- மஇகா தலைவர்கள், தே.மு அரசுக்கு கும்புடுப் போடும் கூட்டம் : சார்ல்ஸ்
- Q&A: Malaysia’s Ambiga Sreenevasan
- Arab Spring, meet Malaysia’s summer of discontent.
Posted: 13 Jul 2011 10:56 AM PDT
மூலம் :- செம்பருத்தி
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 7:10 pm
கடந்த சனிக்கிழமை நிகழ்ந்த பெர்சே 2.0 பேரணியில் பல்லாயிரக் கணக்கான மலேசியர்கள் ஒன்றுகூடி தங்களது கருத்தை தெரிவித்திருந்தனர். அதில் இந்தியர்கள் பலரும் கலந்துகொண்ட போதிலும் இந்தியர்கள் பெரும்பாலும் கலந்துகொள்ளவில்லை என கூறும் மஇகா தலைவர் ஜி.பழனிவேலுவின் பேச்சு மிக வேடிக்கையாக இருக்கிறது என்று கிள்ளான் நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர் சார்ல்ஸ் சந்தியாகோ கூறினார்.
இளையர்கள், முதியவர்கள், தனியார் நிறுவனத்தினர், அரசு சார்பற்ற இயக்கங்கள், பெண்கள் உட்பட எதிர்கட்சி தலைவர்கள், போராட்டவாதிகள் என பல இந்தியர்கள் பல இடங்களில் வந்து மலையாய் குவிந்தது அவரது கண்களுக்கு தென்பட வில்லையா? என வினவிய சார்ல்ஸ் சந்தியாகோ, வராத இந்தியர்கள் அம்னோவுக்கு பயந்து ஒளிந்துக் கொள்ளும் கூட்டங்களே எனவும் சாடினார்.
இந்தியர்கள் பலர் எழுச்சிக் கண்டுவிட்டதால்தான் பலர் ஒன்று கூடினார்கள் என்பதை முதலில் அவர் புரிந்துக் கொள்ள வேண்டும். வராத இந்தியர்கள், முதுகெலும்பு இல்லாத மஇகா தலைவர்களும் தேசிய முன்னணி அரசாங்கத்திற்கு கும்புடுப் போடும் கூட்டம் மட்டும்தான் என சாடிய சார்ல்ஸ் அவர்களும் இப்பேரணியில் கலந்துக்கொண்டிருந்தால் அம்னோ அவர்களுக்கு மதிப்பு கொண்டுத்திருக்கும் என வேடிக்கையாக கூறினார்.
தேசிய முன்னணி – அம்னோ அரசாங்கத்திற்கு கூனிக்குறுகி தாளம் போடுவதை நிறுத்தி விட்டு, இந்தியர்களின் மேம்பாட்டிற்கும் உரிமைகளுக்கும் முக்கியத்துவம் கொடுத்து அவர்களின் பிரச்சனையை தீர்க்க வழி காண வேண்டியதின் அவசியத்தை வலியுறுத்திய சார்ல்ஸ், 50 ஆண்டுகாலமாக ஆட்சியில் இருக்கும் இந்த மஇகா இந்தியர்களின் பிரச்சனை எதையும் தீர்த்தபாடில்லை என வருத்தம் தெரிவித்தார்.
தவறான தகவல்களை அளித்து இந்திய சமூகத்தினரை திசை திருப்ப நினைக்கும் மஇகா தலைவர்களின் எண்ணமும் திட்டமும் வெற்றியடைய போவதில்லை.
நியாயமான மற்றும் நேர்மையான தேர்தலுக்காக போராடும் பெர்சே 2.0இல் கலந்துகொண்ட இந்தியர்களின் எண்ணிக்கையைப் பார்த்து மஇகாவின் நிலை தடுமாற்றத்திலும் கேள்விக் குறியிலும் இருப்பதை அறிந்துதான் அவர் இப்படியெல்லாம் அறிவிக்கிறார் என சுட்டிக் காட்டிய சார்ல்ஸ், இதனை எல்லாம் நிறுத்திவிட்டு இந்தியர்களின் நலன் காக்க பேசுங்கள் என அறிவுறுத்தினார்.
நேர்மையான மற்றும் நியாமான தேர்தல் நடைபெற்றால், மலேசியாவில் வாழும் அனைவரின், குறிப்பாக வறுமையில், ஏழ்மை நிலையே கதியென அல்லல்படும் நமது இந்தியர்களின் தலை எழுத்தும் மாறும் என சார்ல்ஸ் மிக ஆணித்தரமாக வலியுறுத்தினார்.
Posted: 13 Jul 2011 07:14 AM PDT
An estimated 20,000 protesters gathered in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to call for reforms to Malaysia's electoral system. The surprisingly large turnout—and the government's tough response, with water cannons and tear gas—appears to have galvanized the country's opposition, which until recently had struggled to gain traction against a government led by Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The protesters believe Malaysia's government must reform to reduce electoral fraud and create a level playing field for all parties, including the opposition. Government officials say rally organizers were trying to embarrass the government, garner sympathy for opposition politicians and threaten social order.
