A peaceful day of fasting and praying to urge for electoral reformation. Our voice to the leaders, “the rakyat has changed, please change.”
Lessons Learned from the Arab Spring
The Arab Spring showed that not every uprising from the street leads to an effective change in the constitution. And even if a peaceful protest does catalyst transformation, there is a huge price to pay. The question is, “How can the voices of the people enforce change without jeopardizing the stability of Malaysia as it progressively moves away from an autocratic democracy?”
The upcoming illegal assembly for electoral reform, Bersih 2.0, is scheduled for July 9th2011, and it begins – like every call for reformation – with good intentions. But so had the protest at Tahrir Square, before it was ambushed by thugs. Let’s not be naïve. Those who oppose the Bersih electoral reformation have weeks to plot against the success of this rally. Unexpected incidents during the supposedly peaceful marching can spark instability in the streets, which can do potentially irreversible damage to public order and security.
What is the current landscape of the racial issue in Malaysia? The launching of One Malaysia indicates that bigotry is still predominant in this country. The racist protagonists are subtly fueling the race and religion sentiment into the landscape of the 9/7 rally. Ibrahim Ali’s press statement that Malaysians of Chinese descendant should stay indoors and “stock up food at home as anything can happen that day,” which he later clarified as a way to say, “stay away from the Malay versus Malay” street protest, was obviously an indirect attempt to intimidate them. Reading in between the lines, Ibrahim Ali is provoking the Malaysians Chinese to participate in the street demonstration to prove that pressing for the free and fair election is also their concern. His repeated statement on the infamous anti-opposition riots of May 13, 1969 further speaks his mind. The seed for the ploy has been sown and it is nurtured daily through the nationwide media coverage.
Rationalizing Our Action
The worst case scenario would be if one human being on the street made a mistake that sparks a chain reaction, like “the shot heard round the world” that precipitated the American Revolutionary War and the First World War. Both wars began by one shot and there was no turning back to the initial stage of the conflict. Can the rally be controlled from bursting into a parochial tension due to the potential human error or worst, if saboteurs ambush? Can the potential risks be minimized so that the objective of the rally is achievable? If things get out of control, a temporary government will be in place. We saw this happen recently with Arab Spring. Does Bersih 2.0 have higher chance of pushing forward their eight demands and passing an amendment with the Election Commission (EC) at this stage of governance? If the rally turns into chaos, one of the things that will also happen is that Bersih 2.0 competency will be questioned.
Whose Voice is the Right Voice?
There have been many opposing voices from the public on this rally which rhetoric expresses the desire to see transformation done peacefully. Shouldn’t these voices be heard? After all, isn’t this whole rally about a better Malaysia? How would this rally impact Malaysia’s long term image globally, especially by the foreign investors and tourists? How will this translate to the Foreign Direct Investment and the current crisis of brain drain? Domestically, the biggest price is, “hurt.” It hurts our identity as Malaysians. It hurts our emotion to see our countrymen being dehumanized. It hurts the conscience of every police officer who is on duty to crack down the demonstration. It hurts our economy and social structure. And for people of faith, it hurts our own faith conviction towards God’s desire for us to live in peace. And hurt does not heal fast.
The news reported that 100,000 PAS members, mainly Malaysians of Malay descendent, have pledged to support the rally. Of course, their commitment with Bersih 2.0 is much appreciated. Many others have given the same pledge. And we thank the previous leaders who contributed tremendously in transforming the mainstream Malaysian population from the people who only finished primary school and knew how to say “yes” into a pool of citizens with critical thinking. It is time for us to prove to the government leaders that the rakyat has grown mature and can be united to call the political leaders to be mature and responsible by having a ‘Bersih’ election.
What is Our Option?
The last question boils down to “what is the peaceful option?” for reformation other than street demonstration.
Instead of illegal street demonstration, I urge my fellow countrymen to come for nationwide fasting and praying on Saturday, 9th July, 2011. Let us give support to Bersih 2.0 which advocates on behalf of the public. Malaysians of any faith tradition or of no-faith tradition can mourn together to the fact that our country needs urgent change. I ask the 1 million Malaysians who are abroad to join this effort. Let us ask what we can do to our country instead of simply abandoning our country while it needs us. Malaysians are known as internet-savvy people; use this skill to post opposing but kind voices on-line. Encourage our family members to write letters and postcards to the political leaders, telling them that “the rakyat has changed, please change.” As long as the Election Commission does not invite Bersih 2.0 to negotiate reformation in election, we shall continue fasting on every Saturday.
It is never too late to call off the rally. Let us together create a new narrative for Malaysia in this 21st century. Let’s make the future generation of Malaysia remember that on this day, we come united in peace and we approach our leaders in love. Both love and peace prevail.
Note: In Malaysia national language, ‘rakyat’ means citizens and ‘bersih’ means clean.