Press Statement (13 March 2019): Heed The Agong’s Call For Unity, Move Away From Identity Politics

Bersih 2.0 fully support the Agong’s speech at the opening of the second session of the 14th Parliament. We are especially encouraged by His Majesty’s call for genuine unity among Malaysians that goes beyond sloganeering but one that is pursued with sincerety and appreciation.

As an election watchdog body, Bersih 2.0 monitors how politicians campaign during elections, whether they comply with election laws or not. In recent months we have noticed a rise in narrow identity politics, with speeches and insensitive remarks that create ill-feelings and disharmony among the different races and religions of this country.

We are deeply concerned that politicians in their eagerness to win votes and gain political power, would sacrifice our nation’s peace and harmony. For us, electoral victories won at the cost of creating deep wounds in our delicate social fabric of our communities, is not only irresponsible and hollow but put our nation on a dangerous path to civil strife.

We call on politicians from both sides of the divide to take heed to the wise words of the Agong, who obviously cares deeply for all his subjects, to cease exploiting communal insecurities and start bridging the divide. As political leaders, they can be good examples of civility and honour in how they compete for the hearts and votes of the people, or be bad examples of selfish, narrow-minded or worse, racially divisive leaders.

Bersih 2.0 also acknowledges that politicians are not solely responsible for the existing communal tensions. In today’s social media empowered environment, citizens play a big part in fuelling the tension by posting racially charged and religiously insensitive comments that causes anger and hatred to others. There must be refrain from all provocative postings.

For democracy to work in multi-cultural Malaysia, it has to be inclusive, taking into consideration the views and concerns of all communities. Democracy is not just about the rule of the majority at the expense of the minority and definitely no groups should be deprived of their fundamental rights as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution but all groups, especially the most marginalised and weakest among us, be protected and not targeted to score political credits.

Bersih 2.0 opines that now is a good time for Malaysia to consider an electoral system other than the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system that we inherited from the British to a system that takes into consideration the representational concerns of our various ethic and minority communities and achieve the 30 percent women representation in our Parliament.

FPTP creates a winner-takes-all scenario that in Malaysia pushes parties to “go for broke” which increases the toxicity of political rhetoric whereas a form of proportional representation system would give a voice to all.

As a nation, we need to move away from narrow identity politics and find ways to forge a new national identity. To do so, we need to put aside racial and religious generalisation and graduate from mere tolerance to sincere mutual respect and acceptance of each other’s unique ethnic and religious heritage.

Bersih 2.0 calls on all politicians to put aside narrow communal agendas and come together for all Malaysians and the nation. Be champions of all Malaysians and we will all enjoy the fruits of peace and harmony, which is prosperity for all. Divide and we will all reap misery, hate and strife.

As such, Bersih 2.0 is very appreciative of the timeliness of the Agong’s speech. It is time for all of us to come together to resolve the daily concerns of the people, strengthen our democratic institutions and fulfill our common aspiration to become a modern and progressive society.

Statement issued by :

Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0