The Case for an Independent Speaker of the House

As Malaysians express their disgust and amusement at the current saga involving the Speaker (the Speaker) of the Dewan Rakyat (the House). I could not help noticing a few peculiarities highlighted in the media. I will not delve into the Honourable Gentleman’s lack of a commode or furnishings in his office.

The time has come for Malaysians to question the role of Parliament in the governance of this country, and the manner in which it is administered. While we are fixated at toilets and political intrigue, we need to have a deeper understanding on the actual role Parliament plays in representing our interests.

I am curious as to why did the Speaker have to hand over a letter of resignation to the Prime Minister (PM), and what capacity does the PM have to accept/reject it? Article 57(2) clearly states that the Speaker may resign at any time, and he that he should hand his resignation letter to the Clerk of the House – Is the PM in addition to being the Finance Minister also the Clerk of the House?

If anything this whole episode further highlights the amount of power one man has over the governance of this country, without any institutional check or balances. The former PM can rant, and rave all he wants, but all he has is influence and what the incumbent has is solid power and all the trappings of incumbency.

Which makes me wonder about the doctrine of separation of powers here in Malaysia.

There are three branches of government – the Executive (PM and the Cabinet), the Legislature (Parliament – Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara) and the Judiciary (the Courts). Each branch is distinct and theoretically carries out its role independent of the other, so as to not vest the entire power of government upon a single entity or an individual.

As Malaysia follows the Westminster Parliamentary model, there is a fusion between the Executive and the Legislature. The PM and his Cabinet are members of the Legislature, and the PM holds his post by virtue of commanding the confidence of the majority of MPs in the House. Therefore his legitimacy as PM rests upon his control of the House.

Now, one would point out that there is hardly any legitimacy if one becomes PM with just 47% of the electorate backing him. From a moral point of view yes, but as far as the Federal Constitution is concerned the popular vote does not count. He whose party seat count reaches to 112 seats first, becomes the Prime Minister.

By convention and by way of party politics the PM is the leader of the ruling party and is assumed to hold the confidence of his party colleagues. In Malaysia the PM has unquestionable control over the day-to-day running of the country, the Legislature and the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong acts upon the PM’s advice. The PM is the most powerful man in the land.

The PM’s dominion also extends to the Speaker, who because of the ruling party’s simple majority in the House, is also an MP from the ruling party. The Speaker just needs a simple majority in the House to be elected, and the ruling party is always able to bulldoze one of their own to the post without any meaningful resistance from the opposition.

With a simple majority and the party affiliation of the Speaker, the Executive has an almost exclusive control of the House’s legislative agenda and effectively shuts out opposition bills and leaves their motions at the mercy and whims of a partisan Speaker.

While in the past 2 general elections, the opposition have denied the ruling party its customary 2/3 majority in the House, this new-found strength only helps prevent unilateral constitutional amendments by the ruling party. As far as legislating laws and holding the Executive to account, they are effectively still toothless.

The Leader of the Opposition can huff and puff all she wants, but she will never be able to bring the House down in the current scheme of things. The Prime Minister will never show up in the House to answer questions in his person, and instead sends his ministers in his stead or gives written replies – which makes it impossible and downright impossible for backbench MP’s to put forward supplementary questions.

The late Tony Benn argued in his essay The Case for a Constitutional Premiership that a strong PM results in a strong government, but the PM’s strength must be balanced to prevent institutional breakdowns. This is arguably one of the key arguments for greater separation of powers, the powers of the PM must be balanced for the good of the nation. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

As far as our Westminster system goes, separation of powers is limited, especially so when the Executive and Legislature are fused and Legislature is utterly dominated by the Executive. The House in this regard has a vital role to play in checking the excesses of the Executive by asserting its independence.

The starting point to Parliamentary reform is the position of Speaker itself. I feel that the way forward is by having a non-partisan Speaker who is elected by a 2/3 majority in the House. The idea is that both parties will be forced to make compromises and agree on a suitable candidate who will represent the best interests of the House and the people it represents.

Ideally he is not oppressive of the opposition and not anarchistic towards the Executive in a way that makes it impossible to govern the country. The Speaker should be someone who is above party politics and political point scoring. He must be an impartial overseer of the democratic process, and be able to bring both sides to task if need be.

