Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bersih rally goes global

由 Weshall Overcome 于 2011年7月7日17:51 发布

Bersih rally goes global
Teoh El Sen | July 7, 2011

Malaysians in more than 30 cities around the world will gather in a show of solidarity for Bersih 2.0's call for free and fair elections.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians living abroad will stage gatherings in 30 cities around the world in solidarity with Bersih 2.0′s “Walk for Democracy” on Saturday.

In Australia, organisers are expecting some 1,000 Malaysians or double that figure to turn up to support the call for free and fair elections.

“Over there, it’s not being viewed as an ‘anti-government’ protest but a solidarity movement. We’re appalled by the intimidation and roadblocks happening back home.

“Nobody is angry here, the mood is peaceful. We’re more concerned than anything else,” said Melbourne-based David Teoh, who is a key organiser of the rallies which will be held in several Australian cities.

Teoh said that in Australia, the police have been accommodating and offered more space than they have originally asked for.

“In Melbourne itself, we’re expecting some 500 people including even Australian parliamentarians,” said the 26-year-old architect.

“There’s a lot of excitement. Late last night, we were preparing buntings and banners. It’s very heartening to see people express their love and loyalty to the country and doing something as meaningful as this.

“I don’t think many of them have experienced this… this has actually helped unite the people. In Malaysia, the situation is absolutely ridiculous; we see it as the government going back on its undertaking to negotiate. We are quite upset.

“Until we can have clean and fair elections, we truly believe that Malaysia cannot step into its own greatness. There is a jarring lack of integrity in our national institutions as the very words that created our country have been totally ignored,” said Teoh, who is also the pro-tem president of SABMoz (Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia di Australia).

Besides supporting Bersih’s eight demands for free and fair elections, the global movements are also urging the Election Commission to allow people working overseas the right to vote via postal ballots.

“One of the key things for Malaysians living abroad is the right to vote by post. Right now, only civil servants and students are allowed to vote,” said Temme Lee, a Bersih staff here assisting the efforts of Malaysians overseas.
Lee said Bersih is finalising a memorandum that solidarity movements can use to send to their Malaysian embassies.

Gatherings in the US
Meanwhile in the US, New York City organiser Lee Leng-Feng said that quite a number of the global movements are simply small groups of Malaysians who do not want to sit at home while their fellow Malaysians marched.

“I cannot stand watching my fellow countrymen walk while I do nothing here. I was ‘forced’ to organise one. All other Bersih organisers in the US have a similar story – we want to walk, but we could not find anyone to organise one, so we organised one ourselves,” said the Klang-born post-doctoral fellow in a university there.

Lee said that so far only fewer than 30 have confirmed their attendence, but added: “Even if it’s just me alone, I will walk on July 9.”

“I have friends who told me ‘you are not going to change anything by walking’. I even have friends telling me ‘I am not going back to Malaysia, so this is none of my business’. You get discouraged. But there are more people around the globe telling me I’m not alone,” he said.

Lee said that he felt ashamed when he read how people were physically attacked by the police during the 2007 Bersih rally.

“I do worry if I will get into trouble the next time I travel back to Malaysia. But I guess that is exactly what the government wants – they want us to be afraid and stay at home. But if I don’t do anything, as I said before, I will not forgive myself. And what I am really afraid of is that 10 years from now, my children will ask me why I didn’t do anything to save the country and I cannot answer them,” he said.

In Los Angeles, organiser James Cheng said: “I’m just a regular expatriate like everyone else here, wanting to be a small part in making a big difference.”

“The response is pretty good… I agree that there are some who think that this is meaningless, but I’m not doing this for them. Rather it’s for my belief that I am doing a small part in fighting for democracy and a better Malaysia for my children and other future generations.

“A lot of us have been following the situation in Malaysia and many of us are disappointed. After knowing about Bersih 2.0, I want to walk with the people and let the government know that enough is enough. We are not happy, and we want to be heard,” he added.

International media coverage
The global movements have also attracted media attention. In Australia, Teoh will be interviewed by ABC today and in South Korea, newspaper organisations are covering the event.

“We are getting local support from a Korean human rights NGO and have been given coverage in local newspapers such as the Korea Herald Tribune,” said Alfian Tahir, an organiser in Seoul.

“Why are we doing this? I am non-partisan. I have yet to register myself as a voter because I don’t believe in the system. Bersih’s demands are clear, such as the usage of indelible ink which was cancelled at the last minute in 2008.

“In 2009, Afghanistan used such ink and the people could still go to the mosque and pray, but in Malaysia it is funny how religious scholars say Muslims can’t pray after using the ink,” said Alfian, 25, who is doing an internship programme with a Korean human rights NGO.

Bersih rallies will also be held in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the US and Cambodia.