We must reclaim our democracy. We must never, ever surrender our freedom, exhorts P Ramakrishnan.
Rama delivered this address at Aliran’s high tea event in a hotel in Penang on Sunday, 29 April 2012, a day after the Bersih 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur:
I’m extremely sorry to announce that Datuk Ambiga will not be with us this afternoon. I know that you will be very disappointed. We are equally disappointed and extremely upset. Many of you are here because you wanted to hear Ambiga speak. As of last night she was coming. But something cropped up suddenly today and therefore she is unable to be here. Ambiga sends her apologies. Dr Subra will perhaps explain to you later on.
Friends, it is such a heart-warming and inspiring experience to stand before you. You have always walked with us. You have always been part of Aliran’s effort to bring about change. You have always been very forthcoming and extremely generous when it comes to Aliran functions.
Let me say very sincerely that we are very grateful to each and every one of you for your presence this afternoon.
Nonetheless, I must mention a few names, in particular. We appreciate the presence of the much-respected Dato Pak Samad who – in spite of his hectic schedule and harrowing experiences in recent times – has come all the way from KL to grace this function. His march for freedom in spite of the tear gas and water cannons has been and continues to be an inspiring example of patriotism. Thank you very much, dear friend. We are extremely grateful to you.
I also wish to acknowledge the presence of the pioneering founding members of Aliran. We have with us today Ismail Hashim and Dr Subramaniam. Without them – and the other five – two of them are deceased and three surviving – we wouldn’t have had Aliran. Thank you, my dear friends for lighting this Aliran candle 35 years ago which continues to burn brightly to this day! We who are the torch-bearers of that pioneering effort have not betrayed the original ideals and aspirations. We will remain steadfast and faithful to the very purpose of our existence. This is a solemn pledge.
Friends, the theme for today is Democracy and Elections. This is the burning issue of the day. Will we have a democratic election or a farce that is called an election – that is the question?
We cannot have a democratic election without observing the norms of justice. And justice requires the Election Commission to be fair and just. But when the top two Commissioners – the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman – have reportedly hidden the fact that they are members of a political party and continue to be members of Umno, what fairness and justice can we expect? Is it any wonder why their actions and conduct shamelessly favour the Barisan Nasional to the detriment of the Opposition?
If the electoral roll is padded with dubious voters, if the constituency boundaries are shifted and realigned, if the living voters are declared dead and their names dropped from the roll, if more than 100 voters are registered under one residence, if sometimes voters are registered under fictitious addresses, if the campaign period is restricted to nine to 10 days, it is no surprise. It is intended to help the ruling party. Unfortunately, this has been the role of the Election Commission all these years.
In the opinion of the vast majority of Malaysians, the Election Commissioners have forfeited their right to hold on to their posts by their shameful conduct. They have betrayed the trust of the Rakyat by not discharging their duties in a fair and impartial manner. The only honourable thing left for them is to resign. But that will be expecting too much!
Only a change in government will help to right the wrong which is so glaring and blatant.
For 55 years, my friends, we have had a government that has plundered the coffers of the country and squandered the wealth of this nation. It has destroyed every institution that used to be regarded with respect.
Today, we are a hollow reflection of what we used to be.
The governance that we are familiar with under the Barisan Nasional is based on denial. Our freedom is denied through oppressive laws; the rule of law is denied through the unjust and undemocratic practice; our justice is denied through the appointment of judges who seem to be beholden to the executive; the mandate of the people is denied through corruption of the electoral process; our right to free assembly is denied through the arrogance of power; the right to information is denied so that corruption can be kept a state secret!
Amazingly, we are even denied the right to have a hearty laugh. When you laugh it seems it would threaten our national security. The government banned three of Zunar’s cartoon books, namely Perak Darul Kartun, Isu Dalam Kartun and 1Funny Malaysia on security reasons! The government’s action is really funny!
Friends, they have robbed us of our fundamental rights. Now they are poised to rob us of a free and fair election through the recently passed undemocratic amendments to the Election Act.
My dear friends, a time comes in the life of a nation when we must say, “Enough is enough”. That time is now.
It is time to say to the BN, “In the name of God, go. Your time is up!”
There is a stirring in the nation. There is a restlessness yearning for change. We must be part of this struggle for change.
We must reclaim our democracy. We must defend our God-given rights. We must never, ever surrender our freedom.
Let us stand up straight and struggle on for change. Change will come when we fight the good battle with determination, unbowed and unafraid.
Let us be reminded of and guided by the wise words of Martin Luther King Jr who said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”
P Ramakrishnan is the immediate past president of Aliran and now serves as an executive committee member.