Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Avoid path to unjust laws

Brave New World (The Star)
23 November 2016

We are in danger of becoming a country that may be exploited by some.


I just had to laugh when I read reports of a minister saying the size of demonstrations does not matter and it does not translate into votes.
Well, of course, he would say that; he is part of a government that did not win the popular vote. When you can secure 60% of the seats in Parliament with less than half of the votes cast, of course size doesn’t matter.
Which is why Bersih and its demands are so important, because in elections at least, size should matter and in countries like ours, where the competition is usually between two groups, there should be no reason why those with the most votes should not get the most seats.
Unless, of course, there is gerrymandering. And there is. Oh Lord, there is.
This is the primary call of Bersih – fair elections. You must be totally afraid that you can’t win in a fair fight that you will oppose such a call.
But that’s not surprising really. Since the emasculation of the Election Commission in the 1960s, the present regime has been ensuring that the constituencies where they have their power base are kept small, thus ensuring that they don’t require many votes to win.
What is slightly more surprising is the sophistication of the powers that be in dealing with rallies. They appear to have got the hang of it now.
All right, before I go on a rant, in my view, the cops did do a good job in keeping the yellow shirts and red shirts apart. So, credit goes where credit is due.
However, back to my rant. It is obvious that the powers that be realised that when they blast peaceful protesters with tear gas and water cannons, it makes the news worldwide.
News agencies are not interested in measured arguments regarding electoral systems. They want the drama of people being gassed and attacked. Journalists love human misery. It sells.
So by not giving them what they want, the government and their agencies can ensure that whatever coverage we get in the international and even local media is small.
After all, who cares (apart from those of us living in this country) about the fact that a dozen people were arrested for no apparent reason apart from being key figures in Bersih?
Who cares that Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah is being detained under a law that they promised us was to be used in terror cases only? Not the world press, that’s for sure.
But we should care because this act of locking up a woman who has not at any time supported or incited violence, who has in fact bravely stood strong despite calls of extreme violence against her and threats to her family, is being treated very unjustly.
How can organising a peaceful rally (tidy even, as there were volunteers picking up garbage), that asked for things like fair elections, no corruption and good governance, be a national security threat?
Isn’t that what Sosma (the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act) is for? To be used against terror threats to national security? No one in their right minds can say that Maria fits this bill.
Oh, but I am afraid there are enough people who do. You’d be surprised at the number of folks, so-called academics, so-called journalists and politicians, who buy the rubbish about conspiracy theories and foreign intervention. Garbage spewed without an ounce of evidence.
We are in danger of becoming a country of unjust laws that may be exploited by those who are either purposefully deceitful or unbelievably obtuse.
The well-being of this nation depends on us avoiding exactly this, and Maria’s arrest and subsequent detention is a stark reminder.

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