Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hope of Bersih purpose for free and fair act in election as fallen on deaf ears

Wikepedia news (source):
The 2011 Bersih 2.0 rally (also called the Walk for Democracy) is a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur held on 9 July as a follow-up to the 2007 Bersih rally. The rally, organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), is supported by Pakatan Rakyat, the coalition of the three largest opposition parties in Malaysia but has been deemed illegal by the government. Bersih, chaired by former president of the Bar Council Ambiga Sreenevasan, are pushing the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) to ensure free and fair elections in Malaysia. It has demanded that the EC clean up the electoral roll, reform postal voting, use indelible ink, introduce a minimum 21-day campaign period, allow all parties free access to the media, and put an end to electoral fraud.
Public gatherings without police permits are illegal in Malaysia. The police have vowed to stop any rallies from taking place on the day. Having originally planned to march through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Bersih has decided to hold its rally at Merdeka Stadium after consultations with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Malaysia's head of state.
Two counter-rallies, led by Malay nationalist movement Perkasa and the youth division of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), were initially announced. Perkasa called off its counter-rally due to the inability to secure a venue and permit.
The rally was attended by more then 20,000 people, who entered the city from various points. However, the protestors were unable to congregate at Merdeka Stadium as many were forced to disperse by police who were heavily deployed throughout the city. Many Bersih and opposition figures, including Ambiga, were arrested. Police revealed they arrested more than 600 people.
Supporters of Bersih claim that demands for electoral reform made during the 2007 demonstration have fallen on deaf ears. Meanwhile, detractors of Bersih and supporters of the Perkasa and UMNO Youth counter-rallies dismissed Bersih's demands for electoral reform as well as accused Bersih of, among others, harbouring an opposition political agenda, attempting a coup d'état, and threatening to disrupt public order.


A scene from the 2007 rally. Protestors on the left are dressed in yellow. They are met by the Federal Reserve Unit, the riot police (in red helmets). Standing in between the protestors and the riot police are PAS's Jabatan Amal volunteer unit (dressed in maroon).
Bersih, short for the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Malay: Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil), is a coalition of 62 non-governmental organisations founded in November 2006.[1][18] Since its founding, Bersih has been supported by the three main opposition parties, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), PAS, and DAP.[18] Bersih is the Malay word for "clean."[19]
The first Bersih rally on 10 November 2007 was estimated to have drawn between 30,000 to 50,000 people.[16][20] It was broken up by police using tear gas and chemical-laced water cannons.[16][21] The rally was said to play a major role in helping the opposition parties make big gains in the 2008 general election.[20][22]
Bersih 2.0, as the organisation has branded itself for the 2011 rally, is chaired by former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan. Ambiga served as president of the Bar from 2007 to 2009 and is a recipient of the U.S. State Department's International Women of Courage Awards.[23][24]

[edit] Demands

Ambiga has summed up the main issues raised by the organisation she leads as "unhappiness... in the Sarawak [election], unhappiness about corruption, [and] unhappiness about the independence of our institutions."[25] She said demands made during the first rally in 2007 have not been addressed, hence the follow-up rally.[20]
The communiqué issued by Bersih issued in 2007 called for reforms to Malaysia's first past the post electoral system, ensuring the independence of the Election Commission (EC), eliminating electoral practices deemed unfair to opposition candidates, eliminating corrupt campaign practices, equal access to the media for all political parties, and instituting a caretaker government during election periods, among others in the long term.[26] It also asked for immediate action to introduce indelible ink to prevent multiple voting, the abolition of postal votes, a complete revision of the electoral roll and equal access to state-owned media for all political parties.[26] A statement on 15 June also called for:[27]
After agreeing to abandon plans for a street demonstration, Bersih also called for a Royal Commission into election practices.[28]