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Why I resigned as Bersih 2.0 chairperson

Maria Chin Abdullah  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | After much consideration and consultations with key stakeholders, I have decided to resign my position in Bersih 2.0 and offer myself as an independent candidate to Pakatan Harapan to contest in the coming 14th general election (GE14).

This means I will:

  • Not be joining any political party but I am willing to contest under a Harapan party logo;
  • Strive to strengthen the democratic reform agenda - the heartbeat of civil society’s work;
  • Collaborate with Harapan to propose and secure key reforms in the highest decision-making body, i.e., the House of Parliament; and,
  • Not engage in a “three-cornered” fight with any Harapan party member.

Why now?

GE14 presents an opportune time to reclaim our nation and advance our demand for justice, freedom, equality, participation and democracy, for without them we will be immobilised as a nation.

Our nation’s leaders and existing institutions have practically ignored and sidelined us when we campaigned for reforms in elections, sought to abolish draconian laws, reestablish justice in the judiciary, called for gender equality for all, the ending of the culture of fear, end to income disparities and an end to environmental destruction, including violent discourses.

We are all frustrated when perpetrators get scot-free with impunity.

We must not fear change.

We must work together to find solutions to overcome the fear for change. As citizens and through Bersih 2.0, we have climbed mountains. Bersih 2.0 is now the largest movement in Malaysia.

We have reset the narrative for electoral reform, for an alternative electoral system, for peaceful assemblies being considered as normal and we broke many myths on race and disunity. We reclaimed the right to dissent, associate and assemble. The normative for democracy is now set for greater heights and we have all been instrumental in shaping Malaysia’s direction.

After the Bersih 2 rally in 2010, we witnessed the formation of the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms as an example of the collaboration among pro-democracy parliamentarians. It also resulted in the use of indelible ink and expanded voting rights to Malaysian voters overseas during the last general election.

The intervention, which stalled the redelineation exercise for four years, was a close collaboration between Bersih 2.0, the Malaysian Bar, lawyers, parliamentarians and empowered affected voters. The Bersih 4 rally demanded a vote of no confidence against the prime minister in Parliament and was supported and presented by parliamentarians who saw the merit of ending corruption and kleptocrat leaders.

These are our changes.

My entry into the political arena is a continuation of the change. It is using a different space to advance democracy.

The business-as-usual mentality which thrives on authoritarianism, corruption, impunity, repression and poverty must be transformed. The people's participation and empowerment will effect change as we see in our involvement through Bersih 2.0.

Reconstructing new politics

Given my history and activism in and with civil society organisations (CSO), which represent a significant part of a new re-awakening in Malaysian society, it is important that my offer to be a candidate under the Harapan banner is as an independent so as to construct what we would call a "new politics".

The "new politics" that my team and I will bring forth will focus on electoral reform with an alternative system to reflect representation; development justice for equitable income and living; institutional reforms; gender equality to increase participation; and environmental justice that encompasses local to global concerns – all being the core aims of the CSO movement.

Through strategic alliances, we can showcase the implementation of principles of fair treatment and participatory democracy with meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, colour, national origin or income as the normative.

The inclusion of youth, the marginalised and the under-represented to reclaim their spaces of expression, assembly and political participation in an effective and active manner has to be articulated. They need to have a say in what, how, where and for whom our country's resources and monies (budget) are expended, be it at local councils, state authorities or the national government. My team and I will initiate practical implementation of fundamental principles of participatory politics, accountability and transparency at local levels.

The systematic and strategic alliances between CSOs like Bersih with pro-democracy political parties and elected representatives are essential to forging a transformative change. This strategic alliance also recognises and respects the nuanced roles and independence that each must still uphold.

Finally, to all fellow Malaysians, Bersih 2.0 volunteers, steering committee members, CSOs and the hundreds of thousands of supporters, friends and families, a warm and humble thank you for all your confidence and belief in me. A new journey may have begun for me, but together, we can make our dreams come true.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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