The question now is whether Malaysia's opposition groups can capitalize on the momentum from Saturday's rally and force further changes in one of Southeast Asia's linchpin economies– or if voters will continue to stick with Mr. Najib and the ruling coalition that has dominated Malaysia since it gained independence from Britain several decades ago.
The Wall Street Journal's Celine Fernandez recently spoke with Ambiga Sreenevasan, chairwoman of Bersih 2.0 (or the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections), a coalition of activists that organized Saturday's rally. A former president of the Malaysian Bar Council, she was the first Malaysian to receive the U.S. Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award for championing human rights, the status of women and religious tolerance in Malaysia.
Here are some edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: Your organization has built up some momentum with Saturday's rally. What is the next move for Bersih?
A: Our agenda for electoral reform still stands firm, but we have two priority items which we think should be resolved. The first, of course, is that we express terrible regret at the death of Baharuddin Ahmad (a man who died of a heart attack during the rally), and we are very concerned at the manner in which it occurred. One of our top priority items is to refer the issue of the excessive use of the police force upon the rally to Suhakam (the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia). And we are asking them for a full investigation.
(Editor's note: Malaysian authorities have said they believe the man's death was from natural causes and not related to the rally. They have also defended the police's use of tear gas and water cannons, saying they were provoked into action and had to act to protect public order, and relied on minimal force to disperse crowds).
The second priority item for us is the release of those held under the Emergency Ordinance (including a number of activists arrested in connection with the rally). We are very, very, very concerned about the reports we are getting, about the manner in which they have been treated. We call for their unconditional release.
We are pushing for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry consisting of experts acceptable to the people to look into comprehensive electoral reform before the 13th General Elections (Malaysia's next elections, which must be called by spring 2013), and we reiterate our call for this to the government.
Q: Will you hold more rallies?
A: I do not see it happening in the near future.
Q: What are the most important reforms needed in Malaysia, and why? Is it just about electoral reforms, or are other changes needed?
A: Immediately, we want a more level playing field for the 13th General Elections. But apart from that, in the last six weeks, I think Bersih has become more than just a movement for electoral reform. I think that there is a real yearning for a higher standard of democratic values. People are utterly, utterly shocked by the abuse of power displayed by the government. So it has also become about the integrity of our institutions and the manner of governance and the abuse of power. I think people were very moved by that, and that is why we got the numbers that we did.
Q: What benefits would come from those reforms, and why are they needed in Malaysia?
A: The benefits would be providing a more level playing field and we think it brings legitimacy to the government who wins. If you come in because of free and fair elections, it would be something that would be more acceptable to the people.
Q: If Malaysia had truly free and fair elections, what do you think would happen?
A: I really can't predict. I wouldn't want to even begin to predict, actually. All I can tell you is that we will get a government who truly reflects the will of the people. And that's all we want.
Q: Why do you think the government cracked down so hard on Saturday?
A: Really, I fail to completely understand that. But I think they acted because they have taken a position and they were not prepared to move from that position. And they wanted to teach us a lesson, not by reason, but by force. I had made this statement earlier: They thought might could win over right, but I am afraid might can never win over right. Right always ultimately wins.
Q: The government says Bersih is really just a front for opposition parties and is trying to promote their interests ahead of any national election. They note that Anwar Ibrahim (Malaysia's most prominent opposition leader) played a conspicuous role at Saturday's rally. Is the government's criticism fair?
A: Not at all fair, because we invited all political parties including Barisan Nasional (Malaysia's ruling coalition) to support us. How can you say the cause for free and fair elections is only for the opposition? It is for everybody. Pakatan Rakyat (Malaysia's main coalition of opposition parties) did support Bersih. What's wrong with that? Pakatan Rakyat members are also citizens of this country. Are they not entitled to support a movement for free and fair elections?
Q: The government also says you're also trying to destabilize the country and undermine public order. Is that fair?
A: Totally unfair. So far, I have refused to respond to personal allegations. My issue is please judge me by my conduct and the government by their conduct. And let the public draw their own conclusions.
Q: Many people have said it took a lot of courage to organize Saturday's rally. Why are you doing this? What drove you to get involved and take such a leadership role in Bersih? Do you feel like you are putting yourself at any risk?
A: A few NGOs approached me and asked me to lead a civil society movement for free and fair elections, which I was very willing to do because it was for a good cause. And I did not for one minute think there was anything controversial about this topic. We thought we won't even get the numbers – we were worried about how to publicize the event. We never expected the government to react the way it did. I certainly did not want any of this attention that I am getting. I don't know why the focus was on me. We have 14 steering committee members. I was not making decisions on my own. We had nongovernmental organization members who had their views as well.
A government that comes across as such a great bully repulsed a lot of people. And I think that is why we had the numbers and the momentum that we did. Honestly, if they had allowed us to proceed and played it down, we would not have gotten those numbers. That's why you saw on that day, ordinary citizens, and these are not even members of political parties, from all walks of life, old, young, all races, all religions. Where have you ever seen that? And how does the government read it? They come back on Monday and attack Bersih again. Those are the people you are attacking. Those are the voters you are attacking. They are not reading the situation properly at all. But I still say there is time to salvage, to reconcile, and I hope the government will seek to do that.
