Only the uncaring will not care
Writer: Azmi Sharom
Published: Fri, 04 May 2012
If the government is not quaking in their boots after last weekend, then they must be in total denial.
Conservative estimates put the number of people at the Bersih gathering in the 80,000 to 100,000 region. That is at least twice as big as Bersih 1.0 in 2007.
Commentators, including myself, were doubtful that any significant number would turn up at Bersih 3.0.
Rally fatigue we said. To be proven wrong and in such a huge way, is humbling.
The people of this country are fed up and they are willing to let their feet do the talking.
I refuse to take part in speculation that there were those in the rally planted there to cause trouble until much more evidence is shown. But what is clear is that even though there was trouble, the fact that only a handful of policemen were hurt only goes to show that the vast majority of people at the gathering were there with peaceful intentions.
No matter how much the government may spin the issue, the facts speak for themselves.
The chaos would have been indescribable if 80,000 people set out with the express intention to create havoc. This was clearly not the case.
What we have are Malaysians from all walks of life, from differing ethnic backgrounds and from different social strata, getting together demanding that their right to choose their leaders not be undermined by corrupt and unjust laws.
Which makes the recent changes in election laws, taking away the right for candidates to have their own observers at polling stations and at the vote counting to ensure that all is above board, an ironic recipe for disaster.
It is ironic because any government which harps on about how fair it is, can’t possibly be expected to be believed if they make such a law which is the complete antithesis to fairness and transparency.
It is a recipe for disaster because if there is any doubt at all that the next elections are not clean and fair, the people of Malaysia have shown that they have the courage and the fortitude to demand what is right.
What concerns me at this time is that the government not only doesn’t care about making sure our electoral system is fair, they also don’t seem to care about the consequences if that same system remains unfixed.
I have said many times in the past that a clean electoral system is a diffuser of political chaos.
When people feel that a party has won or lost fair and square, there is no need to take to the streets. There is after all the next time an election is called and you can make changes then.
It is only in the face of a brutal and unfair system that anger spills over.
It happened in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Egypt and many other places where people felt they either had no voice or their voice had been disregarded by a flawed and corrupt election.
A government that truly respects democracy understands this.
They will be willing to lose an election in the hope and expectation that they will be able to fight another day and win back the power they lost if they have the right ideas. They will also understand that a lasting peace depends on a sound democracy.
Only a government that is totally obtuse and totally uncaring about anything else except their own precarious clutch on power will fail to realise the importance of a fair electoral system.
It is now up to the Najib administration, over the next few weeks and months, to show what kind of government it is.