Why is Bersih’s rally for free and fair elections causing the ruling party to hint at giving up democracy through invoking Emergency rule? The often mentioned reason from the ruling party is that the rally will switch people’s sentiment towards the Opposition and that will jeopardize the chances of BN continuing their power after 13th General Elections ie BN want to claing on to power by all means. However this is not the 1st time Malaysian elections have been criticised as unfree and unfair. Neither is it the first time protest has been organised against unfree and unfair elections! So what give it such power that it can switch the people’s sentiment on such a wide scale? At the bottom of it: it is the people’s power which could be sparked off by the Bersih rally that caused the panic and overkill!
Up to today about 200 citizens have been arrested for doing no more than wearing something yellow-not necessarily the Bersih’s T-shirt. The famous T-shirts had been sold off even before the police raid! 6 PSM leaders have been detained under the Emergency Orders when Malaysia has no emergency to speak of! Yet the ruling party and their supporters raise racial issue, religious issue, foreign intervention issue, Communism issue etc to try to suppress the rally. If that is not enough subtle and not so subtle threat of violence and blood shed have been made by Perkasa and other groups against the Bersih organisers. All because the inconveniences to the shop keepers and cabbies during the half day march to the Palace? It is not as though the same shopkeepers and cabbies had not been similarly inconvenienced by the National Day parade and other public marches! The reaction to Bersih has been disproportionate to the Bersih rally in form and scale. Why?
If the state apparatus used against them are considered the Bersih organiser has nothing in their hand to match. They can only rely on the people’s support to see to the organising of the rally, now that even the King has been dragged into the controversies. The country is not near any crisis point whether Bersih rally is held or not. But the nation wide suppression of Bersih is what that gives the impression of an impending crisis. There is no typhoon landing on Malaysia’s shores, or an earthquake shaking from underneath. The entire episode was contrived to evoke a sense of emergency or crisis just so to allow the PM to impose his will against the Bersih organisers.
While the ruling party is quick to seize on the King’s statement against the rally to pressure the Bersih organiser to back down the Bersih organisers has only one thing that will back up their claim to doing the right thing, apart from the moral position of the free and fair elections. That is the people’s choice to stand up for their rights. Thus by denying the Bersih organiser any opportunity to press their case for free and fair elections through face to face discussion, the ruling party is pushing the Bersih organisers, and the people behind them, to a corner. This is in opposition to the King’s advice to settle the disagreement through discussion. They can give in to intimidation, or they can stick it out with their demands and drag it on irrespective of if their leaders are put under Emergency orders detention. In fact the leaders are prepared to be detained and pass the baton to the people themselves if they would go on with their rally.
So: the initiative is in the hand of the ruling party BN and in actual fact in the hands of 1 man: Najib the BN chairman and PM. He could have his ways by marshaling the entire state’s apparatus to successfully suppress the Bersih organisers and supporters in the name of saving his party, not the country. Bersih’s appeal is for free and fair elections-which by implication, a call for change to take place through the ballot box, in accordance to the Constitutional avenues. By feeling over-confident that the people’s power will not awaken like the cases in our regions or more recently in West Asia, the BN politicians may risk hastening the coming of their end! It does not take the people to stage an uprising to realise people’s power: so long that there is a massive switching of the people’s sentiment on a wide scale BN is looking down at their defeat like the democrat in Thailand!
The ruling party BN and its chief Najib is well advised to take heed of the loud and clear message from the people. History has shown that an unheeded, agrieved people can find their own ways to get even with an oppressive regime! The votes given to the people through the demands of democracy is still a potent force to turn the table on any unpopular regime. This is precisely what the BN’s suppression on Bersih was intended to avoid.