In Conversation: With Wong Chin-Huat On Bersih 3.0

By Tee Jowee

Click Here for the article published on Meld.

In this question and answer- styled piece, Steering Committee Member, political activist, former ISA detainee and lecturer, Wong Chin-Huat speaks with Tee Jowee on Bersih 3.0. With compelling rhetoric, Wong Chin-Huat gives telling insights into what we can do if we really want change for this country.

So Sir, how will Bersih 3.0 be different from Bersih 2.0?

It is actually a continuity. Bersih 1.0 in terms of the organization, we were a coalition of political parties and NGOs. Bersih 2.0 as an organization, is only an NGO- an NGO coalition. Bersih 3.0 rally is organized by bersih 2.0 so in that sense that Bersih 2.0 rally and Bersih 3.0 is a continuity. In Bersih 2.0 we asked for 8 demands in 3.0 we continue asking for those 8 demands. In which we have seen only a partial fulfillment of one, and the other one being recommended, the other six were partially addressed or not addressed at all.


So what are you looking for? Is it commitment?

We want to see a simple electoral reform being done before the next election, because otherwise the legitimacy of the government will be questioned. On top of asking for the three demands we also ask for the current EC leadership to resign. We are also asking for international observers. Because we want to make sure the next general election will be conducted with a theme of integrity and also [that it] would be scrutinized. We hope they will feel deterred by international observers from committing more fraud.


How do you respond to the critiques that say, “how will doing the same thing achieve the results they want?” ? (In reference to another protest so close to the last one) 

The very simple thing I think is that, the last time with the government, the police crackdown and so on, we still had 50,000 people, and the outcome was quite clear. The government was actually forced to do something. Because what happened was not just that they feel the pressure, its not just that we[‘re] going into the streets.

The point that “we going into the streets” have really affected more people- transformed them. So the government feel the pressure from not only the 50,000 people that went to the streets but many more, maybe millions who were actually encouraged by those that went to the streets. So this time around, we can say we are hoping to get more people. We wont know the exact figures. Easily, I think 100,000 to 200,000 and  above and so on … so we expect these will actually further erectify Malaysians for them to step forward and push for change and we believe that the government will have to deal with it. Because if they don’t deal with this, if they don’t respond to public opinion then eventually they may get rejected by the public.

What do you think this Bersih will be like? Do you think there will be violence?

I don’t think so I think, I cant tell you for sure that it will not happen. What I see now is that learning from their last experience in dealing with bersih 2, the government realized that crackdown will merely trigger more defiance. So until now we are talking about 9 days well actually 8 days from the rally we have not gone any outright “no” from the government.

But they did say they will allow you to use the Merdeka Square?

No they didn’t say that. They said that they will allow as they don’t disturb the people.

So what is the smartest thing the government can do right now?

The smartest thing the government can do is actually to facilitate this and respond to the public opinion for electoral reform. And pledge that they will not call for an election until this issue is adequately and meaningfully addressed. Because otherwise I think that it would create a strong backlash on the government.

Malaysian politics is so polarized that people on both ends of the divide have made up their mind, but there are still a significant number of middle-ground voters who wouldn’t make up their minds sometimes on whether they would go out to vote or not. And a crackdown, a denial of the Malaysian (which for clean and fair elections would have triggered them) I think that would probably create a stronger tsunami like in 2008.

What can young Malaysians living overseas do about this?  

I think they can take part, they can take part in Global Bersih. Australia is 6 of 8 cities… let me see. So they can certainly do all these things. Australia itself will have 12 cities, so you basically have everywhere that you can actually do this to support this.

What we need is people actually coming forward to speak their case about why they care. So the problem that actually plagues the Malaysian public is that too many people stay away from Malaysian politics thinking that its dirty. Refusing to know what going on, and often when people speak up they say that yeah these people are activists we are not like them.

So what we need is ordinary Malaysians to say that “we are just like you”.

We care about politics because that’s the only way to love the country.

So I would encourage that to actually do a video recording. And tell a story. And spread the message further. And get people who are like that to persuade them and say why I care, and why you should too.

What about people that are concerned with who to vote for? What about the people that say, even if I vote for the opposition? There really is no one that represents “me”? 

I think you have to ask and say [for example], you go to a supermarket and cannot find the product that I want. You probably have to ask and say, “The supermarket is out there to make a profit why don’t they sell the product I want?”

Could it be there are people like me that are simply too few of us? Or is it there are people like me that never tell people out loud what do I want?

And if you don’t step into the supermarket, that says “I don’t step into the supermarket because they don’t sell the product that I want.” Could the causality be seen from the other way around? Simply because we don’t step in.

Therefore they wouldn’t want to sell the things you want right? You’re left with a market where, those who bother who go to the supermarket would only demand for inferior goods. So of course as a supermarket you would just supply them.

My point is that, the quality of the politician reflects the quality of us. If we don’t care about what we want for the politics and politicians of course we don’t see the best politician. In fact the best politician will probably quit politics because he cannot survive. So I think that, to put it in a lighter way, politicians can be man’s best friend and women’s best friend for that matter. We can housetrain them.

For last year’s write-up on Bersih 2.0, CLICK HERE.


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