On the 9th July, something happened in Malaysia: A demonstration called BERSIH 2.0 demanding for a clean and fair election (‘Bersih’ is Malay for ‘clean’). It wasn’t a violent protest, in fact only one person died due to heart conditions (so they say). Compared to those that occured in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other parts of Africa and the Middle East, Malaysia, being a low-profile country (besides the occasional news on sex videos, or silly, shameful sexist remarks from our politicians), it does not warrant much international attention.
As it is, life still goes on after the BERSIH rally. Other news are gradually overwhelming those of BERSIH, such as the Malaysia Cup, the new Singapore-Malaysia co-located Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facility, AirAsia and its Japanese partnership, the new bioplastics factory, and other business and football news.
So, really, it’s almost nothing. But, this almost nothing might quite possibly be the day of reckoning, the signal of change, or the ripple of a revolution for Malaysians.
Unlike other demonstrations, this demonstration consisted of many races (not only a single race. Usually, the Malays and the Indians are the more dedicated protesters), and of many age groups (especially those below the age of 40). As announced by its leaders from the very beginning, the plan was to walk peacefully. It only became violent after the police crack-down, which infuriated the crowd.
Although this demonstration has put Malaysia in a bad light, but it managed to gain the attention of the international arena. Finally, the fog that shrouded the tense ethnic situation in the country has been lifted. The international human rights organisations, Amnesty and the local one, SUHAKAM, have reported about this issue, along with the lack of freedom of speech in the country for years, but in vain. Now, with more publicity, this ripple, I hope, will become a sea of change.
Reading blogs and watching YouTube videos, I came across comments that frustrates me, though. One said that she was ashamed to be a Malaysian because of this demonstration. This demonstration, according to herself and many others, has ruined Malaysia’s good reputation and is a disgrace to the gentle and soft-spoken Malaysian culture.
My reply to her and her companions is this: Is it a bad thing to voice out your support for a worthy cause? My opinion is that the current situation rife with corrupted politicians, political conspiracies, dirty back-stabbing, scandalous sex tapes, and ethnic conflicts is not giving the country a good rep in the first place. And, if we remain silent about all this injustice happening around us or in the news, nothing will ever change. If we continue sitting on our backside, will change just fall on our laps? No.
And, some blame the oppositions for creating this chaos. They say Malaysia used to be peaceful and that the main party has done a good job building the nation (hah!) and that the oppositions were spreading baseless lies to invoke anger among the people. I would have to say first, if Malaysia had been governed efficiently, what happened to all the taxpayers’ money? And, please do not blame the students for this. Education is the smartest investment that a country can and should do. Secondly, that calmness we have had, was like being in the eye of a tornado. With such a thick atmosphere of racial tension lingering around us, we needed to enforce laws to maintain the peace, such as making it illegal to mention sensitive issues such as race, religion, and sex in public, or enforcing ISA detentions. In Malaysia, everyday life was calm and peaceful but, it was always an illusion.
This demonstration is a sign that we no longer want to live in that hypocrisy. We want a change. And, hello, change is not meant to be easy and smooth. So, yes, it’s going to be inconvenient and to those who complained about the demonstration causing trouble for your work and traffic, let’s think for a while:
Do you want sheer convenience, to go on with your business-as-usual carefree lives, and to let this corrupted, unfair situation that has plagued Malaysia for decades to continue? Or do you want to make the difficult transition for a better, more competitive, and just society?
I will for always, go for the latter.
- Cleanliness for the Country (michelleteohziyan.wordpress.com)
- Bersih 2.0 (yueyanglim.wordpress.com)
- Political affray in Malaysia: Taken to the cleaners (economist.com)