The Bersih Truth Hurts

By Douglas Tan via Malaysian Digest

While our Prime Minister receives accolades from most quarters for the repeal of archaic acts such as the Banishment Act 1959 and the Restricted Residence Act 1993, questions must be asked about when the true reforms would be made.
Only now has Najib Razak instructed the Attorney-General to draft the two pieces of alternative legislation to the Internal Security Act (ISA), and he has continued to chide the opposition for claiming to be the champions of the repeal of the act. Clearly, the Prime Minister has not come prepared by announcing that the ISA would be abolished without having anything prepared to replace it.

The circus does not stop there. The Medical Device Authority act gives the police the authority to seize any medical devices as evidence with the approval of the Health Minister. In our system where Ministerial authority for criminal matters should be diminished, the wide scope of the act shows that this Barisan Nasional (BN) government is as authoritarian as ever, and has no intention to change.

Question Time was intriguing as it forced Ministers to come clean with the information behind their recent actions. Actions are not without consequences, and as it transpires, the justification given for their actions are nothing short of laughable.

No rally has been publicized as much as Bersih 2.0, branded by the mainstream media as the July 9th illegal rally. Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has been put under an enormous amount of scrutiny as to how the event was handled, and now the spotlight has been redirected at him as he attempts to explain the actions taken and the cost.

As we all now know, there were over 11,000 police personnel at a cost in excess of RM2 million borne by the taxpayers. This enormous figure compared with their official claims that only 6,000 people turned up for the rally and that almost 1,700 people were arrested smacks of inefficiency and waste in itself!

Or could it be that there were really 50,000 on the ground that day and the police presence and cost was a proportional response to keep public order? The Home Ministry can argue about the facts, but when it comes to footing the bill, it becomes difficult to justify the sheer cost of it all.

Repealing the ISA would make Malaysia the best democracy in the world, chimes the Prime Minister, but the Home Minister continues to deem Bersih as an illegal organization as they intended to “overthrow the government”.

This line of reasoning is a result of paranoia rather than fact. The intent was to reform the electoral system, not to overthrow the government! This is not a justification, rather just a convenient, albeit farfetched, explanation to defend the indefensible.

Finally, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai once again has egg on his face. After his public denial that no teargas or chemical laced water was shot at Tung Shin Hospital, the Home Ministry report conceding that the police has breached their own Standard Operating Procedures is a massive slap on the face.

After all the fuss about Lim Guan Eng apologizing for his gaff about Johor security, can we also expect an apology from the Health Minister? Or shall we expect more excuses, and the same holier-than-thou hypocrisy that we are used to?

Either way, BN have displayed their true colors yet again by failing to walk the talk. With these half-hearted measures taken to reforms, they are asking for punishment from the Rakyat in the looming General Elections.