Showing posts with label election. Show all posts
Showing posts with label election. Show all posts

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bersih 2.0 Movement

Final Solution: Post-Bersih: Review 1


Almost everyone I know in Malaysia has an opinion about the recent Bersih 2.0 rally. You have the vehemently critical, the dispassionate bystander, and the overwhelming enthusiast. I state upfront that I belong in the latter category, and was proud to be part of the thousands that thronged the streets of Kuala Lumpur on the historic 9th July 2011 day to express my concerns with the current electoral system. It was multiracial, with people of all ages, hailing from all over the country, walking jubilantly with spirits that were hardly dampened by multiple rounds of tear gas, water cannons and police beatings.

A fuller account of the day’s events can be found elsewhere. Here, I would like to address just two points that have been raised recently against the Bersih 2.0 movement and corresponding rally, although I have no formal association with the coalition itself.
View #1: Bersih 2.0 Has Been Hijacked by Pakatan Rakyat
First, the view that the Bersih movement has been hijacked by the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, namely the Opposition at Federal Parliament level. Those who hold this view say that Bersih 2.0’s original intentions were genuine and pure, but that the opposition and many others reinterpreted the cause for their own politically expedient means, i.e. to woo people over to their side and, in so doing, vote against the Barisan Nasional government.
From what I understand, Bersih 2.0 made it clear from the start – when it was launched in September 2010 – and throughout its campaign that it is a civil society movement. All non-government organisations affiliated with it have no political association. However, any individual, party or otherwise was welcome to work alongside Bersih 2.0 if it subscribed to the same principles it upholds: towards free, fair and clean elections based on eight initial electoral reform demands.
Quite naturally, the Pakatan Rakyat coalition jumped on the bandwagon as Bersih 2.0 was articulating the very points they believed in. Any of the Barisan Nasional parties were more than welcome to be part of the group if they, too, held that the electoral process in Malaysia was in dire need of change. Ultimately, Bersih 2.0’s demands are to ensure a level playing field during the elections, and that each person’s vote carries equal weight. As far as I know, this objective has been well articulated and maintained throughout the campaign.
One should note the history of Bersih itself. When Bersih 1.0 was launched more than four years ago in 2007, leaders of the campaign were Pakatan Rakyat politicians, many of whom were soon after voted in as representatives in the 2008 elections. The baton was then handed over to non-party affiliated civil society players. To paint Bersih as completely apolitical is therefore inaccurate, as its cause would eventually allow for the possibility of shifting political power structures. However, it is also inaccurate to call Bersih 2.0 political in the “political party” sense of the word as the coalition itself holds no allegiance to any political party, including Pakatan Rakyat.
This raises a side point of how social movements ought to be conducted in Malaysia. The perennial question remains: how can civil society push through a movement and gain significant traction, without needing support from any political party? I have pondered upon this, where in an ideal world, the pillar of ‘civil society’ ought to be in and of itself sufficient to advance policy reform of any sort. This is not the case in Malaysia, where the channels of decision-making still remain largely within the hands of political parties through representation at Parliament – and ultimately, the Cabinet. So, until and unless civil society is recognised as an equal partner within formal committees, taskforces and the like for the purposes of policy reform, political parties will still be relied upon to push forward a movement.
View #2: Bersih 2.0 Did Not Need to Take to the Streets
There is a view that Bersih 2.0 should have taken up the option of using a stadium outside of Kuala Lumpur city, or not organised any street rally at all. Proponents of this view argue that holding it outside the city centre would have ensured no traffic congestion, traders and businessmen would not have been affected, and simply – that the memorandum could have been submitted to the Agong during the meeting with Bersih 2.0 leader Ambiga Sreenevasan. Former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed also very kindly suggested that street demonstrations are a last resort when all negotiations have failed.
Bersih 2.0 has been in constant negotiation with the Election Commission on its eight demands. From what I gather, they have been given welcome reception. However, many of these changes are political in nature, and in reality the EC would not do anything substantial without awaiting the green light from its political masters. Lobbying the EC has not been the most effective of means, and it seems to be futile effort.
We need to dispense with the view that street demonstrations will cause businesses to be affected. Numerous coffee shops, hotels, travel lodges and restaurants were filled up in the days leading up to the rally, booked by Malaysians from all over the country. Where some may have lost, others profited.
The more important point is that the police did not have to resort to such extreme measures in response to the rally. This has been repeated, that other countries’ law enforcement officers facilitate street rallies when conducted peacefully. What the government could have easily done: cordon off a section of the road for the rally to take place, offering alternative driving routes for cars (just like what they do for city marathons). Treating it like a street party would have avoided all the trouble.
Finally, sure, the memorandum could have been e-mailed directly from Ambiga’s office to the Palace on the very first day of the Bersih 2.0 launch. But what would be the point of calling it a campaign or movement at all? This is representative of the people (all 6,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 who showed up at the rally, depending on which newspaper you read) backing the Bersih 2.0 cause, and acts as a communitarian expression to the Agong, whose interests lie with them, or ought to. Also, having people gather together, walking for a common cause, allows for a sense of ownership of the movement and its demands.
An unfortunate incident did take place, the death of the late Baharuddin Ahmad, who collapsed after being reportedly arrested at the rally. A simplistic way of looking at this is: “This is the cost of the rally, and even a single death is not worth all of Bersih’s demands!” Whilst I am greatly saddened by his passing, again my position is the police did not have to resort to such violence, when those marching did so in peace.
It is precisely the fear of such costs that would continue to silence us into inaction, should we retreat from voicing out our demands. People know these risks, and turn up despite them. It is being fully conscious of the risks, and then taking them, that proves the intensity with which people are passionate, angered and concerned, and hence the severity of the situation. The Barisan government does not seem to have woken up to this.
In this particular instance, after the Agong’s statement to Bersih 2.0 that it could conduct the rally in any stadium of its choice, Bersih’s permit application for Stadium Merdeka was rejected. The authorities offered Bersih 2.0 little choice but to revert to its original plan of walking on the streets.
Moving Forward

