People's Gathering to push for Clean and Fair Elections in Malaysia

To international press agencies, as well as embassies and high commissions in KL:
Kuala Lumpur, 8 Nov 2007: A mass rally, called the BERSIH Peaceful People’s Gathering will take place in the heart of Kuala Lumpur at 3pm on 10 November 2007 to demand for clean and fair elections.

The Gathering is organized by BERSIH, a coalition comprising political parties and civil society groups, and is expected to draw supporters from all over the country.
The leaders of the three main opposition parties in Malaysia — KeADILan, PAS and DAP – as well as key non-governmental group (NGO) leaders will address the rally. Among them is former Deputy Prime Minister and KeADILan advisor, Anwar Ibrahim. A political prisoner for 6 years (1998-2004), he is barred from holding political office or contesting in an election until April 2008, but is generally perceived to be spearheading the challenge to the long-standing Barisan Nasional (National Front) domination.
The rally will start at Dataran Merdeka in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and proceed to HM Yang DiPertuan Agong’s palace, where a memorandum will be submitted.
On the same day, similar rallies will be held in front of Malaysian embassies and high commissions in various cities worldwide. To date, the confirmed locations are London (2pm), New York, Jakarta, Bangkok (2pm), Manila, Delhi, Seou l (2pm), Colombo, New Delhi and Ulaan Baatar. A protest note will be submitted to the Malaysian ambassador in the said cities.
In the run-up to the rally, a 10-day ‘Yellow Wave’ campaign was launched at the Annexe of Central Market on 1 November 2007. It was meant to encourage the people to wear yellow – be it clothing, armband, hat or a ribbon — the colour chosen to represent this pro-democracy movement.
Using the theme “Save Malaysia: Restore Our Rights”, BERSIH sees the flawed electoral process — which virtually guarantees the perpetual rule of the governing Barisan Nasional — as the core cause of the exploding political, administrative and judicial rot in Malaysia, with far-reaching implications on the economy and society at large.
BERSIH expects the Gathering to draw tens of thousands from all over the country. The event will serve to drive home the urgency of its four immediate demands for electoral reform:
• a thorough cleanup of the electoral roll to exclude fraudulent registrations;
• the use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting;
• the abolition of postal voting for the armed forces;
• fair access to the media.
A memorandum to be submitted to the Yang Dipertuan Agong (the Federal Ruler) in conjunction with the Gathering includes calls for an end to gerrymandering, demands for the reintroduction of local elections, and replacement of the first-past-the-post system which results in unbalanced representation in Parliament.
So far, the government-controlled Election Commission (SPR) has only agreed to the indelible ink demand. The Prime Minister, Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi, whose coalition controls 91% of parliamentary seats after a landslide victory in 2004, has so far chosen to keep electoral reform out of his agenda. He is expected to call a General Election any time between now and March 2009.
In his response to an unprecedented march of 2,000 lawyers and Malaysian citizens in late September, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi reckoned that the action had affected business confidence. The march was held after the Government tried to downplay a secretly-taped video clip which exposed a prominent lawyer VK Lingam as having ‘fixed’ the promotion of the current Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim.
BERSIH stresses that only electoral reform can stop the widespread corruption and power abuse in Malaysia. In 2006 and 2007, Malaysia ranked 44th and 45th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
In the latest Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, Malaysia’s position fell from 92nd in 2006 to 124th in 2007. Without a doubt, the complacency and arrogance that comes with a 91% parliamentary majority — despite having just 64% of popular support — has led to PM Abdullah all but abandon his anti-graft platform and reform promises.
Apart from the judiciary, allegations of corruption have also tainted the police force and the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA). The top policeman overseeing commercial crimes Datuk Ramli Yusoff was recently charged by the ACA on more than 20 counts of corruptions. Previous investigations of top police officers by the ACA, and vice-versa, have so far not resulted in prosecution. Both institutions are under the PM’s portfolio.
It is for all these reasons that BERSIH, a coalition supported by over 60 civil society groups and five political parties, is taking the 10 November protest internationally. It is our wish that public protests and global solidarity will draw the Government’s attention to the pressing need for political democratization, starting with electoral reforms.
BERSIH urges all concerned Malaysians and their friends worldwide to support this urgent and necessary action, for a better future for all Malaysians.