Side Views

Are Malaysians ready for reform? — Clarence Sim

APRIL 25 — Are Malaysians capable of understanding what reform is? It seems not if you look at those around you — family, friends, colleagues, and even yourself! I was appalled at the questions being floored at yesterday’s forum organised by Tindak Malaysia.

“When will be the 13th General Election?”

“Is there any plan to feedback these electoral discrepancies to the Election Commission?”

“How to travel to Dataran Merdeka for Bersih 3.0?”

Are we so naive and dense that we fail to understand the reason for attending such a forum as well as the reason such a forum was organised in the first place? If I were one of the speakers, I would have run out of the hall upon hearing such questions from the audience. Did they not listen to what was presented to them, the dire situation that demands us to ponder, to question, and to respond in a more critical manner?

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, as a surprise guest, opened the forum with a reminder of Bersih 2.0’s position and a brief summary of how the recent Election Commission (EC) Amendments will have an impact on the coming general election in unfair conditions. PY Wong then presented something most Malaysians are not aware of, something as fundamental as our Constitution, the formation of actors in policy making, and the EC and its purview. He made it absolutely clear that as much as we like to separate the political, the social, and the economic in our lives, these are inter-related and very much influenced by one another — and regularly oppressing and suppressing us.

Hence, the root cause of an unfair election may not be resolved by only demanding the EC rectify and improve its system and processes. It requires a necessary change in the entire Malaysian mindset that “too much power should not be given to any one vehicle”, that we are ultimately the ones who offer such power to those who govern the country.

Further technical information was presented by Dr. Wong Chin Huat and Dr. Ong Kian Ming, specifically on malaportionment (i.e. BN: Putrajaya 6,008 voters vs. PKR: Kapar 112,00 voters) and gerrymandering (i.e. Selangor), and discrepancies in the electoral roll that comprise 27 per cent of the electoral roll. Findings were presented. These common discrepancies were highlighted with recommendations to the EC since 2003, and as of today, nothing has been done by the EC to rectify them as seen in the last gazetted electoral roll.

Regardless of what prior appointment the EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had, it is disappointing that he could not even identify anyone in the EC to represent him to take the opportunity to clarify the EC’s position as well as assure the audience that Malaysia does have the cleanest election in the world as he so proclaimed. You are probably as surprise as I am to read this morning that the EC has launched a booklet to counter the allegation of discrepancies in the electoral roll. Is this their way of canvassing over the ugliness so as not to address them? Have they done their best to shore up public confidence in the election process?

Bersih 2.0, Tindak Malaysia, and other civil society groups, in their own capacity, are working towards an unjust and unfair condition for all Malaysians, be it electoral reform, voter education, or otherwise. It is not good enough for the ruling government to give a green light to reform, but that effort should be reflected in their actions as well. Thus far, what we have observed are the ruling government’s fear of losing power resulting in flip-flop statements, the bulldozing of important laws, and unsound responses to public sentiment.

I may have been too harsh on those who attended the forum, for there are many more who did not, who are still ignorant (or chose to be) of their surroundings. People who don’t quite see the need to understand the unfairness in elections but gladly vote once every five years. People who have reached the age of 21, but knowingly decide not to register. Ensuring checks and balances do not lie only in the hands of opposition parties or civil society groups. As citizens, we are responsible for the mess we are in today. We slept through the chaos, and many still do! We prioritised our lives around economic gains and social activities that we have no room for the most important element for healthy living — to ensure our Constitutional rights are not infringed. Your vote may not even be worth anything soon if you continue to be in a comatose state.

If you are planning to make your way to Dataran Merdeka on the 28th, be sure of what Bersih 2.0 stands for, and understand your position in demanding for a cleaner and fairer election. I do hope to see that Malaysians are not just capable of fighting against injustice, but also are able to think about and understand their response. Be safe and see you on the green this Saturday.

* Clarence Sim reads The Malaysian Insider.

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

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