‘Good people disobey bad laws’ is a memorable aphorism posted on the excellent – and witty – Malaysian media portal, The New Straight Times.
Bersih 3.0 next Saturday, April 28, will be an crucial public expression of our contempt of the bad laws and bad faith of the Umno-led government, and Umno’s servants in the discredited Election Commission, or EC.
On April 20, Umno forced several electoral law amendments through Parliament in unseemly haste, in order to obstruct monitoring of polling.
The only possible explanation for these frenzied amendments is that the EC intends to help Umno cheat at the upcoming General Election, GE13. The EC demands respect, but deserve none.
We Sarawakians have a right – and a duty – to cast our votes in free and fair elections.
Our voice is heard loudest in elections, but we will not be silenced in between elections. Our voice will also be heard, loud and clear, at Bersih 3.0, at other public demonstrations like the Stop Lynas rallies, and through the independent internet news portals.
Our vote at GE13 will determine whether Umno and BN will continue to steal money from us, lie to us, and throw us in jail for protesting about it, or whether a competitive two-coalition system will take its next step to improve our children’s future.
Umno and the EC are doing all they can to silence our voice. They are doing all they dare to buy votes, and steal votes when we refuse to sell our votes.
Bersih is cleansing Malaysia
Bersih 2.0 last July 9 made a huge difference to our political future. For the first time ever, 50,000 young people of all ethnic groups gathered together peacefully, to call for clean elections.
These multi-ethnic demonstrators shared water and salt when they were attacked with tear-gas, and helped one another survive the torment of police beatings, tear gas and water cannon. Some shopkeepers gave out water for free.
We ought to support such intercultural bridging, and the shared, peaceful freedom of expression found at Bersih.
In one single day, July 9, Bersih made a startling contribution towards cleansing Malaysians of the fear of the May 13 riots.
Umno, on the other hand, had been feeding this fear for four decades, in an attempt to intimidate us to allow them to stay in power.
It is now only a matter of time before Umno is replaced by a cleaner government.
Bersih 2.0 also stimulated awareness of our voting rights, and of the necessity for clean elections.
As a result, Umno was even forced to set up a sham Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to ‘study’ electoral reforms.
In the end, though, only one of Bersih 2.0′s eight demands – the use of indelible ink – was approved by the BN-dominated PSC. Even this reform has been negated by Umno’s new legal amendments blocking the monitoring of indelible ink, repeat voters and phantom voters.
‘No official permits’
Bersih 3.0 is expected to produce an even bigger crowd than last July’s, and there will be simultaneous rallies in Kuching, Miri and Sibu.
Bersih 3.0 will undoubtedly open the eyes of BN and Pakatan Rakyat alike to ‘people power’ and the urgency for meaningful electoral reform – not the anaemic efforts of the PSC.
But what of the claims by senior policemen, DBKL and DBKU officials that Bersih 3.0 gatherings have ‘no official permits’?
These statements are like spitting into the wind. They will only encourage more defiance and bigger crowds. These attempts to impose burraucratic power will not sit well with our rebellious younger generation, and will only encourage even more youths to join hands on April 28.
After all, Umno even went to the extent of threatening violence, ‘discovering’ parangs and arresting the EO6 without trial for a month. Umno even clowned around by proclaiming yellow T-Shirts illegal.
All Umno’s desperate measures only produced even larger crowds last July 9.
The Peaceful Assembly Bill, hurriedly introduced to try to stave off Bersih 3.0, has failed miserably. Its
provisions are blatantly unjust and are routinely ignored.
When confronted with bad and unjust laws, we have a moral duty to disobey them, so that these laws will be reformed or abolished.
Henry Thoreau, an American revolutionary opposed to black slavery and an unjust war against Mexico in 1848, insisted he would not support his government’s evil policies. He refused to pay taxes, since the taxes were used to finance war and slavery, and was jailed as a result.
“Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” Thoreau asked in his influential essay, ‘Civil Disobedience’.
His essay inspired the great civil disobedience leaders of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I became convinced that non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good,” Reverend King wrote. “No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest.”
People power in Sarawak
We Sarawakians, too, can find a spark in Thoreau’s writings. Thoreau called on every citizen to follow his conscience, in the face of an unjust government and evil laws.
“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”
We in Sarawak should participate in Bersih 3.0 to reclaim our role as the source of all legitimate power in government.
The Rakyat are the bosses, not the BN ministers or police, and certainly not the EC, DBKL or DBKU.
“There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognise the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.”
The only way to make the State recognise our power is to speak up. Let’s start at Bersih 3.0 at 2pm, next Saturday.