MAY 3 — Amidst the horror stories of police brutality, the many spins, the endless ranting in the social media and the finger-pointing blame game, I now write to dispense my unsolicited opinion. Despite being a partisan person, I shall always endeavour to write without fear or favour.
Granted, while Bersih 3.0 officially ended at 4pm or so, on that watershed historical date of 428, the spiteful claims and counter-claims of contesting parties breaking the limits of “permissibility” shall continue. Only a royal commission of inquiry could put the many opposing claims to rest.
While the plethora of writings and the many video footages, both actual and some edited, of the “good, bad and ugly” scenes of Bersih 3.0 continue, I thought my piece is neither going to incite further “sedition” nor put any more strain on all the “aggrieved” parties.
But write it I must. It is in this moment of arguably intense confusion and conflict, where argument oftentimes tend to cut both ways, that I seek the refuge of the Almighty for the clarity of my thought process.
Rest assured that I am not about to pronounce a verdict of who is right or wrong, or who kept their promises and who didn’t. I will surely shy away from being the judge to determine who finally were the “greater devils or the lesser ones”. My verdict is as unimportant as it is perhaps presumptuous at this juncture.
No one doubts the fact that clashes occurred only after police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse tens of thousands of demonstrators, following a breach of the barricade in front of Dataran Merdeka. For the record, the court order barring Bersih 3.0 entering the historic square across the weekend was obtained through an ex-parte application which clearly is in contradiction with the statement of the home minister that declared Bersih 3.0 as not a security threat.
The barbed-wire barricades around the Dataran Merdeka only helped to heighten the despondency and revulsion of the rakyat, nay of the many Malaysians the world over.
Little did the mayor of Kuala Lumpur realise that 10 of the 11 seats in the Federal Territory were won by the opposition in the last general election (GE). It doesn’t take a pundit to remind the mayor that Kuala Lumpur is overwhelmingly Pakatan’s or perhaps belonging to the “Other Malaysia”, to borrow from my good friend Farish Noor.
While I understand and empathise with the years of subjugation of the police force by the powers-that-be which eventually turned them to be the “unquestioning armed division of Umno”, my deeper sympathy must surely be for the many “victims of terror” of the Bersih protestors, the many journalists grievously hurt and detained, and particularly for the Bersih 2.0 steering committee who are squarely blamed for the alleged “loss of control”.
Be that as it may, permit me to remain focus on the bone of contention in this debate which has now turned to be a great national conversation.
Lest we are swayed, let it be again said that the greatest contention neither centres on the PDRM’s brutality nor the alleged failures of Bersih’s Ambiga or Pak Samad or for that matter of opposition party leaders out to “hijack’ the national agenda of Bersih 2.0.
Yes, the centre of contention is on “electoral reform” and why it has been deliberately delayed if not entirely derailed. So, permit me to plainly ask the person ultimately in charge of this country, the Right Honourable Prime Minister.
Sir, you knew that the Bersih 3.0 “Duduk dan Bantah” was all about pressing for electoral reforms but why did you choose not to listen to their grievances?
Sir, you had all the reports; the 18 recommendations of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), the four points of our Minority Report. But did you ever instruct your minister in charge of parliamentary affairs to incorporate some amendments in the tabling of the amendments to the Election Offences Act 1954 on that historical April 19 proceeding which went to the wee hours of the morning (3.21am). It looks like you didn’t, did you, Sir?
Sir, it took five months for your minister and his appointed bipartisan team to be doggedly doing and finalising their report. Besides, you surely couldn’t be oblivious of Bersih’s eight demands — inter alia, of cleansing an electoral roll so dirty and “toxic”, and of providing for all contesting parties equitable access to the mainstream media as to make electoral contestation meaningful and fair.
Sir, the truth is, all that you were capable of doing on that fateful date of April 19 was table an Act to amend the Election Offences Act 1954, besides bulldozing seven other Bills and four motions. The nation would like to ask you: what did you actually amend?
Sir, you insulted our intelligence and you challenged our patience to the hilt when all that you could manage was to, inter alia, substitute for the word “cast”, the word “marked” in section 4 of the principal Act. A very deplorable effort indeed!
As if that wasn’t demeaning enough, you also deemed it necessary to do away for good, with our last effort of monitoring “phantom voters” by the use of “barong or pondok panas” or a “counter of sorts” for party workers to check on voters coming in to vote, by outlawing any counters “of not less than one hundred metres from the polling centre”.
Worse still, you now subject such offences within the meaning of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and any person liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or both.
Sir, in so doing you had again exhibited little remorse or hardly any sense of moral shame for not fulfilling your oft-repeated rhetoric on political reform. There are limits to “window dressings” as there are limits to hoodwink the rakyat by portraying yourself and your party as the paragon of righteousness or worse still of a Quranic concept called “Wasatiyyah”.
Indeed you are the anti-thesis of “Wasatiyyah” and “reforms”.
Sir, for all your “sins of omission and commission”, Bersih 3.0 was more than vindicated and defensible. Sir, for snubbing genuine electoral reform, you now stand to pay dearly.
I rest my case.
* The views expressed here are the personal views of the columnist.