Speech by BERSIH 2.0 chairperson at Opposition Leader’s 2014 State of the Nation Address

Speech by Maria Chin Abdullah, Chairperson of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) at the Opposition Leader’s State of the Nation Address: Towards A Cohesive Nation, on 9 July 2014 at the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur.


Good evening to everyone. Thank you, Dato’ Seri, for giving me this opportunity. I am very impressed and welcome this consultative effort although we could have done this a year ago. But nevertheless this is a start for us to collectively do our part to heal our nation and especially when we have a failed BN leadership.

Dato’ Seri, our present BN leadership has shown to us what we do not need:

  • leaders who still depend on the vote bank to guide their actions and continue to play the race and religious cards to divide the people;
  • leadership that goes into deafening silence when the nation and the people cry out for clear direction;
  • leaders who only see Putrajaya as the end goal;
  • leaders who will not blink an eye to use and encourage violence in order to maintain their power and position; and
  • leaders who don’t support free and fair elections.

What the people desperately need is not only a voice of reason that rises beyond our failed national leadership but an empowering leadership that is focused, fair, just, inclusive and shows tolerance to all peoples in Malaysia.

The nation is crying out for this leadership. Because over the last three years Malaysians have braved tear gas, chemical laced water cannons, detention and faced police brutality. They broke through the barriers of race and religion and became one nation on the streets of KL and beyond. We had the momentum then.

But unfortunately that momentum is now at its low ebb after May 5. 

We need to re-build ourselves, the nation, and win back the hearts and minds of the people. We need an empowering leadership that will stand up for the people and be counted even when it is up against all odds – including having to deal with painful issues. People must feel empowered and regain that confidence and trust to collectively continue on again.

I will only highlight three things that I want to see this empowering leadership do. So here goes:


  1. Establishing a parliamentary democracy that will bring about just and fair reforms.

Dato’ Seri, as the Prime Minister in waiting, you hold 51% of the peoples’ voice and this is already the key reason why your leadership can illuminate Parliament. You can make Parliament the real seat of power, where policies and laws can be fully deliberated and where consensus is sought and reached with full participation all round.

It is painful to watch how MPs are getting bullied on an almost daily basis.

There are key parliamentary reforms that need to happen, such as:

  • establishing the much-awaited shadow cabinet to have an effective check on the BN ministers. Re-activate the PR shadow cabinet and really engage in challenging and monitoring the performance of the ministers who are making loads of mistakes. Show how critical policies and laws can be tabled and debated in Parliament; and
  • calling for a review of the Speakers’ powers, advocating for permanent bi-partisan select committees and standing committees to bring about consultative reform to legislation and ensure a high level of people’s participation instead of having bloated cabinet ministers, pushing for the amendment of the Standing Orders to bring about discipline and critical deliberations in Parliament, and many more.

The voice of the 51% must be heard in Parliament.

BERSIH 2.0 is gathering NGOs and experts to advocate for parliamentary reform and we certainly look forward to PR’s leadership to support our reform process.


  1. Speaking up on delineation.

The second issue is about the up-coming delineation. We have to make sure that the next general election is not going to be determined by the Election Commission (EC) through their dubious and biased constituency delineation. This must not happen. As a national leader, Dato’ Seri, you can lead by opening up the system for reform that is empowering and democratic.

BERSIH has already begun to mobilise residents on delineation and through our Delineation Action and Research Team (DART), we have shown them how they can determine the boundaries and their constituencies, and how to raise objections if the redelineation is unfair. But we need to hear your voice as well.


  1. Seat increase

EC has confirmed that there will be seat increase.

I want to raise a caution here: EC will ensure BN has more safe seats. This will widen the PR-BN seat gap even more. And EC will and can do this, through gerrymandering and mal-apportionment as well as “administrative errors”, to ensure that BN maintains its present winnings if not more. Then we will be back to Square One, if not worse.

Therefore, the issues that need the leadership’s decision and direction are as follows: 

  1. The leadership must decide on the size of the Parliament for the next 10 to 20 years, if not for good. The consideration must be on what size will make the Parliament more effective, inclusive and participatory. But unfortunately, we are letting seat increase to determine the size of Parliament. Every two years seats are topped up – by approximately 14%. There is no discussion on what makes up the appropriate size of a Parliament. But the crucial question is – do you want more YBs or a YAB?
  1. There is a need to show cohesiveness in deciding on seat increase. The agreement has to be made together and not separately among the PR partners. “Doing your own thing” will never work because at the end of the day it will be the Rakyat who will lose out in the political game.

These are the key points that I would like to raise. Others that are crucial and of great concern as well are about ensuring clean and fair elections at all levels, taking on hard issues like race, religion and identities without being weighed down by the vote bank and the economic development of this country.

With this, thank you very much. Salam BERSIH!