Egyptian revolution must inspire people power in Sarawak

By Charles Santiago, The Malaysian Insider

We saw images of people in Tahrir Square crying, laughing, kneeling and kissing the ground as news of Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak’s, resignation spread. Pro-democracy supporters around the world cheered on to celebrate a revolution.

The end of the 82-year-old man’s autocratic rule is a victory for peoples’ power. Three hundred people died in the quest for freedom. Essentially the protests were not just about escalating prices and poverty but signal the need for the people to regain their democratic rights and dignity

As a mother of two, Olfa Tantawi, wrote: “This revolution is not just about poverty or need. The people on the streets are from all walks of life, rich and poor and are there because they want freedom. The people need a guarantee that whoever rules will at the end of the day, month, year go back to his home knowing that his initial identity is as an Egyptian citizen and not an everlasting ruler”.

I too celebrate this historic event, hoping it paves the way for a democratic rule in Egypt. Through sheer determination and willpower hundreds of thousands of protesters gave Mubarak, a man who had shamelessly done all of US and Israel’s bidding in return for billions in military aid, the boot.

Mubarak is gone. He has fled to Sharm-el-Sheikh, a Western-style holiday resort on the Red Sea.

But what exactly does the transition of power to the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces mean? It simply means that Egypt, which has been under a state of emergency for the past 30 years, would continue to be ruled by the military.

On top of this, the role of Vice President Omar Suleiman is vague, to say the least. According to WikiLeaks and prominent army families in Egypt, Israel was lobbying Washington to ensure Suleiman was promoted to the presidency.

Suleiman was an army man just like Mubarak and collaborated with the CIA in extraordinary rendition programs during the United States war on terror. When Americans wanted to use the crudest torture techniques, their first stop was Egypt.

Former Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mohamed ElBaradei, has expressed confidence that the army would reach out to the wider spectrum of the Egyptian society and allow opposition parties the co-sharing of power for a transitional period.

This is too soon to tell. And furthermore who would curb the power of the army?

Closer to home

The people who took to the streets braving military tanks and live bullets had not just called for the departure of Mubarak, but also the formation of democratic institutions.

Therefore, the army must call for elections without undue delay. The people must be given the right to vote the next government in.

Egypt needs the establishment of a constitution that guarantees freedom and human rights and a civilian-led government voted in by the people, which would look into equal distribution of wealth, create employment opportunities and make health and education affordable for all.

While its clear that Egyptians would now embark on a path for democracy, millions outside their country are inspired by Mubarak’s toppling from power.

Freedom for Palestinians is no more academic but a future reality. It is now even more possible to pressure Israel to lift the blockade imposed on the Gaza strip, a restriction which has plunged 1.5 million people into abject poverty.

Children have no choice but to scavenge for food on the streets and hospitals are turning away the terminally ill due to the lack of hospitals beds and medical supplies.

The Israeli government has only allowed a trickle of food, medicine and fuel into Gaza.

But all this could change within the blink of an eye just like the fall of Mubarak.

Closer to home, we have also seen the affects of the Egyptian uprising. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has warned that similar protests would not shake Umno and the ruling Barisan Nasional government which protect cronies, allow for rampant corruption, marginalize the poor, care two hoots about judicial independence and use various laws to curb dissent and freedom of speech, expression and assembly in the country.

The fact that Najib has issued such a warning demonstrates he is afraid of peoples power.