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Bersih 5 and the struggle against kleptocracy

The Bersih 5 crowd outside KLCC on 19 November 2016

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What Bersih 5 has highlighted to Malaysians and the world at large is the presence of a kleptocracy at the heart of Malaysian politics, writes K Haridas.

For over three decades this Barisan Nasional-led government has subtly used the need for stability to secure votes from many trusting Malaysians.

They have used this time and again to strengthen their hold on power, and today I feel they have exploited the trust of many Malaysians.

The BN government has fallen victim to greed, and this can be ascertained by the high levels of corruptions that are so evident. Even after nearly six years since the 1MDB scandal was first exposed here, we are nowhere near the truth because powerful people are ensuring that the revealing of information will be restricted.

The independent panel that was established was then subverted. The Public Accounts Committee with its ‘cari maken’ chairman even had the audacity to remove paragraphs from the final report without reference to members of the committee. The auditor’s report is meanwhile protected under the Official Secrets Act – to protect vested interests?

The conduct and behaviour of the attorney general and the inspector general of police have led to a serious erosion of trust in the government.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice came out with a scathing report establishing facts about how 1MDB money was squandered in the United States.

The whole story of donations has now become the butt of jokes. With loyalty to the leader as the primary virtue, we have crony after crony stretching the truth. Some even said that they had met the donors and heard their explanations.

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They say that one measure of leadership is the calibre of people who choose to follow you – the likes of Ku Nan, Rahman Dhalan and Said Keruak to mention some.

Why Bersih is necessary

It is not easy to get several hundreds of thousands of people to go out on the streets for a cause. This is what Bersih has achieved. People would not do so unless they had genuine grievances which are not being addressed.

When a ruling government does not respond to a call for clean elections; clean government; the strengthening of parliamentary democracy; upholding the right to dissent and the empowerment of Sabah and Sarawak – all of which are genuine concerns – then people have no alternative but to take to the streets.

This is not the first Bersih walk and hopefully not be the last. What it does highlight to fellow Malaysians and the world at large is the presence of a kleptocracy at the heart of Malaysian politics. This is what has become of our democracy because we lacked vigilance.

When you have a prime minister who is also the finance minister then the system of checks and balances is compromised and it is easier to mismanage funds. In most kleptocracies, the country’s treasury soon becomes a source of personal wealth. Public funds are then spent on luxury goods and an extravagant life style.

The press is muzzled; the Sedition Act is used against those who raise key issues; the legislature serves as a rubber-stamp; and legislation like the Official Secrets Act is used to hide and protect people in power and their misdemeanours while convicting whistleblowers.

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Use the appropriate channels, say those in power. The problem is, there are no independent channels left. The government of the day is not interested in the issues raised by Bersih because they are complicit in all that is going on.

When a party remains in power for six decades and there is unrest as we have seen, this only underlines the manipulative ways they have used to remain in power.

A former chairman of the Electoral Commission has personally admitted that electoral boundary reviews are conducted with the objective of ensuring outcomes in favour of the ruling party.

In the last general election, the ruling party won only about 48 per cent of the popular vote but secured 60 per cent of the parliamentary seats. The opposition, on the other hand, captured 51 per cent of the popular vote but only got 40 per cent of the seats.

Such blatant injustice is evident; hence, the call for electoral reforms.

Exploitation of power

The Constitution clearly states that the number of electors within each constituency should be equal but there may be some variation taking into account rural areas and size.

The latest delineation exercise only highlights the lack of parity in the value of the vote to such an extent that it shows gross inequality of the ballot value.

This is Umno-BN’s approach to conducting elections. This is a serious insult to the notion of justice in Islam nor does it reflect the practices of good Muslims.

In a country where there is so much talk of hudud and halal, why is it that political parties like Pas are not in the forefront of advocating fairness and justice? They seem only interested in crimes, dress code and everything hollow!

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There is enough evidence of exploitation and misuse of power. MO1 then has the audacity to say that rallies do not bring benefits to the country. He wants Malaysians to uphold the rule of law when he and his party remains a bad example of the same. Already, people are suffering under kleptocratic rule.

Just like others before him, Najib’s name will over time be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Suharto of Indonesia, Marcos and Estrada of the Philippines, Alberto Fujimori of Peru and others from Haiti and Yugoslavia, and Putin of Russia. He will join the ranks of compromised or autocratic leaders.

This will bring added shame to the nation and to the legacy of his late father, Tun Razak. It is a matter of time and those who are now closeted with him including his present cabinet members will have to find places to hide their faces in shame.

There was more integrity on the streets of Malaysia during Bersih 5 than can be found in the present regime. We have to reclaim our Constitution and our democracy and ensure that justice for all Malaysians will be preserved.

In this quest, the cause of Bersih and those who participated in its rallies will ring loud into the future.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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