A Prosperous New Year with Clean Elections

Press Release
5 February 2008

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) wishes all Malaysians a free, happy and prosperous Chinese New Year. As the Chinese will traditionally clean up their home to celebrate the new year, we wish all Malaysians of diverse cultural background will take inspiration from this spirit to clean up the electoral process.

BERSIH wishes that the Malaysian economy may perform well amidst the volatile international economic climate and all Malaysians, especially the middle and lower classes, will enjoy higher quality of life rather than seeing their real income slashed by inflation.
Government plays an important role in the economic life of citizens through taxation, public spending and regulation. To ensure that the public office holders will pursue the general interests of the wider citizenry, rather than the special interest of their own families and friends require an effective mechanism to sanction their misconduct and incompetence.
In democracies, such mechanism is elections. Elections must therefore be clean, free and fair so that the electorate can hire and fire their servants based on their capability and integrity, and not based on their ability and readiness to manipulate and intimidate.
In Malaysia, the elections are far from clean, free and fair. This explains why Indian Malaysians took it to the street for 50 years of marginalization although they were the most loyal supporters of the Alliance/BN government throughout the 50 years. Their aspirations are ignored because their votes do not count due to chronic malpractices like mal-apportionment, gerrymandering, mass transfers of voters, phantom voters, vote buying and intimidation.
Indian Malaysians are certainly not the only marginalized groups. Most of the farmers, fishermen, urban poor remain at the bottom of the society when state benefits are channeled to small pockets of beneficiary on the basis of partisanship. Similarly, women who make up half of the population suffer persistent sexual discrimination in the forms of violence against women, unequal pay and glass ceiling. Their plights fail to be addressed largely because our electoral system and process make their votes unimportant.
BERSIH invite all Malaysians, regardless of creed, faith, gender and class, to jointly clean up the electoral process in the new year. Because of the dirty elections, Malaysians were wooed like kings for two weeks in every five year and scorned like slaves for the rest of the five years. If we do not change this, whatever goodies catered now to the Indians, the farmers, the poor and other marginalized groups will disappear soon after elections.
In fact, the coming elections is a “buy-one-get-one-free” elections. With the next constituency redelineation exercise possibly two years away in 2010, if given a free hand, BN will sure to win big in 2012 or 2013. In other words, they can afford to alienate the electorate immediately after the next elections by raising more prices, demolishing more houses of worship, arresting more innocent citizens and censoring more news.
Like the custom of cleaning up home before the new year, let us Malaysians too clean up the electoral process. Let us sweep the arrogance, abuse of power and incompetence of ungrateful politicians and unprofessional civil servants into the dustbin of history.