The more important thing is to ensure Bersih 2.0 does not stop here. It has successfully drawn in support from Malaysians living around the world – kudos to the young Malaysians who walked in solidarity in over 30 cities abroad – and this tremendous social capital ought to be galvanised in a meaningful way. The real work comes in the nuts and bolts of, for example, having consultation with Malaysians on how they feel about electoral reform and voter education.
A final warning: it is the systems and institutions that are rotten to the core. If these are not corrected in the immediate future, any political party coming to power is equally at danger of falling prey to the system and succumbing to corruption and greed. Unless all citizens and political parties (BN included if they are interested) work together in reforming the electoral system to make it fair, Malaysians would not be able to trust that our votes really count where we want them to.
*Tricia Yeoh is member of the Monash University School of Business Advisory Board and the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) Advisory Panel at the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute. She graduated from Monash University (Malaysia) with a degree in Econometrics, and has a Masters in Research Methodology from the University of Warwick, UK (Department of Psychology)


Friday, June 24, 2011

Kisruh Monarki dan Krisis Thailand

THAILAND yang sering dijuluki sebagai negara penuh senyum itu, ternyata menyimpan banyak masalah, khususnya terkait dengan korupsi dan tindakan represif negara. Setidaknya laporan  jurnalis ternama George Marshall yang sudah bekerja di Thailand selama 17 tahun itu, mengungkapkan sejumlah tindakan penyelewangan pemerintah dan pihak kerajaan. Menurut Marshall, Thailand tidak layak tidak layak disebut negara demokratis, tetapi negara otoriter dan opresif. Karena kebebasan pers di negara itu dikekang habis-habisan, tidak heran,  jika negara gajah putih ini menyimpan banyak rahasia  Pencitraan Thailand sebagai negara demokratis adalah tidak tepat karena pada faktanya, negara ini justru terbelakang dalam menerapkan azas kebebasan berpendapat yang jadi pilar penting dalam kehidupan demokrasi.

