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Are we really ready for reform?

April 26, 2012

FMT LETTER: From Clarence Sim, via e-mail

Are Malaysians capable of understanding what reform is? It seems not if you simply look around those close to you – family, friends, colleagues, and even yourself! I was appalled by the questions posed to the floor at Tuesday’s forum organised by Tindak Malaysia.

“When will be the 13th General Election?” “Is there any plan to submit feedback on electoral discrepancies to the Election Commission?” “How to travel to Dataran Merdeka for Bersih 3.0?”

Are we so dense that we fail to understand the reason for attending such forum as well as the reason why such a forum was organised? If I was one of the speakers, I would have run out of the hall on hearing such questions from the audiences. Have they not listened to what was presented to them, the dire situation that demand us to ponder, question, and respond in a more critical manner?

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 EC Amendments will impact the coming election. PY Wong then presented something most Malaysians are not aware of, something as fundamental as our Constitution, the formation of actors in policymaking, and the EC and its purview.

He made it absolutely clear that as much as we like to separate politics, social, and economics in our lives, these are inter-related and very much influenced by one another – and regularly oppressed and suppressed us. Hence, the root cause of an unfair election may not be resolved by only demanding the EC to rectify and improve its system and processes.

It requires a necessary change in all Malaysians’ 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 Wong Chin Huat and 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 electoral roll that comprises 27% of 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 these are still visible in the last gazetted electoral roll.

Regardless of what prior appointment the EC chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had, it was a disappointment 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 what he claimed.

You are probably as surprised as I am to read that EC has launched a booklet to counter the allegation of discrepancies in the electoral roll. Is this their way of canvassing the ugliness and not address them? Have they done their best to garner public confidence of the election process?

Bersih 2.0, Tindak Malaysia, and other civil society groups, in their own capacity, are working towards just and fair conditions for all Malaysians, be it electoral reform, voters 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 observed is the ruling government’s fear of losing power, resulting in flip-flop statements, bulldozing of important laws, and unsound responses for public sentiments.

I may have been too harsh on those who attended the forum, for there are many more who did not, who are still ignorant of their surroundings. People who don’t quite see the need to understand the unfairness in election but gladly vote once in four years. People who have passed 21 years old, but gladly have not registered.

Ensuring a check and balance does not lie only in the hands of the opposition parties or civil society groups. As citizen, 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 comatose.

If you are planning to make your way to Dataran Merdeka, be sure of what Bersih 2.0 is for, and understand your position in demanding for a cleaner and fairer election. Be safe and see you on the green this Saturday.


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