Malaysia: Launch of Perhimpunan BERSIH 2.0 and repression
At least 31 members of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (Parti Sosialis Malaysia, PSM) -- including member of parliament Dr Michael Jeyakumar -- have been detained by police. The Malaysian government is whipping up a massive red-scare campaign around the Bersih 2.0 rally planned for July 9 (see statement below), and is increasingly resorting to repression to try to prevent an expected huge attendance.
The PSM on June 17 announced it would mobilise its members and related organisations to participate in the July 9 rally. The PSM stated that: "July 9 is an important juncture in our nation's history. It is a day devoted to democracy and fair elections. We call all people who are for democracy and fair elections to come out and support the call for democratic and fair elections. History has taught us that the struggle for democracy and freedom does not come in a silver platter."
The Bersih 2.0 rally is named after the pro-democracy mass rally on that took place on November 10, 2007. On June 19, the Bersih organisers released the following statement.
Launch of Perhimpunan BERSIH 2.0
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) believes that a working democracy is built upon the foundation of clean, free and fair elections. Therefore, the role of the Election Commission (EC) in conducting elections with integrity and impartiality is crucial in the democratisation of the nation.
The electoral system of this country is marred with irregularities, electoral offences and rampant abuse of powers. As the EC has not made any marked efforts in initiating changes towards a clean and fair electoral system, BERSIH 2.0 has decided to organise a rally to intensify pressure in light of the upcoming 13th General Elections.
Today marks less than three weeks before Perhimpunan BERSIH 2.0 takes place on 9 July 2011. Perhimpunan BERSIH 2.0 is intended to promote democracy and call for much needed electoral reform.
These are the 8 immediate demands for Perhimpunan BERSIH 2.0:
1. Clean the electoral roll
The electoral roll is marred with irregularities such as deceased persons and multiple persons registered under a single address or non-existent addresses. The electoral roll must be revised and updated to wipe out these ‘phantom voters’. The rakyat have a right to an electoral roll that is an accurate reflection of the voting population.
In the longer term, BERSIH 2.0 also calls for the EC to implement an automated voter registration system upon eligibility to reduce irregularities.
2. Reform postal ballot
The current postal ballot system must be reformed to ensure that all citizens of Malaysia are able to exercise their right to vote. Postal ballot should not only be open for all Malaysian citizens living abroad, but also for those within the country who cannot be physically present in their voting constituency on polling day. Police, military and civil servants too must vote normally like other voters if not on duty on polling day.
The postal ballot system must be transparent. Party agents should be allowed to monitor the entire process of postal voting.
3. Use of indelible ink
Indelible ink must be used in all elections. It is a simple, affordable and effective solution in preventing voter fraud. In 2007, the EC decided to implement the use of indelible ink. However, in the final days leading up to the 12th General Elections, the EC decided to withdraw the use of indelible ink citing legal reasons and rumours of sabotage.
BERSIH 2.0 demands for indelible ink to be used for all the upcoming elections. Failure to do so will lead to the inevitable conclusion that there is an intention to allow voter fraud.
4. Minimum 21 days campaign period
The EC should stipulate a campaign period of not less than 21 days. A longer campaign period would allow voters more time to gather information and deliberate on their choices. It will also allow candidates more time to disseminate information to rural areas. The first national elections in 1955 under the British Colonial Government had a campaign period of 42 days but the campaign period for 12th GE in 2008 was a mere 8 days.
5. Free and fair access to media
It is no secret that the Malaysian mainstream media fails to practice proportionate, fair and objective reporting for political parties of all divide. BERSIH 2.0 calls on the EC to press for all media agencies, especially state-funded media agencies such as Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM) and Bernama to allocate proportionate and objective coverage for all potlical parties.
6. Strengthen public institutions
Public institutions must act independently and impartially in upholding the rule of law and democracy. Public institutions such as the Judiciary, Attorney-General, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC), Police and the EC must be reformed to act independently, uphold laws and protect human rights.
In particular, the EC must perform its constitutional duty to act independently and impartially so as to enjoy public confidence. The EC cannot continue to claim that they have no power to act, as the law provides for sufficient powers to institute a credible electoral system.
7. Stop corruption
Corruption is a disease that has infected every aspect of Malaysian life. BERSIH 2.0 and the rakyat demand for an end to all forms of corruption. Current efforts to eradicate corruption are mere tokens to appease public grouses. We demand that serious action is taken against ALL allegations of corruption, including vote buying.
8. Stop dirty politics
Malaysians are tired of dirty politics that has been the main feature of the Malaysian political arena. We demand for all political parties and politicians to put an end to gutter politics. As citizens and voters, we are not interested in gutter politics; we are interested in policies that affect the nation.
Once again, BERSIH 2.0 calls on the rakyat who believe in these 8 demands to join us on 9 July to promote democracy and electoral reform. BERSIH 2.0 would like to express our deepest appreciation to the rakyat, NGOs and political parties who have expressed support for these demands. Together we can work towards building a better Malaysia.
BERSIH 2.0 welcomes UMNO Youth’s intention to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to seek for improvement of the electoral system. As both UMNO Youth and Pakatan Rakyat component parties have made allegations of involuntary movement of voters, we call on the EC to clarify the allegations considering only the EC is capable moving voters.
BERSIH 2.0 regards UMNO Youth’s move as an indication that the Perhimpunan BERSIH 2.0 is effectively promoting a vibrant democracy and affecting strong pressure on the EC for electoral reform. BERSIH 2.0 wishes success for UMNO Youth and all other parties exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. We call on all participants for any public assemblies to be held on 9 July to ensure a peaceful experience of exercising democratic rights.
BERSIH 2.0 would like to assure the police and all quarters that the Perhimpunan BERSIH 2.0 is a peaceful citizens’ movement. As we have stated previously, BERSIH 2.0 intends to work with the police to ensure the successful facilitation of the peoples’ constitutional right to peaceful assembly.
During the launch of the rally on 19 June 2011, BERSIH 2.0 announced that there will be rallies held in UK and Taiwan in solidarity with Perhimpunan BERSIH 2.0.
All the overseas solidarity rallies held were initiated by Malaysian citizens living abroad who supported the demands for Perhimpunan BERSIH 2.0. They personally contacted BERSIH 2.0 and expressed interest in organising a rally where they were. We regard this wide interest by the Malaysian diaspora as an indication that Malaysians from all walks of life believe in the need for electoral reform and the upholding of democracy.