatedly and intentionally equated the political activities of the opposition parties with the electoral reform advocated by Bersih 2.0.   


They attempted to create a false impression that “Bersih 2.0 is merely a tool used by the opposition parties to overthrow the government”. By such frail attempt, they intended to mislead and confuse the people, hoping that the people will continue giving their support to the tottering regime.  


The Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) launched an “Udahlah tu -- Bersaralah! BN” roadshow programme (starting from June 24 in several towns in north and south Malaysia). It is to be noted that the Home Ministry maliciously equated such roadshows to the Bersih 2.0 electoral reform activities, so as to confuse and to mislead the people into believing that Bersih 2.0 similarly advocated the immediate overthrow of the BN government. 



In the north, the police detained a bus carrying 30 persons, including Sungai Siput MP Dr. Michael Jeyakumar, for having found in the bus several red T-shirts printed with pictures of the Malayan Communist Party’s leaders. Based on the discovery of such red T-shirts, the police ridiculously accused PSM of “waging war against the Rulers” and “reviving communism”. The police went to the extent of invoking the Emergency Ordinance to detain Dr. Jeyakumar and other six persons for another 60 days, purportedly for conducting further investigations.


In the southern part of Malaysia, the police set up blockade and prevented PSM’s mobile publicity squad from carrying out their activities. 28 persons in a bus, including S. Arutchelvan (PSM’s Sec-Gen), were ordered to report to the police station for recording their statements meant for investigations, but none of them were detained.  A few days later, the Home Ministry announced that the police had found two “foreign spies” (one Filipino and one Korean female student). They were arrested and deported. Apparently, the motive of Home Ministry was to deceive the people into believing that –


1. There are subversives operating to overthrow the state power; and

2. Foreign spies have infiltrated into the anti-government activities in the country.


In doing so, the BN-UMNO seeks to frighten the Rakyat so that they would stay away from the PSM’s “Udahlah tu -- Bersaralah! BN” roadshows, and away from involving in Bersih 2.0 rally electoral reform movement, the “709” peaceful rally cum “Walk for Democracy” in particular.


The BN-UMNO ruling clique and its leaders are relentlessly provoking and threatening the Bersih 2.0 leaders, while the Home Ministry and its officials are out to launch full-scale crackdown on Bersih 2.0. When Bersih 2.0 was declared an “unlawful society”, the situation might cause concerns among Rakyat that the “709” peaceful rally will be sabotaged. However, the Rakyat will be calm and brave in the face of these challenges.



At this critical juncture, Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga has clearly conveyed the following message to the people:



“It is now clear that Bersih 2.0 is the people. Therefore, any attempt to sabotage Bersih 2.0 will not change the stance and attitude of the people towards whatever Bersih 2.0 has advocated.” … “More importantly, above and beyond that, Bersih 2.0 means to the people more than just a coalition of legal organisations. It is now a concept that has captured the hearts and minds of the rakyat.” [1]




*Press statement released by BERSIH 2.0 on 6 July 2011. Please click here to download the press statement. 


Media Statement 6 July 2011

Rally at Stadium Merdeka

1. The Audience With His Majesty Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Granted to the BERSIH 2.0 Representatives

Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) expresses its utmost gratitude for the audience with His Majesty Yang Di-Pertuan Agong granted to its three representatives namely Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, Dato’ A. Samad Said dan Zaid Kamaruddin on July 5, 2011.

BERSIH 2.0 appreciates the concern His Majesty has for the aspiration of the People to enjoy democracy and human rights as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

The BERSIH delegation has presented the following statements and positions to His Majesty:

  1. BERSIH 2.0 accepts the offer made by the Government to have its rally in stadium. BERSIH 2.0 hopes that the Police will give cooperation to ensure the smooth running of the rally. A delegation of not more than 10 representatives shall submit a memorandum to His Majesty.

  1. The Government must show good faith with the release of all detained including those detained under the Emergency Ordinance (EO) and stop applying pressure, harassment and obstacles to supporters of BERSIH 2.0.

  1. The establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on reform of the electoral system and process.

2. Demands of BERSIH 2.0

BERSIH 2.0 is a legal coliation because it comprises legally registered organisations and entities.

BERSIH 2.0 demands:
  1. That a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) with a membership of calibre and representative of all stakeholders will be established to study the shortcomings of the current electoral system and process, and to recommend measures of reform.

  1. The current eight demands of BERSIH 2.0 to be met before 13th General Elections. The eight demands are:
    1. Clean the electoral roll
    2. Reform the postal ballot
    3. Use of indelible ink
    4. Minimum 21 days campaign period
    5. Free and Fair Access to Media
    6. Strengthen Public Institutions
    7. Stop Corruption
    8. Stop Dirty Politics

  1. All those detained for supporting BERSIH 2.0 be released. Specifically, BERSIH 2.0 demands:
    1. All six leaders of Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM), including Member of Parliament Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, detained under Emergency Ordinance (EO) be released or charged in court immediately.
    2. Charges against those related to BERSIH 2.0 be withdrawn or dropped.
    3. Those who are still detained be released without conditions.

  1. All harassment, threats, allegations and slanders against BERSIH 2.0 supporters be stopped. Specifically,
    1. People are allowed to wear yellow shirts.
    2. Efforts to organise a successful BERSIH 2.0 rally at the stadium are not hindered.

  1. That the Royal Malaysian Police, Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur or any other parties do not obstruct people from attending the BERSIH 2.0 Rally at Stadium Merdeka from 2-4pm on Jul 9 (Saturday). BERSIH 2.0 is prepared to cooperate with any party to ensure a rally that is peaceful and smooth.

3. Meeting with Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak

BERSIH 2.0 is working on meeting with Prime Minister YAB Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak as soon as possible to discuss the demands above and other matters related to BERSIH 2.0.

Yours faithfully,
Steering Committee
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)

The members of the BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee are:
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Chair), Andrew Khoo, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Dr Farouk Musa, Haris Ibrahim, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh dan Zaid Kamaruddin.

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