What comes after?

July 16, 2011

I read accounts of what happened July 9th and I regret not being able to recount any acts of bravado nor put my body on the line for the sake of fellow malaysians.  A cousin from Japan came to Singapore that day, and so I was probably tucking into expensive dim sum in Takashimaya when marches started gathering steam sporadically around KL city, and while protesters were tear gassed I was probably inside a car in the Singapore flyer explaining the skyline to him.

As it had transpired, I count myself as one of the “silent majority” of citizens who did not attend the demonstration, though hardly in PM Najib’s definition of the phrase. We are a majority of people who were fence sitters or procrastinators or glass-half-emptiers or for whatever reason we had to not attend that day, I believe we will no longer be silent.

The brave people who rallied that day gave us the entire nation the courage and the impetus to act.

Bersih 2.0 is a grassroots initiative demanding reforms to be taken up by the Election Commission to ensure clean elections & fair representation of voters, remains apolitical to the extent of even admonishing opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as an opportunistic hijacker when he said in days leading up to the event that he would cancel the rally if demands were met. The Bersih movement was probably defined that day, serving notice that it is not to be a tool used by political opposition to serve their interests, but one that is endorsed by all citizenry, one that includes old women clutching flowers & wheelchair bound patriarchs. 

Often in the past I thought “so what?” if by some miracle the opposition were to win a general election and take control of the country, a more likely scenario is that a PR coalition government would succumb quickly to infighting within its ranks, beset by an inertia of not being able to enact painful but necessary kaizen measures for fear of losing power, be it the continued dependance on Petronas money or the cutting of subsidies or trimming the bloated civil service.  More importantly, would they possess the will to enact exactly the same 8 points raised by Bersih on electoral reform and risk losing power in subsequent elections? And the people who were so brave on the streets, when the day comes and the country needs you, would you come to its aid and collectively tighten belts and support your representatives through thick and thin? 

However precipitous the road shall be, July 9th was a turning point and a vital first step in the path to building a mature and inclusive society.  It is a seismic paradigm shift in that through our shouts & protests that we witnessed fear in our government, who brought about swift oppression in the only way they know how, in which we the silent majoriity in turn received our political awakening. In the photos that later emerged, we were able to witness displays of courage in average citizens who were no longer afraid of the powers that be, exhibiting traits not unlike the unknown hero who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen.  The silent majority will continue to take the fight in making our votes count, though we must know that with power comes responsibility, that it will be us who will be accountable, not BN, not PR, nor any other political party. I remind you that we must have the fortitude to overcome roadblocks in terms of difficult transformations the country will surely go through.

And yet it is not enough. We must continue to shout, we must continue to wear yellow on saturdays, we must register our kids as anak malaysia, we must continue to question authority, and in order to do all these we must learn to speak freely and without fear, which is why we must also elect representatives who would act to repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Sedition Act & abolish the ISA, the Official Secrets Act.

There must be a day the malay majority in Malaysia elects a gay, non muslim, non malay woman to become Prime Minister, and holds her accountable only by the virtue of her work.




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