Wednesday, 19 October 2016

What do the professionals want?

Brave New World (The Star)
28 September 2016


EARLIER this week I was asked by a reporter if there is anything that can be added to the demands made by Bersih for their fifth rally planned for Nov 19, in order to attract the professional classes.

I replied rather tersely with the question, “What else do people want”? Seriously, the demands are pretty comprehensive, and they are all aimed at making the country more democratic and better governed.
The demand for clean elections is still the number one priority. This is as it should be, because without clean and fair elections then we are moving towards disaster. The way things are, the constituencies are so disproportionate that the concept of one-person, one-vote has gone out of the window.
This is why in the last elections, the coalition with fewer votes actually formed the Government. It has been suggested by some analysts that in the current situation, it is possible for the ruling coalition to win only 40% of the popular vote and still maintain a majority in Parliament.
This just cannot be allowed to go on. If people feel their vote is useless, that is when they will be compelled to take other measures.
Doesn’t the Election Commission understand that by not ensuring that we get as close as possible to one-person, one-vote they are actively helping to lay the foundations for chaos in this country? Or don’t they care?
The second demand is for clean government. This means a proper separation of powers, transparency and structural changes to ensure that power is not centred on one person and the independence of public institutions like the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Anything wrong with that? We have already seen what can happen when there is an unaccountable government.
Do we really need more justifications to hit the streets?
The third demand is for a better parliamentary system with greater time for debate and better use of parliamentary committees. There is a dire need for laws in this country to be discussed properly. Witness the unholy speed with which laws as destructive as the National Security Council Act got passed.
Fourthly is the call for the right to dissent. To be free to express ourselves without repressive laws being used unevenly to quell any sort of criticism of the government.
If a government can hide behind laws which prevent public discussion of their conduct, then corruption and incompetence will follow. This is true regardless of what party is in power.
The final demand is for greater respect towards Sabah and Sarawak with fair constituency delineations, the provision for absentee voting and destruction of money politics.
Can any person really say that these demands are unreasonable or, more importantly in this day and age, that they are not absolutely necessary?
Anyone who says that these demands are bad is basically supporting an autocratic system of governance and is thus little more than a fascist.
And if there are those who still need other justifications to protest, seriously man, what do you want? A raffle at the rally with a BMW as first prize?

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