Akibat tulisan kritiknya itu, Marshall harus mengundurkan diri pekerjaannya sebagai wakil kepala biro Reuters di Bangkok sejak Mei lalu. Sangat disayangkan, kantor berita sekelas Reuters memilih untuk tunduk pada aturan yang represif terhadap pers itu.

Selama ini, tindakan negatif anggota kerajaan tidak pernah tersiar karena  hukum setempat dibuat sedemikian rupa untuk menangkal keboborokan monarki terungkap kepada publik. Salah satunya adalah undang-undang yang melarang pemberitaan buruk terhadap sejumlah anggota keluarga kerajaan, yaitu Raja Bhumibol, Ratu Sirikit dan Putra Mahkota Pangeran  Vajiralongkorn. Bagi pelanggar, hukumannya adalah 15 tahun penjara. Sudah banyak jurnalis dan akademisi yang harus dipenjara dan kehilangan pekerjaannya karena berani mengkritik pemerintahan dan keluarga kerajaan. Di antara mereka yang vokal menyuarkan kebenaran ini adalah Professor Giles Ungpakorn, yang kini hidup sebagai pelarian di Inggris untuk menghindari hukuman penjara akibat mengkritik keluarga kerajaan.  Bahkan, jurnalis senior Reuters Andrew Marshall pun harus kehilangan pekerjaannya senagai wakil kepala biro Reuters di Thailand karena menulis berita mengenai penyelewengan anggota monarki Thailand. Sejak 1 Juni 2011, pemerintah Thailand mencap Marshall sebagai kriminal. Pria plontos yang kini mejadi penulis lepas itu mengatakan, dia tidak menyesal menuliskan laporan soal kebobrokan monarki Thailand. "Saya sudah tahu dari awal bahwa tulisan saya ini sangat berisiko. Saya juga paham dengan sikap Reuters yang menolak memuat laporan saya soal kerajaan itu, " kata Marshall baru-baru ini dalam tulisan opini yang dimuat media daring Inggris "Independent".
Menurut Marshall yang sudah bekerja di Reuters selama 17 tahun in, dia lebih memilih kehilangan pekerjaan dan dimusuhi teman-temannya daripada harus menutup kebenaran. "Sebagai jurnalis, saya punya kewajiban moral untuk mengungkapkan kebenaran," kata Marshall menambahkan.
Memang sangat disayangkan, kantor berita sebesar Reuters pun takut dengan penerapan hukum itu dan memilih untuk mematuhinya. Sejumlah pihak menyebutkan, Reuters melakukan itu karena tidak ingin terdepak dari negara tersebut. Apalagi jumlah jurnalis lokal yang direkrut Reuters mencapai 1.000 orang. Jadi, mereka sangat berhati-hati dalam memberitakan keluarga kerajaan. Mungkin, kepentingan ekonomis yang besar telah membuat Reuters tega tidak memuat laporan Marshall.

