'Jom Bersih' moved to Kuala Terengganu

Llew-Ann Phang (The Sun)
KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 1, 2008): The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) has decided to take a calculated and reduced risk to hold its Jom Bersih Festival scheduled for Feb 22 in Kuala Terengganu.
This also comes after attempts to reserve a venue in Kuala Lumpur were rejected by the management of the likes of the Bukit Jalil Stadium, Merdeka Stadium, Dataran Merdeka and the Taman Melawati Stadium.
The steering committee, in a press conference today, announced that they had taken into account factors of public security and logistical advantages.
When asked about why they decided to change the venue this round for a rally as opposed to Nov 11 when Bersih organised the march from Dataran Merdeka to the Royal Palace, Bersih steering committee member Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad said the most important thing is for the message to get through.
“Wherever we hold it , be it in Penang, Kota Baru or Kuala Terengganu, if there is a massive turnout, the message that Malaysians want a reformed electoral system will get across.
“The important thing is to do it tactfully and the voters’ education for a reform. Even if we lose in the elections after that, at least we can say we tried,” he said.
Lawyer Haris Ibrahim who was also in the press conference added that after the events of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) rally, the point was not to be confrontational.
Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) associate research fellow Wong Chin Huat who is also part of the coalition added: “It is the government who has become more confrontational and we care for the tourism industry so much, we shifted the venue.”
Before the press conference, Bersih stalwarts tore up pictures of Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman and of voting boxes.
“It has never been our intention to make individual targets of our criticisms but we have criticised for improvement to the election system.
“However, Abdul Rashid has become the single, greatest stumbling block to this reform and this records our greatest disappointment.
“He should be giving guarantee to the reform but he said the opposition front can boycott the elections. Today, he is our enemy,” Dzulkifli said.
Bersih steering committee member Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi also announced that a small delegation of about 10 people from the coalition will hand over a second memorandum to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Feb 15.
“The memorandum will re-emphasise our demands that we have made not just for the upcoming general election but for it to continue before and thereafter, regardless of who wins or loses,” Syed Azman said.
In an earlier press conference, the Civil Society Initiative for Parliamentary Reform (CSI-Parliament) which is being led by 21 activists from all fields, launched its movement which will be centred on making better changes for the country through a reformed Parliament.
Led by the likes of women activists Maria Chin Abdullah, Zaitun Kasim, Centre for Independent Journalism executive director V. Gayathri, Coalition against Water Privatisation chairman Charles Santiago and Haris who is also an activist, they intend to see that each and every candidate standing for the election will sign their endorsement form.
“The endorsement very clearly states our expectation for our representatives, what we want them to portray and undertakings which fall under them if and when they are elected,” said Petaling Jaya community leader Edward Lee.
CSI is also disseminating “Time for Change” pamphlets which contain its wish-list for a better future for Malaysians and their families, urging them to vote without fear and to vote for a better Malaysia.
“The challenge is to retain a Parliament for the people because it now appears to represent the ruling elite, the economic elite and the political elite.
“Generally, the poor is forgotten and we have to ensure that the people and issues are effective and adequately addressed,” said Santiago.
Zaitun reminded the people of instances when Members of Parliament (MPs) had uttered racist and sexist remarks to tapping on the table – which signalled approval from their fellow MPs.
“We need MPs who are accountable to people voting them in and we can’t vote for people who make racist or sexist statements in Parliament.
“We should vote for people who are making a change,” said Zaitun.
The CSI-Parliament also launched its mission statement which looks toward the upholding principles for a vibrant, representative and participatory democracy, promoting institutional reform, improving social-economic policies and it also looks toward monitoring candidates who signed its endorsement to scrutinise how they carry out doing their duties.
Updated: 04:59PM Fri, 01 Feb 2008