Malaysian coalition of NGOs threatens BERSIH 3.0
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Malaysian coalition of NGOs threatens BERSIH 3.0

The chairman of a coalition of non-governmental organizations that held Malaysia’s biggest rally in recent history has threatened to organize another protest if no significant poll reforms are seen.


Malaysian activists from Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), background, sit on a street as they face riot police during last July's Bersih 2.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in July 2011. Pic: AP.

Ambiga Sreenevasan, who led more than 50,000 people in a demonstration in July 2011 known as BERSIH 2.0, said a BERSIH 3.0 rally “may be necessary”, following reports of sudden jump in number of voters in some constituencies.

“We have not seen electoral reforms; instead we see more and more irresponsible acts taking place… If the government is not serious about electoral reform, the public will have to make itself heard,” she told the Malaysian Insider.

Ambiga, a former Malaysian Bar Council president, said the Bersih committee – a coalition of non-governmental organizations that were supportive of election reforms in the country – was concerned with the reports of alleged surge of voters in some constituencies and apparent altering of polling districts.

“Above and beyond everything else, the public must have confidence in the electoral processes and in the integrity of the electoral poll… right now there are more questions than answers,” she was quoted as saying.

In July 2011, the committee of BERSIH claimed that more 50,000 people participated in the rally calling for free and fair elections for the country. The federal government, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, had denounced the rally, and had asked the gathering to be held in a stadium. However, when the stadium management in downtown Kuala Lumpur that the BERSIH committee wanted the gathering to be in refused to give them a permit, it resulted in the rally taking place at some of the city’s busiest streets.

After the rally, the Najib administration received criticism from neighbouring countries and international human rights organizations. Succumbing to public pressure, the federal government formed a Parliamentary Select Committee to look into the demands made during the rally, one of which is to use indelible ink for the upcoming general elections.

Recently, Malaysia’s Election Commission (EC) said it will use indelible ink as part of the voting process in the upcoming elections. The chairman of EC, Abdul Aziz Yusof, was quoted as saying on television that the commission would purchase the ink as soon as the dissolution of Parliament is announced.

The use of indelible ink during elections was gazetted on February 13, after repeated public outcry on incidences of phantom voters in the past elections. Countries that have previously used indelible ink during the voting process include Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

In the previous elections in 2008, the EC had ordered indelible ink but reversed on its decision to use it during the voting process four days before elections. Non-governmental organizations and opposition parties had slammed the u-turn, and accused the EC of siding with the ruling political party, the National Front.

*Updated- the previous version contained an error that said Najib had refused to allow the peaceful gathering to be held in a stadium, resulting in the rally to take place at some of the city’s busiest streets.