by Charlotte Chin, Marburg, Germany
When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty
– Thomas Jefferson
The Bersih 4.0 demonstration was an overnight rally which took place on 29 and 30 August in Kuala Lumpur (spread across five locations: Sogo, Pasar Seni KL, Dataran Maybank, Brickfields and Masjid Negara), Kuching (Padang Merdeka) and Kota Kinabalu (Tanjung Lipat). GlobaBersih organised Bersih demonstrations in many cities across the world.
The rally was organized by “The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections” or simply Bersih (a Malay word meaning clean). A coalition of non-governmental organisations, Bersih is championing a reform of the current electoral system so that elections are free, clean and fair. Past Bersih rallies were in 2007, 2011, and 2012.
Bersih´s also demands a transparent government, the right to demonstrate, and the strengthening of parliamentary democracy. Bersih 4.0. focused on the resignation of the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and on saving the national economy from further decline.
Although the Peaceful Assembly Act legitimized the Bersih 4.0 rally, authorities claimed that the demonstration was illegal and supporters were threatened. One example is the Minister for Higher Education Idris Jusoh who warned undergraduates about participating in the demonstration. Students who participated would face action under the University and University Colleges Act. Although the Malaysian Constitution ensures the right to peaceful demonstration, the police declared the rally illegal, and said that Bersih organisers did not provide sufficient details of the rally.
Supporting Bersih 4.0 carries risks, but why is it important to be part of the movement?
People have real and serious concerns for their safety and well-being. On the one hand, I understand people who are worried about attending demonstrations in Malaysia, but on the other hand demonstrating is the best thing you can do to push for change in a peaceful way. Calling for change as an individual is difficult, but it becomes much easier in a group. Malaysians should demonstrate – no matter their ethnicity, social class, age, and gender.
Indomitable Auntie Bersih
It is about solidarity and human rights, but it is also about rallying together to save Malaysia and to make sure that it does not become a failed state. Everyone who has observed politics knows that Prime Minister Najib Razak has to resign. His exit is a matter of time, and Bersih 4.0 is playing its part to push for change.
Of course Bersih is unable to change the system of governance which is rotting at the core, nor can it mend economy nor can it attain immediate democracy. Bersih demonstrations are a step forward, towards justice. Bersih can pave the way.
While everyone I met in Malaysia was really friendly and peace-loving, many Malaysians are genuinely worried about their country’s future. Taxes are increasing, while sales remain the same; the standard of living is deteriorating, people are dissatisfied, and discontent and anger run high. How bad will the situation become when economic crisis hits the country and when people have to fight to stay alive? There are enough examples in history books illustrating tragic outcomes.
Furthermore I am the opinion that people should stop complaining about taxes, the weakening ringgit, the injustice which is taking place daily, increasing fuel prices, and so on, if they are not prepared to participate or make themselves heard. A voice functions in many different ways – mostly to communicate with each other – but a voice is also for one to express one’s dissatisfaction. You might think that a single person cannot achieve anything and that a single voice will not change anything, and that there is no reason to attend rallies and support Bersih. But to the contrary, you are not alone and that your voice DOES matter!
You might also think that there are enough individuals raising their voices and already fighting against the very injustices and shortcomings you are concerned about, but is it not lame and unfair to expect others to change the very things you are dissatisfied and unhappy about?
You might think that the problems will be solved somehow and that patience is the answer and that change will come – but this will not happen. Why should politicians change anything if there are no protests and loud voices calling for accountability, justice and change?
Every human being does his/her best for a better life. Human beings can be so driven, striving for money and a luxurious life, but they can be so incredibly laid back and lazy about intangibles such as politics. People often forget the value of democracy which is much more important than money. Demonstrating means fighting for your personal freedom and expressing your beliefs: that the government has no right to oppress you, your family or friends. Politicians are elected by people; they are not chosen by god/Allah or destiny. Politicians must always act in the interest of the state and its people, not for their own personal gains.
Malaysia, a police state?
If politicians fail in their jobs, and people are calling for a change of government, they have to respect the wishes of their voters: they have to leave. But as we all know, Najib will not simply resign. It is imperative that we have elections in Malaysia are fair, and Bersih and its supporters have to push for fair elections, make their voices heard, and express their dissatisfaction.
But all this is not only about Malaysia and Malaysians. It is also important that people around the world attend Bersih demonstrations – no matter their nationality. It is about empathy: show your Malaysian acquaintances, friends and families that they do not stand alone. In this way, you bring the attention of the international media and the whole world to what is going on in this wonderful country, why its people want change. Not only will demonstrating attract more attention, it will also be an opportunity to inform others.
It´s about numbers: the more people there are who demonstrate, the less likelihood that they will be jailed. The police cannot arrest everyone.
Charlotte Chin is a passionate blogger (raiseyourvoice1957.wordpress.com) with a Malaysian father and a German mother who lives in Germany and advocates for Change and Human Rights in Malaysia.