An independent Speaker will be seen as a fair arbiter, and more importantly he will facilitate the legislative process is a demoratic manner above party considerations. That is among others ensuring that the opposition too are allowed to put forward their legislative agenda and have it debated at the least.

He will be able to function free from the Executive, bring the Executive to task over their excesses and if need be haul up errant ministers (and the PM himself) to answer pertinent questions from backbenchers. After all the Cabinet is accountable to the House, and this needs to be enforced as per Article 43(3), which states that PM and his Cabinet are collectively responsible to the House.

While we are at it, I strongly feel that the PM ought to make himself available in the House every week to field questions from his fellow MPs. Much like what David Cameron does in the House of Commons every Wednesday. Prime Minister’s Questions is in spite of its tribalism and jockishness, the political event of the week and successive British Prime Minister’s have admitted to being terrified of the experience.

Remove the partisanship from a Speaker, and make his selection a more inclusive process which crosses party lines, the quality of candidates chosen will be much better. The quality of debates will improve, backbenchers will have a greater voice and be able to check the Executive.

The opposition will have a more meaningful role in the House and will be forced to buck up on their end. They might even have to stop evading the contentious issue of a Shadow Cabinet and actually come up with one, and Shadow Ministers be given the opportunities to challenge their counterparts in government.

The previously repealed Parliamantery Services Act needs to be reintroduced, and the administration of Parliament itself needs explicitly separated from the Executive and civil service. The Speaker’s position has to be protected from the whims of the Executive, so that he is able to administer his role in elevating the stature of the House.

Parliament needs its own bureaucracy to function funded by a consolidated fund, like how the Judiciary is funded, and the Clerk of the House its Chief Executive – not the Minister in Charge of Parliamentary Affairs.

The cornerstone of a Parliamentary democracy is the ability of the House to reflect the prevailing sentiment of the day and act upon it. This is reflected via the diverse constituencies MPs represent and the different issues, which hold varying degrees of importance to each of the 222 constituencies. Parliament will only truly be representative of the people if the opposition too are given a chance to shape the legislative agenda and hold the Executive to account.

What I am proposing is a means to facilitate a fairer legislative process and a way to rein in the rampant powers of the Executive to make it accountable. Especially so when issues like 1MDB crop up, the PM will not be able to keep an elegant silence for long if he is made to face the House.

Overhauling the way a Speaker is elected, redefining his role and giving him the space to function, we will be giving our Parliament a shot at the credibility it is so lacking now. Of course it is an ideal, a vision in which our current Executive in its current form will never embrace.

What I hope is that, a future government who is sincere about Parliamentary reform will make the necessary changes to produce a truly democratic Parliament. Where an honest Executive is able to do its job and held accountable, and where the opposition are able to put forward their ideas and hold the Executive to account.

Parliament will always be an arena of hard politics, and the way business is done will change very slowly. The whips will stay to make sure their MPs toe the leadership line, and MPs will continue saying the silliest things. Maturity is a continuously evolving process and it will take many years and cycles to reach.

Political maturity is ultimately a reflection of society itself, as society evolves so will its politics. Change will not come overnight, but installing the right mechanisms in place will help hasten it. The power of the Executive must be curtailed, and the solution is in the House.

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When I Vote this Sunday

This Sunday I will queue up with millions of my fellow Malaysians to cast my ballot which will represent my personal hopes and aspirations for this nation of ours. I grew up wanting to migrate overseas someday and live in some distant temperate suburbia, alas throw in circumstances and plenty of fate, here I am in the land of my birth, I never left and I never will. This is after all home and I was born here for a reason.

For as long as I can remember I have always detested the brand of politics which dominated Malaysia, it motivated me to register as a voter even though I was convinced that there will never be any meaningful change in my lifetime. I just thought that my vote will be my form of protest; at least I could say I never voted for this government, and that they are not acting on my behalf because I never consented to them in the first place.

I took part in an opposition candidate’s campaign in 2008 and it was a fantastic experience, hooking up with like-minded people who helped for the sake of helping and not for money. Many people whom I shared my experience with were just puzzled, why would I want to do it for free? Many wondered aloud. I remember on voting day I actually felt a bit depressed because I knew we were going to lose big again, and that wonderful 2 weeks of campaigning will come to an inglorious end. I was so wrong.

