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The government is practising double standards in the issuance of permits to hold demonstrations. As long as the demonstration is not directed by or involving opposition to government policies, permits will be granted. Better still, if the demonstration is to support government policies or to resonate the government's stand on certain foreign policies, then permits will readily be


For example, last year a permit was granted to the Umno Youth to stage a demonstration in conjunction with the visit of the United States secretary of state held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. As recent as last week, permit was granted to Maybank employees in protest of bonuses not being paid to them.

The rationale is that as long as the ire of the protest is not directed at them, they will issue the permit. Why should the government be wary of Bersih's rally if it was for the stated purpose of wanting to create a level-playing field for all in the coming elections.

Surely, this is a legitimate complaint the government should have no problem addressing if it is transparent. Its opposition to this rally only serves to reinforce public perception that the government has its own agenda to preserve the status quo in the electoral process.

In previous elections, there have been numerous complaints regarding the presence of phantom voters, of death voters voting, of fictitious postal voters, of changing electoral boundaries in favour of the ruling party and the glaring imbalance of numbers in the electorates of government areas as opposed to opposition areas.

The comment by the Asia director of New York-based organisation Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams is most appropriate and summarised the government's position. When it comes to holding onto power, the ruling party makes one set of rules for themselves and another for everyone else.

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