Bersih: The negotiation for freedom — Zara Kahan
APRIL 27 — Umno’s old guards have called (their) Malaysia’s version of democracy a “guided” democracy, as if we are a nation of brain-damaged children who need our hands held at the polls.
Label it however you like. In actuality, the democratic nature and state of freedom in every nation in the world is not a static thing; it is a continuous negotiation between those in power and the people who have decided to give them that power.
Governing a nation is no easy thing, and certain limitations to freedom are necessary to maintain stability and security. The fairness of these limitations, however, depend on the nature of the people we elect, and human beings are corruptible creatures, susceptible to greed, fear and gross errors in judgment.
Even in the oldest democracies, such as America and Britain, the extent of freedom enjoyed by every citizen is not a static concept. The Patriot Act has allowed extreme infringements on individual liberty, and a sizeable number of these individuals accept it because it is done in the name of keeping bomb-wielding jihadis away from them.
Similarly, from the very conception of Malaysia, we have accepted several trade-offs. Want a stable economy? Shut up. Want a safe nation? Let us jail men who criticise the government.
Malaysia as we know it is a result of silent negotiations done over the years, in which the inaction of the majority of people signified that this is an acceptable bargain.
Is Bersih a sign that the majority opinion has changed? It’s hard to quantify since both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat love exaggerating the amount of support they have while most folks will keep their opinions to themselves.
Numbers aside, this is simply another turn in a cycle of pushing and pulling for more freedom, and Bersih will not solve everything. Neither will a new government, no matter what Anwar Ibrahim may promise you.
There is no big cure that will save us; even if all 22 recommendations of the Bersih committee replaced our national anthem, our freedom will never be guaranteed infinitely.
Sorry people, but our mechanism relies on human beings and the flesh is weak.
On a more positive note, the dialogue between Us The Rakyat and Kerajaan Yang Dikasihi has definitely gone beyond the silence and grudging consent that plagued the years of the generation before us.
There is a voice that will ring in Dataran Merdeka tomorrow, and no matter what you think of it, as Malaysians we must appreciate the quality of that voice; strong, clear and unyielding.
This is a tone that will create a difference in this ongoing negotiation to protect our rights as free men and women.
* Zara Kahan reads The Malaysian Insider
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.