The political landscape of this country has since then changed dramatically, but one thing remains constant, race based politics in its most dastardly form, cleverly designed to divide and conquer an increasingly polarised population. Despite a more assertive public hungry for political reforms, our centre ground is precariously shifting rightwards thanks to far-right elements within the ruling party and groups such as Perkasa who keep harping about a racial Armageddon should the ruling party lose power.

Me and many other reasonable people dream of a better country where everyone has an equal chance at life from the word go. We don’t want handouts or our capabilities retarded by a government who convinces us that we are not capable of competing with the best without their stewardship. We just want to be able to build prosperous and meaningful lives for ourselves and our families and at the same time the most vulnerable and needy members of our society are taken care of and enabled to progress.

When I vote this Sunday, I will be once again rejecting a Malaysia divided by race and religion. I will be rejecting a government who tries to fix deep seated problems by superficial means for the sake of clinging on to power. When I vote this Sunday I will be embracing all that Malaysia is capable of and the future greatness it can and will achieve, if we Malaysians could just find the courage to vote for change.

I promise you we will not become rich overnight, nor will our problems just melt away. A new government once in office will be confronted with hard realities and will have some tough choices to make, but it will still be a government that will still initiate reforms that will change this country forever and hopefully for the better. We have to start somewhere.

I will vote this Sunday with the knowledge this is our best chance yet for change, I hope that you too will see it as I do and take the plunge with me. This country has all the talent and potential to climb  to greatness, we just have to give ourselves a chance. Either way win or lose, I will go to sleep on Sunday night knowing I have voted against racial politics and division. I hope you my fellow Malaysians will do the same too.

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Our Rocket on the Moon Moment

Something extraordinary happened when the Registrar of Societies issued the now infamous notification letter to the DAP which  said that it did not recognize the party’s Central Executive Committee. While the DAP plunged into an initial panic at the possibility of not getting to ride their iconic Rocket during this country’s most important election yet, and their candidates being forced to contest as independents due to a technicality, they retorted with an audacious plan…to contest the election under the PAS flag. The rocket had indeed landed on the moon.

Our Rocket on the Moon moment never came unfortunately, thanks to the RoS rescinding the letter at literally the very last minute. Had that moment came, it would have been a watershed moment in Malaysian politics, where once bitter foes had finally ditched aside historic differences and stood together in solidarity against the tyranny of the state.

Had that that moment actually came last Saturday; Najib’s 1Malaysia would have been decisively discredited as a fallacy. DAP and PAS had practiced what it preached and demonstrated the true spirit of a united Malaysia, while the ruling coalition fielded far right bigots, and the MCA resorted to another low when it published those hateful ads on its mouthpiece The Star. While the ruling coalition purveys the politics of fear, the opposition coalition have demonstrated the power of unity.

We are literally at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history and there is no other way to describe it. We have a choice in front of us; the present reality where only the Malays can uplift the Malays, the Chinese uplift the Chinese and the Indians uplift the Indians. Where we will continue to be ruled by a race based coalition who still practices the politics of divide and rule, reinforced by the belief it is only they who can eternally rule this land.

The other option is an unlikely coalition of 3 parties with differing ideologies, who share a common sense of nationalism. The odds were always stacked against them, but they stuck it out, and have forged a coalition of equals. If they were to be sent to Putrajaya, corruption and crime will not evaporate overnight; neither will the other ills that plague this country. In fact they will be confronted with some very hard realities and tough choices to make once in government, but they have the political will to take it on and that is progress for a start.

The choice is really ours, we can stick with the old and continue with mediocrity, or we can move ahead as a nation and embrace the future. It is about time we rejected race politics and embrace change.

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Homelessness is not a Crime

I am a regular volunteer at one of the few Homeless Charities that operate in the Klang Valley. Having been doing this regularly for almost 3 years now, I have always heard of frequent raids by the authorities targeting the homeless in an effort to rid the city of them and also weed out what they deem to be criminal elements within this group of people.

Having not seen them myself always gave me an abstract idea of how it is like. You see what one does not see tends to stay out of one’s mind. In my case that was the case until the events of last Friday night rudely awakened me to the ugly truth. I witnessed a well-coordinated raid on the homeless sleeping along the pavements of the inner streets behind Jalan Tun Perak, the stretch of pavement in front of Menara Maybank and other areas around that vicinity.

