Bersih 2.0 co-chairman Datuk A. Samad Said openly called on voters on 6 April 2013 to support the opposition and use this “once chance” to end BN rule in GE13, reports Syed Jaymal Zahiid of the Malaysian Insider.
This is the first time the national literary icon, popularly known as Pak Samad, has openly urged Malaysians to back the federal opposition coalition to “overhaul” the government and “amend the broken machinery” like health care and education, which Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has promised to deliver.
“This is our chance… the time has come for us to overhaul the government to that power would fall in the right hands.
“This is our opportunity to amend the broken machinery like health care, education and democracy of which have been promised by the opposition,” he said at an event organised by polls reform group Bersih 2.0 in Selayang.
Bersih 2.0, a coalition of over 80 non-governmental organisations, has in the past been forced to defend itself against criticisms calling it a partisan group, largely due to the immense support it had received from PR leaders for its street protests.
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The former national laureate Samad said now is a critical time for voters to ask themselves why the same coalition has ruled Malaysia for more than five decades and why is it those in power are only Malays. “I am also a Malay but I often asked why is it that the powers above me are only Malays?
“Tunku Abdul Rahman was a Malay, (Tun) Abdul Razak was a Malay, (Tun) Hussein Onn was a Malay, (Tun Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad) is not a pure Malay but can be considered a Malay… (Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak) is also a Malay,” he said.
Despite a solid Malay leadership for 56 years, Samad pointed to the racist tactic used by the ruling coalition to keep the country’s ethnic majority on its side.
“So why are we repeatedly reminded that the Malay rights will be threatened?”
The private screenings of controversial ‘Tanda Putera’ film, purportedly depicting the May 1969 racial riots, only to Malays in the run-up to the elections was a testimony to the racism perpetrated by the BN government, he added.
“It is to sow fear in the heart of the Malays,” he said.
Bersih 2.0 is now leading the campaign to reform Malaysia’s polling system, which the coalition of rights groups claimed is rife with irregularities.
It is also launching a nationwide tour to educate voters on election laws aimed at making them ‘citizen observers’ and to reduce fraud including curbing vote-buying under its ‘Jom Pantau (Let’s Monitor)’ campaign.
Samad pointed to widespread vote-buying when the Najib administration gave out cash handouts to key constituents under the People’s 1 Malaysia Aid (BR1M) programme, which he said signalled BN’s fear that its rule would come to an end soon.
“You must ask why is it that the government had suddenly want to give out money? This government is desperate, that is why they even promised more BR1M,” he said.
Najib had said that BR1M, which started as a one-off RM500 cash aid to households earning less than RM3,000, could be an annual event if voters re-elect his coalition. In its first phase of distribution last year, the BN chairman’s approval rating stood at a high 69 per cent.
The opposition and rights groups, however, saw the programme as “blatant bribery”.
“Why is it that when the elections is near, the government suddenly realised that there are so many poor people and begin to give money?” Samad said.
“Take the money, never mind. But remember, you must look at the motive behind it. The money did not come from the ministers, they belong to the people, to this land. Do not once feel indebted to them,” he added.
Najib will be seeking to redeem BN’s record losses in the last elections through a stronger mandate, which will be his first as prime minister since he took over from the ousted Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2009.
Political pundits have said Election 2013 will be Malaysia’s tightest polls contest to date where BN is no longer the firm favourite as it faces the strongest opposition for the first time in the country’s political history.
Najib continues to warn voters against gambling the country’s future by supporting a divided pact and an untested government.
Samad called it a scare tactic and urged voters not to cave in.
“Do not fear, we can improve democracy,” he said.