Q: Although there are obviously major differences between Malaysia and countries such as Egypt, Tunisia or Syria, any demonstration these days inevitably invite comparisons to the Arab Spring protests. Are there are any similarities here?
A: No similarities, in my view. They were in a completely different situation. Here, all we are doing is asking for a free and fair election. It is the government's disproportionate response that created a momentum. But we are still a peace-loving nation. We still want the government to be fair. To me it was never our intention and it is still not our intention to bring down this government. We want to work with this government, to improve our electoral system.
Q: How deep is the support for Bersih?
A: When you look online, you will find it growing exponentially. I am amazed at how it has taken off. Bersih is not a word any more. It is an idea. It is a feeling. It is a passion, which is why you can never kill it.
Q: There is a Facebook page with 100,000 people requesting Najib Razak's resignation. What do you think about that?
A: We have nothing to do with that. It is never and has never been Bersih's intention for the prime minister to step down. As I said, we want to work with the prime minister and his government to have a better electoral system
Posted: 13 Jul 2011 06:53 AM PDT
That thought is surely on Prime Minister Najib Razak's mind as the dust settles from Saturday's botched demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur. By "botched" I mean the way Najib mishandled what should have been a ho-hum political-reform rally of little note by the international news media.
Public-relations experts would have told Najib to let the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections have their day in the capital. Let them wave signs and wear their yellow shirts. Instead, he tried to stop the rally, increasing its size. Then, he cracked down. Police fired tear gas and detained 1,697 people, turning the event into a top cable TV news story.
The over-the-top response did something worse: It enraged Malaysians who weren't all that interested in rallying before Saturday. It also underlined the rise in political risk sweeping Asia, something that investors would be wise to track.
No serious observer expects an exact Asian rerun of the Arab Spring movement that saw uprisings topple leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and threaten regimes in Syria, Libya and Yemen. But then neither do serious people argue that Asia has done enough to enhance its democratic credentials during the past 10 years.
Malaysia's protest was the biggest since 2007 — roughly 20,000 people. It came amid rising calls for political change from Thailand to China. What these nations have in common is that the overhaul in domestic political systems lags behind economic and financial reforms.
Take Thailand, where voters this month ejected the incumbent Democratic Party, which had used soldiers to disperse opposition protests in 2010, leading to more than 90 deaths. The party had promised to attack the corruption and undemocratic ways of the government run by Thaksin Shinawatra that soldiers ousted in 2006. Last week, fed up voters went full circle, making Thaksin's sister premier.
Officials in China are pulling out all the stops to clamp down on political activists amid the so-called Jasmine Revolution. Nothing unnerves the Communist Party in Beijing more than the specter of social discontent. The winds of change are even sweeping Singapore; its ruling party in May won its narrowest election victory since independence in 1963.
Although the causes of such tension differ from country to country, there are a few common threads. One is the frustration of the have-nots as they watch the haves get richer. Another is rising global commodity prices, which make it harder for many to make ends meet. Finally, political modernization has been slower than critics hoped.
Malaysia's case is especially complicated thanks to the inescapable issue of race. The conventional wisdom is that Saturday's protests will delay Najib's pledge to dismantle a 40- year preferential program that favors the Malay majority. The policy makes it harder for Chinese and Indian Malaysians to find good jobs, and its quotas scare away foreign investors. It holds Malaysia back in an increasingly competitive world.
To me, Najib wasn't moving fast enough before Saturday. Foreign executives considering whether to build a factory in Malaysia want a clear schedule: By Jan. 1, 2012, we will do this, and by Jan. 1, 2013, we will do that. Instead, Najib offered vague intentions without meaningful or specific goals.
It's no mystery why. All that matters to the United Malays National Political Organisation is clinging to its five-decade hold on power. Such misplaced priorities explain why Malaysia has been slow to streamline the economy and encourage the kind of entrepreneurialism that creates well-paid jobs. It's also why leaders are timid about scrapping productivity-killing policies that only benefit portions of the population.
The question now is which way Najib turns. At this point, he may avoid calling an early election this year — there's just too much risk for him. Which direction he takes in changing policy is an even bigger unknown. On July 10, the Guardian newspaper carried comments by Najib in which he cautioned protesters not to test his party's will. "We can conquer Kuala Lumpur," he said.
What can we make of a leader who promised reform and moderation and now sounds like a Roman emperor? Can a nation that arrests almost 1,700 people, some just for wearing yellow shirts, still be called a democracy? Najib's response even had Malaysians feeling sorry for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was injured by flying tear gas canisters.
Events in Kuala Lumpur remind us that geopolitical risks are on the rise in Asia. Yes, growth rates are healthy even as the U.S., Japan and Europe limp along. The establishment of democratic institutions has been far less robust, though, and entrenched leaders may pay a considerable price. Maybe not in the Hosni Mubarak-sense, but the potential for upheaval shouldn't be underestimated. There really is a bull market in the desire for political change.
Investors looking for places to put their money tend to lock themselves in offices combing through statistics, bond spreads, stock valuations and central-bank policies. In Asia's case, more success might be had by looking out the window at the street demonstrations below.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
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