Teams of men poured out of vehicles and darted off towards the people sleeping and started apprehending them. Some made a run for it of course, but they were caught up with and dragged on to waiting vehicles to be processed. They were treated like animals being led to slaughter, a shameful and pathetic sight. The actions of the authorities that night was clearly meant to surprise and intimidate these defenseless people who were mostly asleep. 

Many of us live in the suburbs, away from the inner city and we live a somewhat protected existence. We are blissfully unaware that in our very own world class city, there are people roughing it out on the streets for a variety of reasons. Many are employed and yet they cannot afford to pay rent, many are mentally ill and are not getting the help they ought to get, many are sick with HIV/ full blown AIDS and have been rejected by their families and society.

Many of them sleep it rough accompanied by the putrid smell of urine, feces and rats sniffing around them as they sleep away their troubles every night. This I am convinced is not a choice any human being will make voluntarily to expose oneself to such indignities, unless of course under extreme circumstances. The homeless are not criminals; they are victims of very unfortunate circumstances and as such treating them as criminals will not eradicate our streets of them.

Many blame the rise in soup kitchens as a source of the problem, the impression given is that people move to the city because of all the free food being dished out to them. An anonymous Malaysian who was interviewed for a recent newspaper article on this issue likened them to stray dogs, apparently if we just stopped feeding them they will go away. Sadly it is not as simple as that, and where has our humanity gone? Likening human beings to strays is nothing short of revolting and sick. 

As long as there are human beings in need, it’s our responsibility to help them and look out for them. We are indeed very fortunate to have a roof on our heads, an internet connection and are reading this article from the comfort of our homes, offices or a super expensive Galaxy S3. We take these comforts for granted, but believe me, after seeing some of the things I have seen on the streets of KL, we are in many ways truly blessed.

The authorities continued clampdown on the homeless will not solve the problem, one can lock them up for a couple of days, but they will ultimately end up on the streets again. We need a holistic solution to the situation, until then the soup kitchens will continue hitting the streets and continue feeding the homeless. 

Instead of condemning those who help, those in power should instead come down to the ground and see for themselves the realities that effect many in the homeless community. For every problem there will be a solution, but dragging people like animals into a waiting truck does not solve this particular problem.

The next time you drive into KL or any place for that matter and notice someone sleeping rough, consider this; that person is someone’s child and has a story. Everyone has a story, and a set of circumstances which put him or her where he or she is today. That same rule applies to all of us without exception whether we realize it or not , the difference is that we were lucky, they weren’t  Nelson Mandela once remarked that a country can truly be judged by the way it treats its lowest citizens. By that comparison Malaysia still has a very long way to go.

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Put a stop to tyranny in the name of Islam

A little known Pakistani schoolgirl started writing a diary for the BBC’s Urdu Service when she was 11 years old. It was a poignant description of conflict seen from the eyes of a child who worried about her future and her family’s safety as the Taliban swept thru the Swat Valley region of Pakistan in 2009. More importantly it gave us an insight, of how ordinary people suffered in conflict instead of the usual news reports and analysis by experts. Needless to say she made herself a target of the Taliban, and they finally made a move on her last Tuesday, when they tried to murder her in cold blood.

Malala Yousafzai now 14 years old was shot in the head and neck in a savage attempt to silence her, she  miraculously survived and as of now has been flown to Britain for further treatment. A part of her skull has been removed to help ease the swelling in her brain; she has a 70% chance at survival and a long recovery ahead of her. I pray that she will recover and continue her fight and continue defying the zealots who still want her dead for “promoting secular values”.

The people who put the bullet into her head, the Taliban obviously have blood on their hands, and we Muslims who remain silent while they dastardly target children for assassination and pour acid on the face of young girls who go to school  in the name of our religion have blood on our hands as well. Malala was shot in what has been a systematic and prolonged campaign to keep girls out of the classroom, a warped interpretation of Islam with no basis whatsoever.

How do ordinary Muslims figure in this tragic saga? For starters this crime like many other crimes committed by these savages were committed in the name of Islam, ergo us Muslims. We keep our selves blissfully ignorant of their atrocities, and in the process condone these shameful acts which are carried out in the name of our religion.

A few weeks ago countless Muslims took to the streets around the world to protest an anti-Islam video which mocked our beloved Prophet, we expressed our indignation and ran riot for days, many people died in the resulting violence. Why are we now keeping silent to the plight of Malala Yousafzai? In my opinion her shooting is a more severe misrepresentation of what Islam and the Prophet Muhammad stood for, as compared to some obscure video made by a malicious Islamophobe.

