'Tis Only Just The Beginning!

Posted by M ws On Thursday, July 28, 2011 2 comments
As I drove to Caring Society Complex, a light drizzle began - almost as if the heavens were silently weeping for the six civilians, Choo Chon Kai, Sarat Babu, Sarasvathy Muthu, Sukumaran A/L Munisamy, A. Letchumanan, and Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj (MP for Sungei Siput) who were arrested under the Emergency Ordinance on July 2nd. It has been 27 tormentous days and nights not just for them, but also for their loved ones and loyal supporters.

By the time I arrived, the darkness of the night was reminiscent of the solitary confinement cells. Did they know night from day? Or how long they had been there? Deep within, I knew that this candlelight vigil and forum "BERSIH 2.0 Crack-Down: "EO Another ISA" Forum"* would be different from the rest because of the impact of the BERSIH 2.0 rally.

Shortly after 8p.m. the crowd from the function room gathered under the porch, lit their candles and made their way silently and solemnly to the gate. Wordlessly and without any leader, we gathered there. With hands raised high, the flickering flames of our candles refused to be snuffed out by the gentle breeze or the falling raindrops aptly symbolizing the cry in our hearts for their release and for electoral reform in our nation.

Led by Seok Hwa of Suaram, cries of "Hidup Rakyat" and "Bebaskan EO6" filled the night as the crowd grew in size. A few members from the crowd stepped forward to speak up for those in detention and also about the issue at hand - the repressive legislation enforced even though there is absolutely no emergency situation.

After the vigil came to an end, the crowd walked back to the function room animatedly, spirits revived and hearts entwined. Filled to the brim, some had to stand at the back and others in the corridors in a feverish fervour for truth and details about the background and facts of the six civilians and events related to Bersih 2.0.

Nora Murad, Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM), introduced the first speaker of the evening, Dato' Dr Toh Kin Woon, a civil society activist and Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee Member. In his trademark crisp and articulate voice with a faint British accent, Dato' Dr. Toh stated firmly that whilst the events leading to the arrest of the EO6 and Bersih 2.0 rally brought out the worst of the elite in the government and institutions, it also showed up the best of the rakyat .

He emphasized that all BERSIH 2.0 wants is fair elections. People are frustrated that despite a barrage of calls for electoral reforms, these have largely been unheeded. The time has come for the rakyat to galvanize support for a clean and just electoral system. Until and unless we have this outcome, we will not have a full-functioning democracy and there can be no chance of a full-blown two-party coalition in this country.

The moment the announcement of the Bersih Rally was made, the worst of the state was displayed. Steering Committee 2.0 Chairman Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan was demonized, scolded and condemned by the mass media friendly to the ruling elite - mobilized for purposes of attempting to victimize the people involved, in particular - the PSM.

Dato' Dr. Toh reminded the audience that no weapons were found during the arrest and yet EO6 were accused of wagging war against the King and for propagating communism even on though July 31, 1960, the Malayan Government had declared the end of the State of Emergency. And this is also in spite of the fact that our country has close ties with China.

Consequently, what we have seen would be the worst features of the state as seen in how chemical-laced water was fired at the crowd. Undeniably, the State and the public institutions concerned have certainly degenerated to a very worrisome state till people have lost confidence in the police and the judiciary whose professionalism and political partisanship are continuously being questioned.

Had the authorities given their approval from the onset, the walk would have been a non-event. Had our PM reacted by saying that he also wants clean and fair elections and sat down and talked with the BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee, things would have turned out differently. Had the Coalition received the permit to hold the rally at Stadium Merdeka, the international media would not have had a field day reporting on it negatively. The reaction from the authorities has been nothing short of combative arrogance in the use of force and power to crush dissent. Had they not been so threatening, the crowd might not have been so big to want reason and rationality from the leaders to talk sense to the people.

He went on to explain that the PSM was targeted simply because they have been taking a very consistent stand against the government on many issues including GST, elimination of poverty, social equality etc. It was a simple decision to nip the problem in the bud lest cronies be threatened so they had to be belligerent in their stand and treatment of the group.

July 9th brought out the best in Malaysians and the best in Malaysia because thousands overcame the fear factor despite fears being generated and yet, they came and they dared to defy, to be brave enough to unite, to stand up to fight an oppressive government.

From this experience, it is clear that civil society has an important role in engendering change and progress in our country.  BERSIH 2.0 has shown us how a multi-front coalition of 60+ legally registered NGOs can draw the attention of authorities to be a force to be reckoned. For sure, civil society can help create more democratic space for public dissent.

Dato' Dr. Toh emphasized that many may not realize that BERSIH 2.0 was actually led by two women with outstanding leadership qualities - Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan - a charismatic, articulate and courageous leader and Maria Chin Abdullah - a dedicated and passionate woman who also lobbies for gender equality. Both of them are assisted by an almost exclusively all-woman team whose members are hardworking, strong and trustworthy even in the face of the raid. They remained true to the cause even when hauled to the police station. Such is the depth and quality of leadership and stewardship of civil society in our political landscape today.

Dato' Dr. Toh reminded us not to delude ourselves with any victory for the battle has just begun. As long as the EO6 are not released, the battle for their release MUST continue.

To be continued....The next part will focus on Dr Prema Devaraj's presentation on the EO6 members, what happened in the events following the arrest and also startling revelations by the lady lawyers handling the case. Do swing by again tomorrow. It is 2.13 am and time to say good night.

*The forum was organized by SUARAM Penang, Gerakan Mansuh ISA (GMI Penang), Amnesty International, PEWAJU, ALIRAN, DEMA, Sembang-Sembang Forum, People's Green Coalition, and Coalition for Good Governance Penang.

2 comments to 'Tis Only Just The Beginning!

  1. says:

    joshua wong MWS,

    That was a very well written account of the vigil and forum. Much effort and thoughts put into words.

    i do not know what to say but something from the first two paragraphs struck a chord. In all the accounts of people who lost their freedom that i had read from around the world, showing concern for them and their well-being is the most humane act that those who have liberty could do. It shows that we have not forgotten them in their darkest hour.

    While we can’t do much for the dead but to remember the lesson of injustice, we can take simple action like this for those who are imprison merely for their belief of a better, more just society. What makes this action more powerful is that it springs from your heart.

    Bravo for showing courage to this simple act of staying up and standing up to tyranny while others are still being kept asleep.

    Look forward to your next article and the startling revelations.

  1. says:

    DR.SARAVANAN R Hi Paula, keep the spirits up ya. Keep writing about this and let the world know of the unjust that can befall Malaysians when they try to make this country a better place for all to live in. I'm going to try to make it for the KLSCAH vigil tonight. Hope tomorrow's overnight vigil doesn't get besmirched with water canons and tear gas. Keep writing.

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