Malaysian movement for free and fair elections goes global | Connect Asia

Malaysian movement for free and fair elections goes global

Malaysian movement for free and fair elections goes global

Updated 27 April 2012, 13:51 AEST

Malaysia's civil society movement for free and fair elections, Bersih 3, has gone global with rallies expected in 79 cities around the world, including in Australia, this Saturday.

Bersih, which means 'clean' in Malay, is a movement pushing for a more transparent system ahead of general elections which have to be called by March next year.

Bersih 3 follows rallies in Kuala Lumpur last July when Malaysian police fired tear gas at supporters, estimated at between 10,000 to 50,000.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: David Teoh, coordinator, Global Bersih movement for free and fair elections

TEOH: Currently, we have 79 cities in 29 countries around the world, that's excluding Malaysia, taking part in the Bersih rally in solidarity with what's happening in KL. Our demands are the same as the Bersih demands, for this Bersih3 rally. One, we want the Election Commission to resign, we also want all the eight demands from the last Bersih rally to be met. One of which is to clean up the electoral roll. There've been lots of reports of discrepancies on the roll, as well as instances of fraud, double registration. We have people on the list who may not be citizens on the roll, and this has caused much concern amongst the Malaysian diaspora. The Malaysian diaspora for one, is not allowed to vote in the Malaysian elections - only government officers posted abroad and full time students and army officers abroad, are allowed to vote at the moment. And finally, we wish for electoral observers in the next general elections because we are not confident that it will be clean and fair.

LAM: How has the Malaysian diaspora responded to Global Bersih?

TEOH: Very enthusiastically, I think this is one of the most diverse list of locations we've had. I don't know of any other event that's united Malaysians across the world. We have a very very large network. In Asia, we have Japan, Osaka and Tokyo. We have Hong Kong, we have four locations in China. In Australia, we have seven cities. We have diverse locations like Witchita in the United States, a small location there, Columbus, Ohio, and then we have as unexpected as Mecca, Medina, we have Amman in Jordan joining us. We have Moscow in Russia, so Malaysians are everywhere in the world and it's really amazing.

LAM: And what about here in Australia? We have a sizeable Malaysian student population here. Which cities have been targeted by your campaign? We have Bersih in all capital cities in Australia, except for Cairns and the Northern Territories - Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth. In each of these locations, in each of these cities, we will have Malaysians coming together in solidarity. It's a sit-down protest in Kuala Lumpur and we'll be joining them in solidarity. It's going to be a fun event. There'll be music performances, there'll be people speaking, but it'll also be a time of reflection for Malaysians and what we want to achieve as a country together, and what sort of country we envision for the future.

We're inviting our friends, our Australian friends. Most of us will be joined by our work colleagues, our university mates and all that, because democracy and the call for democracy is a global and universal demand. They want Malaysia to have the same civil liberties and the same access to freedoms as we do here, in Australia.

LAM: And David, what about Bersih3 in Malaysia itself, especially the capital, Kuala Lumpur? Are they heading for a showdown with city authorities, given that Dataran Merdeka has been cordoned off, this is Merdeka Square, and yet, Bersih3 is adamant about staging a sit-in this coming Saturday in that same square?

TEOH: Well, we are concerned about the situation in Kuala Lumpur. But to be fair to the Bersih organisers, they have informed City Hall from early April about this sit-down rally. And City Hall's only given us alternatives in the last few days. To call off a rally of that magnitude in such short notice is pretty much impossible, really.

LAM: But should a rally have been called in the first place, without a proper permit?

TEOH: Well, we have the right to assemble, peacefully. It's not been a problem for other cities in Malaysia, who are holding a similar rally, for example in Penang, there's not been an issue there. In Kota Kinabalu, there's not been an issue there.

LAM: At the end of the day, after Saturday, what would you hope to achieve, from Bersih3 worldwide?

TEOH: We would like the Election Commission to resign because they've shown themselves to be totally ineffective in responding to the demands of the last rally. It's not fair to say that these are new demands, these demands have been in existence since 1999, when the Asian Network for Free Elections wrote in their report, of the '99 elections, that there should be a cleanup of the electoral roll, there should be indelible ink, there should be free access to the media for all parties, reform of the postal ballot system and so on. So, these are not new demands, they're thirteen years old, at the very least.

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