Tian Chua: Bersih rally will go on

Singapore Democrats

Malaysian Member of Parliament and Chief Information Officer of Parti KeAdilan Rakyat (PKR) led by the former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim said that the Bersih rally would go ahead despite confusing signals coming from the Malaysian Government.

Mr Chua visited the SDP’s office yesterday when he was in Singapore for a meeting. During his visit, he told Dr Chee Soon Juan that the Bersih rally was organised by a group of Malaysian NGOs to call on the Malaysian Government to make the election system free and fair.

The first Bersih rally was held in Kuala Lumpur in November 2007 where 40,000 held a massive and peaceful procession also calling for electoral reform. This year ten times more people people are expected to participate in the rally which is officially scheduled to kick off tomorrow afternoon in the heart of the Malaysian capital.

The rally participants have a list of conditions that they want the Malaysian Government to meet. These include lengthening the campaign from the current nine days to a reasonable period of 21 days. Election campaigning in Singapore is also restricted to nine days which benefits the PAP and makes it impossible for the opposition to reach out to voters and mount an effective contest.

Another rally demand is that the media give the opposition equal publicity. Malaysia, like Singapore, also has the Newspaper Presses and Printing Act which gives the ruling party unfair coverage. In Singapore the law is used by the PAP to give different parties disproportionate reportage which has led to skewed electoral results.

Mr Chua also said that Prime Minister Najib Razak has been sending out confusing signals first indicating that the rally would have to be conducting within the confines of a stadium, then changing his mind and now insisting that the activity cannot be held in Kuala Lumpur after rally organisers agreed to the stadium offer.

Throughout his meeting with Dr Chee, Mr Chua was constantly on his cellphone keeping in touch with his party colleagues. Many of his members, including those of the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (comprising of Parti Se-Islam, PAS, and the Democratic Action Party, DAP) will be taking part in the rally.

Mr Chua was awaiting news to see if he was among the 91 persons banned from entering Kuala Lumpur to participate in the rally. Halfway through the conversation, he received confirmation that he was indeed among the rally’s persona non grata which includes his party boss Anwar Ibrahim, DAP Chief Lim Kit Siang and PAS leader Hadi Awang.

Would he still go back to KL now that the Malaysian authorities have issued the warning? “How can I not return?” Mr Chua said. “This is the Malaysian people’s fight for their right to free and fair elections. I must be with them.”

But what about the potential for violence and disorder? “The Malaysian people have shown that they are disciplined and they don’t want violence, they want to protest peacefully. It’s the police that attack the people and cause the violence,” he said.

Besides, the PKR leader added, it is the police’s job to protect the protesters and to maintain the peace: “The police cannot say that women can’t go out at night because they might get raped. The police have to make sure that they target the rapists and make the streets safe for women to go out at night instead of preventing women from going out.”

Despite the fact that the Opposition has 82 seats (out of 222 seats) or 36.9% of the seats in parliament, they are not sitting on their laurels but pushing for reform to the election system because they know that it is only through free and fair elections that the voice of the people will be heard and that the people will be properly represented in Parliament.

“Our job is not to get into parliament and then keep quiet, enjoying the perks and privileges of office but to use our power to push for a system that is truly democratic and that will benefit the people,” Mr Chua said.

The Singapore Democrats have also been calling for free and fair elections and a free press in Singapore without which Singaporeans will not see a just outcome of elections and their wishes will always be denied by the PAP.

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