BERSIH: Let’s Vow to Clean Up Elections

23 January 2008
Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (BERSIH) wishes all Hindu Malaysians a joyful Thaipusam. May the celebration further motivate all citizens of multicultural Malaysia to clean up our electoral process which is marred by all sort of problems ranging from phantom voters, postal voting, mass transfer of voters, to gerrymandering and mal-apportionment.

Thaipusam is celebrated mostly by the Indian Hindu Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai. The festival celebrates the birthday of Lord Murugan, the youngest son of Shiva and Parvati. It is also the time when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (lance) so he could kill the evil demon, Soorapadman. The devotees of this festival make vows by carrying a kavadi to the Lord for tiding over or averting a great calamity.
BERSIH congratulates all Hindu Malaysians that their decades-long demand for Thaipusam to be made a public holiday in states other than Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Johor are now partially fulfilled in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
BERSIH stresses that the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) move to make Thaipusam a public holiday is inadequate in addressing the real issue. There should be effective programmes to address the poverty issue and other forms of marginalization suffered by all Malaysians, regardless of ethnicity and faiths.
In fact, the token concession to make Thaipusam a public holiday is purely driven by electoral calculation after 30,000 Indian Malaysians took to the streets on 25 November, 2007 to protest socio-economic exclusion. Currently, Indians make up 10% to 30% of the electorate in 62 parliamentary seats and 130 state seats.
This fact brings home to us the importance of clean, free and fair elections. If elections can be rigged, then there is no need for the ruling party to appeal to the electorate, and the marginalization of any community can be conveniently ignored.
In fact, constituency redelineation may take place again in 2010. In other words, when another election is called in 2012 or so, the “kingmaker” role of the alienated voters – including marginalized Indians – will be expediently eliminated.
The last constituency redelineation in 2002 delivered PM Abdullah Badawi a whopping 91% parliamentary majority, although the BN received only 64% of votes. In the upcoming elections, Malaysians must not allow BN a huge majority to further distort the electorate’s choice and replicate another 91% majority in 2012 or so.
As Hindus make their religious vows and carry the kavadi on Thaipusam, let us all as Malaysians make our civil vow to push forward for electoral reform. Only with clean, free and fair elections can we make sure the Government keep their vows to advance the people’s welfare and govern the country in a clean, fair and transparent way.