Fix the problems and the rallies will stop

Zan-AzleePETALING JAYA: Just fix the problems, get the systems right, have free and fair elections, then the people will have no reason to come out in protest in a peaceful rally anymore.

That is the simple call by social activist and writer Zan Azlee on how the government can deal with the issue of Bersih 5.

Bersih 5 is scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur, and other locations around the country as well as overseas, on Nov 19. It is organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, better known as Bersih 2.0.

Referring to the government’s disapproval for the rally taking place, be it by using threats (from related parties), or the excuse that businesses, tourism and other daily aspects of life in the city would be disrupted, Zan said that’s the whole point.

“That’s what these demonstrations are supposed to do – disrupt everyday life to bring attention to more important and pressing issues – but peacefully and without violence, of course. It’s a part of a healthy and thriving democracy.

“And if the government doesn’t want the world to perceive Malaysia as being unstable, then fix the problems that caused the people to come out and protest in the first place.

“If it is corruption that people are unhappy about, then fix that. If it is unfair elections, then fix that,” Zan wrote in a commentary in Asian Correspondent yesterday.

He explained too, that the authorities must understand that there is no simple motivation for a rally of the size of previous Bersih rallies to take place unless there are pressing matters for which tens of thousands, maybe more, want to group together.

“These demonstrations do not happen just because. There has to be a very pressing reason for tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people to actually want to organise themselves and come out at the same time with a shared belief and in solidarity,” Zan said.

This is the fifth time that a Bersih rally will be taking place. The first one was held in 2007, with subsequent rallies in 2011, 2012 and last year.

And the culture of demonstrations is not new to Malaysia or to the Malays too, Zan explained.

“The very existence of the ruling party (Umno), and our status as a sovereign nation is all based on street demonstrations and protest.

“Way back in the pre-independence era when the Malay states were colonies of the British empire, our forefathers constantly protested and demonstrated against the colonial powers.

“They called for independence and expressed their desire to see the British leaving,” Zan said of the actions by Umno and other political groupings in the 1940s and 1950s

Lamenting how history has been forgotten, or simply ignored out of pure hypocrisy, Zan said the actions of the nation’s forefathers dispels all the statements by the current government that protesting and rallies are not in our culture.