Ambiga: Street demonstrations not the way to topple governments

(Malay Mail) – Street demonstrations should not be used to topple governments, Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan has said, appearing to take a different stand from those who have been rallying against the May 5 polls in Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) “Black 505” protests.

The Bersih 2.0 chairman told an interview in The Star today that while she felt that such public gatherings are constitutionally provided for, it was better to change a government though the ballot boxes.

“No,” Ambiga said when asked if she was in favour of demonstrations to topple governments. “We haven’t come to that point.”

“For me, we can still change the system without resorting to that (street demonstrations),” she added in the interview, which was published in verbatim by the English daily.

The known lawyer and civil rights activist stressed the importance of empowerment and education in the fight to affect change but lamented that the right information has not quite reached the Malaysian audience.

She said affecting change through education would be far more enduring, adding that it was this method that the electoral reforms group she co-chairs – Bersih 2.0 – has been advocating.

But when asked if she favoured the use of street demonstrations to force resignations, much like Bersih 2.0’s and PR’s repeated demands for the Election Commission (EC) to be sacked, Ambiga said she found no fault with that.

“To me, that’s okay,” she said. “Bringing down a government is far more serious because there was an election, however flawed it may be.”

“You don’t need to change a government that way. It is far better if we can do it through the ballot box.

“If at all it comes to a changing of government, we want to do it through the ballot box.

“That is my personal view. But we must not be deprived of the chance to do it through the ballot box in a clean election,” she added.

In the aftermath of the May 5 general election, PR declared that it would not accept the polls results, arguing that it was only through fraud and widespread rigging that the ruling coalition of Barisan Nasional (BN) had emerged victors once again.

The federal opposition pact, led by its leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, lost to BN by a smaller majority than Election 2008, garnering 89 seats to the latter pact’s 133 seats.

Despite missing its shot at Putrajaya by a mile in terms of seat numbers, PR won the popular vote when it scored more than 51 per cent of the votes cast.

Dissatisfied by the results, PR leaders, backed by a large segment of Malaysia’s burgeoning civil society movement, have been protesting the results of the polls through its series of “Black505” rallies.

Scores of politicians and activists have even been arrested and many slapped with sedition charges when they were allegedly heard urging Malaysians to take to the streets to topple the BN government.

Student activist Adam Adli was among those charged after he was hauled in for telling a May 13 forum shortly after the polls that the only way to topple the BN government was not through elections but street protests.

Ambiga, who had accompanied Adam Adli to court when he was charged last month, maintained today that Bersih 2.0 would continue withholding its recognition of the newly-elected BN government until the outcome of its “People’s Tribunal”.

She said the tribunal should kick off hearings by September and despite not having any legal standing to affect changes to the election results, its findings would be a “more force” to fight for electoral reform.

“We hope with those findings, we can move the agenda for reforms much more quickly because it will be based on findings and fact rather than speculation,” she said.