Sunday, April 29, 2012

Syabas Bersih 3.0 But Will There Follow Meaningful Changes?

The Bersih 3.0 rally came and went though not in the originally intended form of a sit-in at Dataran Merdeka because the authorities had obtained a court order and sealed off the place.

An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people turned up yesterday for the rally in KL city alone! That is 5 to 6 times the number of people who had turned up for the previous Bersih 2.0 rally in July last year.

Syabas Bersih 3.0!

This is a strong reminder to the Najib administration that Malaysians are serious about wanting free and fair elections and want the government to clean up the electoral roll and put in system a clean and fair electoral process.

But will the Najib administration do anything about the people's concern? Will there follow meaningful changes to the electoral process and will the electoral roll be cleaned up?

Few Malaysians have any illusion that Najib would do anything beyond empty promises and bragging.

Following the previous Bersih 2.0 rally last year, Najib boasted that he didn't want to win if elections were not free and fair. He then proposed that a Parliamentary Select Committee looked into the matter of electoral reforms.

But the Parliamentary Select Committee tasked with the responsibility failed to meet even Bersih's minimal demands.

Instead, the government rushed through several amendments to the Election Offences Act, one among which now gives the Election Commission the power to decide when and for how long a polling or counting agent of a candidate may enter and remain in a polling station to observe the process!

This of course opens up a further avenue for abuse, instead of plugging the loopholes.

Home Minister Hishamuddin praised the police for showing restraint on their handling of the Bersih 3.0 rally yesterday.

Yes, they showed restraint by firing tear gas and water canons at the participants when a group of the participants allegedly broke through the barricades to Dataran Merdeka.

Some people are now saying that the whole thing was instigated by agent provocateurs planted among the crowd so as to blame the Bersih 3.0 organisers and make them look bad.

I don't know whether that is true of not, but I won't be surprised if it was. Anything can happen in bolehland.

But in the first place why were the authorities so insistent in not allowing the Bersih 3.0 participants the use of Dataran Merdeka for their proposed peaceful duduk bantah (sit-in)?

What is it about Dataran Merdeka that is so sacred that the authorities must obtain a court order and lock down the place?

After all, Dataran Merdeka is a public square where the people have a right of access to.

If in the first place the authorities had allowed Bersih 3.0 participants the use of the square for their peaceful sit-in, there wouldn't have been a need to water cannon and tear gas the participants for trying to gain access to the ground.

Why is it that the authorities are always being intransigent?

On the previous occasion last year, Bersih 2.0 was denied a permit for a peaceful march to hand over a memorandum to the king calling for electoral reforms. Instead, at the very penultimate moment Najib offered the use of Merdeka Stadium to Bersih to gather in.

And even this late offer of the Merdeka Stadium was eventually denied at the very last moment!

This time too, the authorities tried to pull the same trick by suggesting that Bersih 3.0 participants use Merdeka Stadium among a few other alternative venues. Of course, the offers were late in coming too!

Hishamuddin may praise his men for showing restraint in their handling of the Bersoh 3.0 rally yesterday, but at least one man thought otherwise

And I don't think that the Aussie senator was the only one.

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