Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan accuses Bersih of trying to “topple“ the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, which he uses as justification to blacklist government-linked companies (GLCs) and even law firmsthat support the polls reform group.
The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department listed five examples to prove that Bersih is a “tool for the opposition”, such as their leaders speaking at opposition events, asking the prime minister to step down and inviting Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who’s been charged with corruption, to launch their Penang road shows.
We already know that Bersih is pro-opposition. What Rahman Dahlan says is nothing new.
They were pro-opposition right from the start at their inaugural rally in 2007, where PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang submitted a memorandum of election reform demands to the Palace. (Yes, Hadi was there and there were even shouts of “Allahuakbar” and “Reformasi” during the demonstration).
Perhaps Bersih seemed more neutral in their early years because their support came from all races. The 2007 rally, in fact, was dominated by the Malays.
But after the so-called “Chinese tsunami” of the 13th general election and the split between the DAP and PAS, people came to believe (rightly or wrongly) that it was only the Chinese that supported Bersih and opposed the (Malay-Muslim) government.
And now, Bersih’s critics have increased their vitriol against supporters of the movement to frightening levels of racism and violence, seemingly sanctioned by the government.
Rahman’s threat to stop pro-Bersih GLCs from getting government contracts and to instruct GLCs not to hire law firms that support Bersih is an abhorrent abuse of power.
He seems to forget that those who receive government contracts are hired to do work for the public and for the country, not for BN.
Government contracts are not meant to be a “reward” for supporting the ruling party. They’re supposed to be awarded to the most qualified, regardless of their political affiliations.
Rahman’s remarks are also unfortunate because he proved the opposition’s fears about their donors facing discrimination should their identities be revealed through political funding legislation. A solid and thorough political financing law would have been a great reform for the country.
If Bersih seems pro-opposition in their calls for electoral reform, it’s because the political system in Malaysia is dominated only by two players ― BN and Pakatan (plus PAS). Fighting for fairer voting processes obviously means a more level playing field for opposition parties to compete in.
And for all the criticisms against Bersih’s partiality, BN has yet to counter allegations of gerrymandering and malapportionment that say one rural voter is worth six urban ones.
It’s absurd to tell me to vote in such a rigged and unfair system, where my vote is only worth 17 per cent of a rural voter’s, and then claim that my ballot is “democracy“ when a political party wins power even though it loses the popular vote.
How can this possibly be democracy? How is this justice? How dare our leaders tell us to speak up only during elections through our tiny, pathetic vote, and then expect us to shut up for the next five years?
There’s nothing in our law that says that a government can’t be changed in between elections. If citizens are unhappy (rightly or wrongly) with the government of the day, so much so that they can’t wait for the next election, then the administration must change.
That’s democracy ― the will of the people is supreme, during and between elections, whether or not it’s justified or good for the country (because voters can sometimes make bad decisions, such as Brexit).
It’s a pity, of course, that Bersih is partial to the point of stumping for the opposition in elections. But it just means that people only need to take their biases into account when listening to their demands.
It doesn’t mean that the government should punish Bersih’s donors and supporters, certainly not at the expense of the electorate who expect public works to be done by professional people, not by half-baked contractors who get the job only because they’re cosy with the ruling party.