Islam came around as a means of enlightenment in an age of barbarity and rampant human cruelty, the Taliban have successfully brought the reputation of Islam back to the dark ages and beyond, and will continue doing so as long as we keep silent and foolishly keep on thinking that they are indeed waging jihad. The only reason they are able to operate with impunity is because of our support- moral and financial aid from around the Muslim world which enables them to run further amok.

Let us be clear about the Taliban, their interpretation of Islam runs against everything the Prophet stood for. Islam is  meant to be a beacon of God’s compassion and mercy onto mankind, and as Muslims it is our duty to uphold these values in our daily lives. The Prophet himself was the very embodiment of these values, Islam spread in his lifetime based on the virtues of his character and not based on his ability to wield a sword. A friend of mine put it very accurately during a very interesting conversation we had in a coffee shop about this topic last week, “the Prophet’s very existence was an act of Dakwah”, and this was how he won over followers.

Muslims are certainly not a bunch of savages like many ignorant people would like to think, but these acts of tyranny will keep flaming the fans of hatred amongst the ignorant. There was a recent ad campaign financed by an anti- Islam group in the New York Subway, it read “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man…Defeat Jihad”, how can we really blame certain quarters of the Western public of harboring anti-Islamic sentiments when we do nothing to prove them wrong? When we seem to be providing their campaign fodder. Let us put a stop to this tyranny, by voicing out our anger and hatred towards it, it is our duty as Muslims and human beings to voice out against injustices – including those carried out in the name of Islam.

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A Muslim’s Perspective on the Film Controversy

In my eyes the now infamous video The Innocence of Muslims is nothing new and nothing to be surprised about. It was a deliberate act calculated to provoke and cause mayhem, and provoke it did. We Muslims so willingly and naively walked right into that trap and obliged the film maker and his dastardly motives.

We have a dead US ambassador in Libya, scores of dead Muslims in Pakistan, damaged property, injured policemen and protesters alike, the saddest part is that our reputation as a bunch of bearded savages seems to have been further cast into stone, the very motive of the people behind this video. These people need not have died in the senseless violence that happened in the aftermath of the video being posted on You Tube. We are supposed to value life, and not recklessly just take it away, the violent protests across the Muslim world is a stark reminder to us that we indeed have a long way to go as an Ummah.

Even during the lifetime of the Prophet, he was mocked and ridiculed, sometimes on a daily basis. But we all know that he only responded with extreme kindness and courtesy towards the perpetrators. . It is a precedent he himself had set, and one which we Muslims ought to follow, as difficult as it may be for some of us. In my humble opinion, the best way to honour our beloved Prophet is to obey his commands and the best way to defend his dignity is by emulating his deeds, and that includes responding to hostility with civility and kindness.

An example will be that of the lady who threw feces at him daily, one day as the Prophet passed the place where he was hurled at every day, the old lady wasn’t there with her usual “greeting” because she was sick, and the Prophet being the gracious man that he is – visited her to wish her well and in doing so won her over to Islam.

Let me share with you an excerpt from the biography of the Prophet, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, written by Martin Lings which relates to the events surrounding Abrahah’s disastrous attempt to destroy the Kaaba in Mecca shortly before the Prophet’s birth, and the former’s dealings with the Prophet’s grandfather Abd’ al- Muttalib:

…There had been no official chief of Quraysh since the time when their

privileges and responsibilities had been divided between the houses of

‘Abd ad-Dar and ‘Abdu Manaf. But most people had their opinion as to

which of the chiefs of the clans was in fact if not by right the leading man of

Mecca, and on this occasion the messenger was directed to the house of

‘Abd al-Muttalib who, together with one of his sons, went back with the

messenger to the camp. When Abrahah saw him he was so impressed by his

appearance that he rose from his royal seat to greet him and then sat beside

him on the carpet, telling his interpreter to inquire if he had a favour to ask.

‘Abd al-Muttalib replied that the army had taken two hundred of his

camels and he asked that they should be returned to him. Abrahah was

somewhat surprised at the request, and said that he was disappointed in

him, that he should be thinking of his camels rather than his religion which

they had now come to destroy. ‘Abd al-Muttalib replied: “I am the lord of

the camels, and the temple likewise hath a lord who will defend it.” “He

cannot defend it against me,” said Abrahah. “We shall see,” said ‘Abd

al-Muttalib. “But give me my camels.” And Abrahah gave orders for the

camels to be returned.

