by Joshua Tan Chong Hui
I believed that I had ‘broken’ some Malaysian law in New Zealand, and it was outlawed for an ordinary citizen like me to wear anything concerning Bersih 4. On the contrary, I had worn the shirt, the badges as well as the headband on Aug 29, 2015 when attending the Bersih 4 rally in Wellington.
Initially, I was less enthusiastic to this rally, mainly because of my concern that this rally was too closely tied with the urging for Najib Abdul Razak’s resignation. This rally’s primary cause, according to my understanding, is to urge institutional reforms. These objectives had of course persevered through the previous three Bersih rallies, in which I have the honour to attend the last rally.
Nonetheless, I learned from various sources that the other demands such as rights to dissent and save our economy can be understood as an extension from the foundational demand: clean elections and clean government. It is implied that only when the people have the genuine opportunity to choose for the government of the day through a clean and fair election, can positive changes to the country come through.
Therefore, I did not hesitate to sign myself up for one of the earliest Bersih rally around the world which was held in Wellington. We kicked off by singing the national anthems of New Zealand and Malaysia. Speeches to show solidarity with the Malaysian rally then ensued. We finished off the event by playing a few protest songs performed by the Brass Razoo Solidarity Band based in Wellington.
Being the first time attending a home country-related rally in a foreign country which was otherwise ‘illegal’ back home, it is encouraging to witness the attendance of some genuinely concerned Malaysians with diverse background and demography. Also, some local citizens showed support to this rally by giving speeches or just encouraging us to go on.
It is my honour to be part of the history – a history of Malaysia’s civil society that is in its inception of blossom. I guess after all, breaking the law in such a way did give us an avenue to unite for a common cause, even though we are far away from home.
Together, we are demanding for a better country and better governance in Malaysia. This rally may eventually become the continuing powerhouse of a citizens’ movement. May this flame of civic movement burns unceasingly, and keep growing to become a formidable force to oversee the governmental operation.