On 29-30 August, hundreds of thousands of Malaysians will gather in Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and cities abroad to express our aspiration for real independence, says Maria Chin Abdullah
Bersih! Bersih! Bersih! Bersih!
Fellow Malaysians, we are all here today with a heavy heart because our nation has arrived at a critical moment.
Now the people are suffering because of GST. The value of the ringgit has dropped so much: it is worse than the rate of RM4 for US$1.
At the same time, officials of the Attorney General’s Chambers, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the central bank (BNM) are being investigated by the police. One after another, top officials speak of their fear of arrest.
Corruption is now renamed “donation”. Defenders of democracy are accused of carrying out “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy”.
Investigators of crimes are being investigated. Whistleblowers of crimes are being investigated. Crime suspects are directing investigations.
Fellow Malaysians, corruption is destroying both our economy and our nation.
The people must rise up. We must rise up not to overthrow the government with violence or coercion. We must instead rise up to reject corrupt leaders and the political system that produces corrupt leaders: the more corrupt they are, the more powerful they seem to be.
This is why we are here tonight. This is why we will be in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu 15 days from now.
Bersih 4 will be a peaceful assembly of 34 hours, for the first time in Malaysia’s history. Bersih 4 will be our “vote of no-confidence” in Prime Minister Najib Razak and our political system.
Bersih 4 demands not just a clean prime minister and a clean government for now, but more importantly, a political system that will force all prime ministers and all governments to be clean.
A vote of no-confidence against Najib
Some accuse Bersih of being “partisan” for demanding that Najib step down. Others claim that this demand of Bersih is “detrimental to parliamentary democracy”. They do this in order to whip up the public’s fear of Section 124B of the Penal Code.
Allow me to answer both these accusations.
On 20 June, Bersih 2.0 demanded that PM Najib Razak refute the report by the Wall Street Journal that 1MDB funds were used by by him as a slush fund in the 13th General Elections. This allegation is serious enough to demolish any legitimacy for Najib to remain in office. Therefore Bersih demanded the Prime Minister to either refute the claim or to resign.
Fellow Malaysians, was this demand of Bersih reasonable?
On 6 July, after a further revelation that RM2.6bn went into Najib’s personal accounts, Bersih demanded that Najib take leave and take three other measures to ensure independent and credible investigations. We also demanded 10 institutional reforms to eliminate prime-ministerial corruption. We gave Najib one month, that is, until 5 August, to respond.
Fellow Malaysians, was that demand of Bersih reasonable?
On 27 and 28 July, Najib responded to Bersih with three actions:
(a) he paralysed the special taskforce on 1MDB by removing the Attorney General;
(b) he paralysed Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by making its chair and three other members ministers and deputy ministers; and
(c) he appointed a new chief for the police’s Special Branch.
Najib not only refused to take leave. By the actions I’ve just mentioned, he crippled the investigation of 1MDB.
On 29 July, in response, Bersih announced the plan for Bersih 4 to demand Najib’s exit and to demand institutional reforms.
Fellow Malaysians, is this demand of Bersih for Najib to step down reasonable?
Quit! Quit! Najib, quit!
Bersih does not lose its impartiality when it demands Najib’s resignation. Rather, any party is guilty of partiality if it supports Najib to stay on in such gravely scandalous circumstances.
Bersih does not undermine parliamentary democracy with the call for Najib to quit. Parliamentary democracy is based on “confidence”. The Prime Minister’s stay in office depends upon the confidence the majority of parliamentarians place in him. And any parliamentarian’s stay in office depends upon the confidence of the people.
Today, the people have lost their confidence in Najib. Yet Parliament has not convened an emergency meeting to ascertain whether Najib still enjoys the confidence of the majority of parliamentarians.
Our parliament has failed. This failure is in part due to the fact that the speaker is not an elected member of Parliament.
Bersih 4 will therefore be the expression of the people’s “vote of no confidence” in Najib.
We hope Najib will have the sense of shame to step down voluntarily. Otherwise, Parliament must pass a motion of no confidence in Najib.
Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate for the people to call for Najib’s resignation. This call of the people will strengthen our parliamentary democracy, not undermine it. In fact, it is those who try to obstruct the people from expressing their lack of confidence in Najib who are undermining parliamentary democracy and are guilty under Section 124B of the Penal Code.
A vote of no confidence in the political system that produces corruption
Bersih 4 does not only reject Najib.
