Side Views

Let’s take back our votes — Nagappan Karuppiah

April 26, 2012

APRIL 26 — I read Yolanda Augustin (“Why Malaysians overseas are joining Global Bersih 3.0”, Side Views, April 24) and found myself nodding at each line.

I left Malaysia in 2003 to study in Australia. At the end of the first semester, I’d decided I’d make Australia my home. I’d had no interest in Malaysian politics to start with, but in that first semester, Australia opened my eyes to what freedom of speech is about. What multiculturalism — living with people of various races — is all about. How you can write to the newspapers and criticise the prime minister and the government for their policies. How on prime-time television you can voice your opinion. In Australia, I found the meaning of being part of a free, democratic and civil society.

I received my permanent residency in 2007 but to date I am not able to make or call Australia home. Malaysia is still where I cherish the best memories of my life, my school days and friends. I still find myself calling Malaysia home. I am still very much Malaysian at heart.

Over the past few years, I began reading and comparing the sociopolitics of Malaysia and Australia. It became apparent that Malaysia as a country has one too many stumbling blocks to progress, never mind to become a developed country. There’s corruption, a pathetic education system, gerrymandering of electoral boundaries, wastage of public funds, how one per cent of the people — the politicians and the elites associated with them — control the economy and how nothing drips down to the lowest strata of society. Worst of all, most Malaysians are still apathetic to everything that goes on around them.

I don’t think many Malaysians fully understand the effect of what took place in Parliament last Thursday, April 19, when eight laws were passed in one day. Probably distracted by the assault on Occupy Dataran, the French submarine case or, worse, couldn’t be bothered.

What happened that night is probably the single most awful thing that could have happened in our entire history. Forget 1969, forget arbitrary ISA arrests, forget Mahathir’s 22-year dictatorship, forget the PKFZ scandal or the numerous other scandals that ate your tax money. Forget all these.

None of these is going to matter when your vote is reduced in value. Yes, that’s right. Your vote now, this year, is worth far less than it was in 2008. With your vote, those of your family, your friends’, in fact everyone’s votes being reduced in value, the government has just made sure it can stay in power, indefinitely. Which means, all the past misdeeds, your fears and anxieties can just be as easily repeated.

All the previous Bersih rallies demanded electoral reforms. Now we have gone backwards.

There will no longer be independent scrutineers at polling stations.

No more safeguards on fraudulent voters.

Counting agents can now be removed by the Election Commission.

And nobody can go within 100 metres of vote-counting areas.

Illegal immigrants are now being given voting rights. Do you want them to decide our country’s future?

We were better off in 2008 than we are today.

But we are Malaysians. We are stronger than this. We are just not going to keep quiet while they mess around with our votes. We kept quiet before and they have made it easier to steal the elections. But we are not going to keep quiet any longer. Any unjust law is worth fighting. We are not only fighting for our future, but for our children’s future and their children’s future as well.

There’s only one way out. We need to show them we care. We need to show them that we are not apathetic. We need to show them we get hurt when they take away something that belongs to us.

Let’s take back our votes.

Let’s sit in knee-to-knee with others this April 28 at Dataran Merdeka and in more than 79 other locations around the world.

Let’s “duduk bantah”. For the sake of our country, our children and their children.

* Nagappan Karuppiah reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.