 ‘Abd al-Muttalib returned to Quraysh and advised them to withdraw to

the hills above the town. Then he went with some of his family and others

to the Sanctuary. They stood beside him, praying to God for His help

against Abrahah and his army, and he himself took hold of the metal ring

in the middle of the Ka’bah door and said: “O God, thy slave protecteth his

house. Protect Thou Thy House!” Having thus prayed, he went with the

others to join the rest of Quraysh in the hills at points where they could see

what took place in the valley below.

 Most Muslims know what happened next, it is detailed in chapter 105 of the Holy Quran – Surah al Fil. What this account of Abd al Muttalib’s encounter with Abrahah implies in our modern context is that Allah will protect the integrity and dignity of what is His, and that includes the dignity of His Beloved Messenger, which we Muslims believe to be incorruptible to begin with, how is it then possible for lesser mortals to defile him when he has been preserved by God Himself. We should instead worry and defend what is our’s; our faith, our honour and our future in this world and the next.

The sad reality is that the Prophet will be mocked and ridiculed until the end of times, are we going to riot on the streets each time this happens? I certainly hope not. Our response should be to emulate the Prophet more and obey his commands, and this also includes respecting people from other religious beliefs, this the Prophet did openly in his life. If we do not like to be insulted, the same applies to everyone else.

Islam was revealed to us in an age of ignorance and barbarity, it was meant to bring enlightenment and put humanism back into humanity. It was and continues to be a revolutionary idea which preaches tolerance, freedom and justice for everyone, it is an ideal we should strive for and return to. If we stick to these original ideals and emulate the Prophet more in our daily lives, Islamophobes will have less fodder to feed on. This will be our best defense against hate.

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Bersih 3.0 – The Good And The Ugly

Yesterday tens of thousands of Malaysians braved the searing heat, as we converged into Kuala Lumpur to demand meaningful electoral reforms, at the Bersih 3.0 rally. While the previous rally, held in July last year had a menacing air to it, and violence a certainty. Yesterday’s event was in comparison much more carnival like. There was no palpable tension in the air, and the police seemed happy to just stand and watch.

We started our march from the Central Market LRT station towards Petaling Street, where the police had formed a human wall to block the march. However the interaction between them and the protestors were good-natured, as many posed for pictures with the cops and some even offered them yellow flowers (which they politely refused.)

We marched from various points towards the general direction of Dataran Merdeka, chanting and singing, the atmosphere was great. We finally reached the police barricade in front of the Bar Council building, where we staged a sit in and continued chanting “abang polis, buka pintu,” Malay for ‘brother policeman, open the gates’.

Sometime after 3pm we received word from the organizers, that the rally was over and our point proven. We decided to leave via Central Market, and eventually found out about the fiasco that ensued after we left. From what I understand, the cops got spooked when some protestors breached a barricade and fired tear gas.

What proceeded were a repeat of last year’s violence, a perfectly peaceful demonstration had been marred by unruly elements bent on seeking trouble and in the process delegitimizing the people’s right to assemble peacefully. If there are any real losers, it is the electoral reform agenda and its supporters. Our platform has been based on non-violence, and when people flip police cars in the name of reform, it really is a shot on the movement’s foot.

What irked me most were the chanting of “hancur BN” by some individuals in the crowd. There is a time and place for everything, and this was not the forum for such chanting. Bersih prides itself as being a non-partisan movement of the people, by the people. Being seen to be hijacked or utilised by politicians of any stripe, is counter-productive to its ideals.

On a brighter note, the tens of thousands who thronged KL, are a testament to the big guns at Putrajaya that Malaysians are now unafraid to have their voices heard. It was heart-warming to see entire families attending together, bumping into old friends in the LRT who were also heading for the rally and being part of a huge body of people gathered for a common cause. This  despite the violence that occured during last year’s rally, which saw tear gas being fired into Tung Shin Hospital and police heavy-handedness against the public.

Meaningful and tangible reforms must take place at the soonest, with no strings attached and no caveats placed, failing which future rallies will be inevitable, and an increasingly enthusiastic public who will be quite eager to attend. Years of broken promises have turned Malaysians cynical and not easily fooled. A fearful population can be suppressed, but not an increasingly fearless one.

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