Bersih 4 also rejects the political system which has produced corruption under Prime Ministers from Mahathir to Najib. Don’t just remember the 1MDB scandal under Najib which cost us RM42bn and forget the PKFZ (Port Klang Free Trade Zone) scandal under Mahathir that cost us RM12bn.
Changing the prime minister alone will not solve our problem. If we do not change the political system, the new prime minister will create his own scandals. Regardless of who succeeds Najib, whether it is Muhyiddin or Zahid, 1MDB and PKFZ will also be succeeded by new scandals.
Prime Minister and ministers don’t become corrupt just because of greed.
National leaders become corrupt when election outcomes can be predetermined and thereby enable them to be fearless of the people’s wrath.
National leaders become corrupt when they can paralyse or weaken the check-and-balance function of Parliament, the Attorney General’s Chambers, MACC and other agencies.
National leaders become corrupt when people are too afraid to protest, because of the fear of Section 124B of the Penal Code, the Sedition Act, Sosma, the Communications and Multimedia Act and the fear of police violence.
Therefore Bersih 4 is held to put forward five demands:
- Clean elections
- Clean governments
- Right to dissent
- Strengthening parliamentary democracy
- Saving Malaysia’s economy
Transitional government and 10-point institutional reforms
Some ask, what’s next after Bersih 4?
With a huge turnout, Bersih 4 will send a clear message to all parties plotting for the post-Najib arrangement. This message is that Malaysia needs the 10 institutional reforms presented by Bersih on 6 July:
- Reform of electoral system and process
- Reform of the Election Commission (EC)
- Separation of prime minister and finance minister
- Parliamentary reform
- Separation of the functions of attorney general and director of public prosecution
- Reform of the MACC
- Freedom of information laws
- Asset declaration by ministers and senior state officials
- Abolishment of/amendment to draconian laws
- Establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)
We demand that a transitional government be formed after Najib’s exit to bring about these 10 changes within 18 months. Only this can guarantee that the 14th General Elections can be conducted in a clean, free and fair manner to produce a legitimate and clean government.
Bersih’s past successes
- Bersih’s greatest success has been to move the people to take ownership of our nation.
- Bersih 1 in 2007 brought about the Political Tsunami in 2008.
- Bersih 2 in 2011 broke the walls of distrust between Malaysians from diverse ethnicities, faiths and cultures when they helped each other to face police brutality.
Bersih 3 in 2012 mobilised tens of thousands of Malaysians to clean up the 13th General Elections. The BN lost its popular vote for the first time since 1969 – winning only 47 per cent – but nevertheless retained power due to malapportionment and gerrymandering of constituencies. Last week, the Court of Appeal virtually gave the Election Commission the power to limit information provided to members of the public during the redelineation process.
Once again, Bersih 4 will release the sacred voice of the people. Bersih 4 will demand real democratisation to end corruption and save our economy.
With a loud and clear voice from the people, institutional reforms will have to happen. Whoever replaces Najib cannot run away from the fact that the people have spoken. If Najib’s successor insists on keeping the corrupt system, then there will be Bersih 5.
So far, many attacks have been thrown against Bersih 4:
- Some say this is Arab Spring.
- Some say we are cowards because we only stay for 34 hours.
- Some say we are partisan because we demand Najib’s resignation.
- Some say Bersih is a foreign agent.
They hope Bersih 4 will fail simply because there are too few people attending.
The only way for Bersih to overcome all the challenges is with the participation from each of you here, and Malaysians out there who love our nation, our democracy and our ringgit.
58 years ago, Malaya freed herself from British colonisation. 52 years ago, Sabah and Sarawak freed themselves from British colonisation.
While we have freed ourselves from external colonisation, we continue to suffer from internal colonisation caused by corruption, division along ethno-religious lines and authoritarianism.
Come 29 and 30 August, hundreds of thousands of Malaysians who gather on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and dozens of cities outside Malaysia will express our aspiration for real independence, both from within and without.
Hidup! Hidup! Hidup Bersih!
Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!
We see you at Dataran Merdeka Kuala Lumpur, Padang Merdeka Kuching and Kota Kinabalu 15 days from now!
Maria Chin is the chair of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (Bersih 2.0)
She delivered this speechat the launch of Bersih 4 at 10.00pm on 14 August 2015 at the Petaling Jaya City Council’s Civic Centre auditorium.