Apr 29, 2012

Bersih 3.0 Sydney

Yesterday, we went to our first rally. Bersih, a campaign to demand for a clean electoral process for Malaysia, held its third rally on 28 April in Malaysia and in 82 cities around the world. In Sydney, it was held in the heart of the city at Martin Place.

At first, I dawdled about going. The government doesn't care about what its citizens abroad think, I thought. We can't even vote!

Then I saw a posting :

"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right." - Martin Luther King Jr.                

And in the end, we went, just because, it was right to stand up and be counted.

When we were there, Number One asked me what it was all about. Hmm, how I do put cleaning up the electoral roll, instituting fair rules for all candidates, etc, in a child's terms?

"The government is cheating," I said. "Is it right to cheat?"

No, he said, and shook his head solemnly.

"So we are here to say it's wrong and we don't like it," I added.

The crowd sang the national anthem (gave hubby and I a bit of a test there - it's been years since we've sung it!), chanted slogans, sang songs and listened to speakers.

This is Jamie Parker, Greens MP for Balmain, one of the invited speakers.

This is our event organiser. Youth rule! He is studying a PhD, sponsored by the Australian government.

In Sydney, we sat, and chanted, a literal 'duduk bantah' or 'sit down protest'. But we numbered only 600.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, an estimated 100,000 people turned up - surrounded by police, blocked by barbed wire. What started out peacefully, turned ugly, as some rogue protestors broke barriers, and attacked the police. Police fired tear gas and aimed water cannons indiscriminately. Naysayers latched onto the violence as a reason to discredit Bersih.

But we should put things in proper perspective. Sensational headlines always stick around in the head. The images of people beating other people up tend to get forwarded, more than the boring pictures of those just sitting down, even if the latter outnumber the former by 100 to 1. The mind tend to gives more weight to striking images, and use these select images to paint the rest of the story. But the wrongdoings of a few does not, and should not, and cannot, tarnish what the majority has achieved.

Someone sarcastically asked, did Bersih achieve its objectives? Sadly, the government will hang on to the dirty election process for dear life, for in fact, that is its only lifesaver now.

IMHO, Bersih's biggest achievement is the political awakening of a formerly apathetic group. It is the rousing of the spirit that considers injustice an affront. It is in the stirring of ambers that slumbered - years ago, we would have shied away from being called patriots, and have now surprised even ourselves that a fire burns after all.

The protestors don't represent the whole country, and many apathetic people around still said, "it's not my problem." But if you had told me years before that over a hundred thousand people from all walks would have done this, and done this together, I would have asked you what you are smoking.

For Bersih, Malaysians put themselves in danger in spite of themselves. Malaysians made a journey of hours and waded through horrendous traffic without being forced to, and for no economic gain. They just wanted to do what's right, and to stand up and be counted.

Ah well...since Bersih has achieved the impossible, there perhaps is hope after all!

p/s : I append this video of the Global Bersih movement

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