Berdasarkan data, aplikasi hukum yang mengekang kebebasan pers ini merupakan yang terburuk sedunia. Akibat implementasi hukum jadi-jadian tersebut, masyarakat Thailand tidak pernah mengetahui apa yang terjadi di lingkungan monarki Thailand. Padahal, seperti dilaporkan Wikileaks tiga bulan lalu, monarki Thailand dibawah kepemimpinan Raja Bhumibol selama 62 tahun terakhir ini,  melakukan banyak penyelewengan. Dalam tulisan terbarunya di majalah Time, hal itu kembali diungkapkan Marshall. Menurut dia, Thailand saat ini sedang 'sakit" akibat ulah sejumlah anggota monarki. Begitu banyak kebohongan yang disembunyikan keluarga kerajaan dari publik Thailand yang selama ini begitu menghormati mereka.
Meski selama ini monarki Thailand menjadi perekat yang telah berhasil menjauhkan negara itu dari konflik saudara, tetapi pada faktanya, seperti juga diungkap Wikileaks, kondisi monarki Thailand saat ini diambang krisis. Bahkan, monarki ternacam perpevahan yang ujung-ujungnya dapat memicu konflik baru di Thailand. Apalagi, menjelang pemilu 3 Juli mendatang, situasi panas di kerajaan akan semakin menjerumuskan Thailand dalam situasi yang yang tidak menentu.
Laporan Wikileaks dua hari lalu  menyebutkan, pemilu Thailand dua minggu mendatang akan memicu konflik baru di negara tersebut.Apalagi, ada indikasi telah terjadinay friksi antar anggota keluarga kerajaan. Jurnalis Brian Rex menuliskan bahwa ada ketidaksepahaman antara Raja dan Ratu Thailand. Konflik diantara keduanya sudah terjadi bertahun-tahun. Sirikit pun dilaporkan tidak lagi berkomuniaksi dengan suaminya. Dalam hal ini, Sirikit memiliki pandangan politis yang berbeda dengan suaminya. Suaminya selama ini sering digambarkan sebagai sosok yang apolitis sehinga memilih utnuk tidak campur tangah jauh dalam masalah politik. Sementara istrinya, dalam bebearapa tahun etrakhir ini, teaptnya sejak 2008, justru menunjukkan sikap yang bertentangan. Dia tidak sungkan-sungkan menunjukkan simpatinya kepada kelompok Kaus Kuning. Banyak pihak yang menyesalkan sikapnya yang ikut campur dalam politik Thailand.
Sikap Ratu yang nyeleneh inilah yang mebuat banyak pihak khawatir pemilu mendatang akan berakhir dengan konflik. Apalagi hasil jajak pendapat yang dipublikasikan Universitas Bangkok menyebutkan, adik perempuan Thaksin Shinawatra itu berpeluang memang dalam pemilu mendatang.

Menonjolnya pengaruh Ratu Sirikit ini telah menyebabkan eksistensi Raja Bhumibol Adulyadej memudar. Kesehatannya yang  sangat rapuh juga menjadi salah satu faktor, peranan raja berusia 83 tahun itu tidak lagi begitu kuat. Bahkan banyak pihak yanga memperkirakan umurnya sudah tidak panjang lagi. Suksesi pun sudah ramai dibicarakan. Selama ini ada dua calon. Pertama, Putra Mahkota Pangeran Vajiralongkorn yang sosoknya sangat tidak populer akibat perilakunya yang suka perempuan dan obat-obatan terlarang. Kedua, anak perempuan Bhumibol dan Sirikit, Putri Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, yang memang sangat populer di kalangan masyarakat Thailand.
Perpecahan antara Sirikit dan suaminya akan dapat semakin merunyamkan suksesi dan hasil pemilu mendatang.  Apalagi diketahui Putra Mahkota sanagt berambisi untuk menggantikan ayahnya. Padahal,secara kualitas, dia tidak punya keahlian memimpin dan karisma yang dimiliki ayahnya. Laporan Wikileaks menyebutkan, anak pertama Bhumibol itu memiliki temparemen kasar. Tidak heran, banyak warga Thailand tidak suka dengan sosok pria playboy yang sudah menikah tiga kali itu.

Dilaporkan, rakyat Thailand lebih menyukai sosok Putri Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Raja Bhumibol pun lebih merestui putrinya itu untuk menjadi penerus tahta kerajaan. "Saya punya empat anak, tetapi hanya dia yang benar-benar membumi. Dia tidak pernah menikah tetapi memiliki jutaan anak," kata Bhumibol dalam obrolannya dengan sejumlah diplomat AS di Thailand, seperti dibocorkan Wikileaks.
Melihat begitu kompleksnya perpecahan anggota keluarga kerajaan Thailand, tidak heran, banyak pengamat memprediksi, politisasi monarki Thailand oleh Ratu Sirikit itu, juga akan menyebabkan Thailand dilanda krisis baru. Penulis Eric John bahkan menyebutkan, politisasi kerajaan oleh Sirikit akan menjadi bumerang bagi keluarga monarki itu sendiri. Apakah ini berarti, sistem monarki Thailand akan berakhir.Masih terlalu dini untuk menjawabnya. Namun, yang pasti, kisruh monarki telah membuat gejolak politik Thailand semakin memanas.  (Huminca)***