Saturday, July 9, 2011

Starting with a clean slate?

Today is 9 July 2011 and the local time is 4.48pm.

It is quiet over here as I type my post into my laptop while seated on my bed with the windows open. There is only the occasional sound of birds chirping from the nearby trees outside and the sporadic roar of cars as they make their way in and out of this peaceful neighbourhood.

But it is by no means serene in other parts of the Klang Valley.

Downtown in Kuala Lumpur (KL), the capital city of Malaysia, things are abuzz as huge crowds have gathered in various spots around the city. Their aim: to march towards the famed Stadium Merdeka in protest of the lack of free and fair elections in Malaysia.

The catalyst? Bersih 2.0, a self-proclaimed civil society movement which was re-launched this year and has been at the forefront of championing this cause. (Bersih, in our national language, Malay, means "clean".)

National media has been peppered with reports of all kinds concerning Bersih for the past few weeks. News initially arose about a rally that Bersih planned to hold in KL on 9 July in order to march to the palace and present a memorandum to the Agong.

From then on, a chain of events ensued at an accelerated pace. Other opposing groups resorted to organising rallies of their own at the same venue and date to go against Bersih. Not long afterward, Bersih is outlawed and people in various locations around the nation start to be arrested for promoting the Bersih rally. The government began issuing warnings that those who persisted in wanting to attend any such rally would risk being dealt with.

The Agong stepped in to advise both Bersih and the ruling government, Barisan National (BN) to hold discussions and reach an amicable decision. Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, chairperson for Bersih, agrees to hold the rally in a stadium rather than taking to the streets amidst promises by the ruling government that this would be allowed.

However, the situation changed by the day and soon Bersih found that it is not even allowed to hold a rally in any stadium at all. Least of all Stadium Merdeka.

Yet Bersih and their opposers still stubbornly insist on carrying on with the rally.

The day of the rally has now come, and now in KL, throngs of Malaysians have gathered to brave water cannons, tear gas  and possible police violence to reach the rally's venue. It is both scary and exciting to be in the nation as these events unfold.

Although I do support Bersih's cause, I am not in KL for the rally because I do not really like the idea of street protests and am uncomfortable with the thought that not everyone out there is of the same mind although it may seem that way on the surface. There are political undertones to the event, some of which I also may not be in favour of.

Yet it is amazing to note that someone like me, who is for the most part politically apathetic, has actually started blogging about these current incidents taking place in my homeland.  It is a sign that recent events within the nation are starting to have a noticeable impact on its citizens. It is indeed impossible to be unaffected by the sentiments and circumstances as they unfold.

The truth of the matter is that Malaysia is by no means a first world country yet, and we've still a long way to go.

But change is good, in fact even necessary, in order for us to progress. It will probably take much more than this 9 July rally to transform our nation, but hope is budding in so many ways for us here. It is, after all, typically through struggles and difficulties and changes that we grow.

Proactiveness definitely has a place in driving this process. It would be a shame if no one in this country stood up for what they believe and risked doing something in order to make things better.

After all, looking back, we at times still suffer from the decisions of our forefathers, many of whom had been awfully apathetic about many aspects concerning the nation thus resulting in some of the ludicrous policies and practices that we now find ourselves stuck with today.

I look forward to a day when Malaysia will no longer be fighting corruption but will be living in integrity. For a time when fellow countrymen would see each other as Malaysians, and shed racial and religious labels. For a truly free economy that encourages businesses to thrive and which elevates excellence as the most respected and renowned value of the (national) brand Malaysia. For environmental awareness to influence town planning and development projects approved by the powers that be. For a country that truly keeps its word and puts its people first.

I am sure many out there have similar aspirations for the country - and possibly even more.

While Bersih's rally may trigger change in the electoral process, there is still much to be done in other spheres.

Let us - each and every Malaysian - do our part wherever we are to hasten the required changes in the spheres of society where we wield influence. Let us not get offended or sidetracked by the minute offenses around us but press firmly towards doing the right thing, being the conscience of the nation. 

Perhaps the day that we hope for may be drawing near. Much nearer than we realise. 

* If you are not Malaysian but have read this post, please pray for my nation or in whatever ways possible, support the voices here that uphold justice for all its citizens.