Sunday 10 July 2011

Now Bersih must plumb for constructive sequel

Now that the drama of the marches is over, the impulse on the one side towards self-congratulation and on the other towards recrimination is already on show.

NONEA sense of déjà vu should stay both tendencies. But no, you can't expect the other side to veer from their preordained script even if they tout slogans such as 'GTP' (Government Transformation Programme).

The more the Najib administration dresses itself in fancy managerial jargon, the more it stays the same benighted Umno-BN way.

But one can and ought to expect better from the Pakatan Rakyat-backed Bersih movement which issued a statement in the immediate aftermath of their police-repressed march to the Merdeka Stadium yesterday that was, in the circumstances, understandably self-congratulatory.

Estimates of the Bersih-supporting marchers put the figures at anything between 40,000 to 50,000 people, an impressive tally given the obstacles our reactionary police force placed in Bersih's path in the preceding two weeks.

NONEOf course, the mainstream media and the police have placed the turnout at much lower levels but in this age of instant communications technology, the video streams already uploaded on the Internet are there for the diligent to compute and verify for themselves.

It's unlikely their verdict would gainsay Bersih's and Pakatan's estimates of the marchers' strength.

That completed, the point now for Bersih would be to move from triumphal assertion to something more tangible, such as a new drive for voter registration.

The conditions for that are propitious. Something like four million Malaysians, 70 percent in the 21 to 35 age bracket, have yet to register as voters.

It is reasonable to infer that the relatively young, with their bent for the alternative media, would have been moved by the drama that attended the prelude and culmination to Bersih's march.

One of the more striking aspects about the Bersih marchers was their youth. Elder participants in the march found bracing the readiness of the younger set to help them with water and towels when dazed by tear gas fired by police.

NONEWould the presence in large numbers of the young not provide grounds for a campaign to spur their unregistered peers to make the move from interest in something dramatic and topical to action in signing up as a voter?
It ought to. Also, it would provide a constructive sequel to the Bersih drama that has hogged the news in the last two weeks.

It would amplify Bersih's point that the exercise of the vote is one of democracy's sacred rituals that must be free of all trammels, including the one posed by unregistered eligible voters, for the process to have true meaning. 

Sequels aside, it would not be idle to speculate on the what-might-have-been if the government had not done all it did to thwart the march.

In all probability, the crowds would have been bigger, even perhaps double the estimates of yesterday's rally, but the impact would have been less dramatic.

Sans repression, the event would not have drawn the wide international media coverage it had gained, the predictable consequence of moves by incumbents to repress constitutional freedoms demanded by oppositionists.

To the international press, repression is like the smell of blood to sharks: it stimulates a feeding frenzy.
Now Bersih can leverage on the attention their march has drawn in international media circles to gain high-profile monitors for the 13th general election which is expected soon.

NONESuch monitoring is imperative given the Election Commission's subservience to the powers that be.
One cannot be sure that the timing of the general election, widely speculated to be imminent (shortly after the tabling of the budget in late September, some predictions have it), would be deferred to next year because of the bad vibes for the government stemming from their repression of the Bersih march.

Given their propensity for repression and from the way events are running against the government – such as the confirmation that Felda, the agriculture cooperative, had indeed borrowed an astounding RM6 billion from EPF to cover its losses – the stage is set for a downward spiral for Umno-BN that would be remorseless, once it starts.

In that view, the much-thwarted but nevertheless successful Bersih rally would come to be regarded as the penultimate stage in the evanescence of Umno-BN as the dominant political force in Malaysia.

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