The Most Powerful Way To Effect Change

Posted on December 21, 2015



“It was just one big street party and as far as I am concerned, Bersih 4 was a failure,” a friend told me a month after the biggest-ever peaceful demonstration in Malaysian history.  He went on to question what had Bersih 4 achieved? Nothing has changed.

Such views are not isolated and I have heard it from more than a few friends who are as sick and tired as me of the political mess we are in and the endless tales of corruption and intimidations.

I hear you and am really interested to hear suggestions as to how we can institute real change but I want to hear really doable, impactful and within what is provided by our Constitution stuff. I am not into any arm struggles, suicide bombings or bullet in the head stuff though for a laugh I may entertain it.

But don’t give me a “unless you are willing to die (literally) for democracy” lecture when you are not willing to stand up openly against the almost daily tyranny and injustices all around us. It is always easier to get others to do the dying for us, isn’t it?

Other suggestions I have heard before include occupation of Parliament until there is a change, a long march to Putrajaya ala Gandhi’s Salt March, a self-immolation ala Tunisia’s spark to the Arab Spring, appeal to the Rulers to intervene and yes, a super mega rally of one million or more people on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Yes, all the above would be sensational headline-grabbing stuff but we all know that in all probability they won’t bring about any change when the incumbent has control over all the key institutions of security.

So what is left? Is there no hope? There must be a way whereby in a democracy, even one as flawed as ours, for citizens to express their frustrations and effect change. Yes, and it is through the BALLOT BOX. It is totally impactful, instant and legitimate. That’s right, the perspex, transparent ballot box. There is no magic bullet, no shortcuts. Sorry to disappoint you.

The question is how do we get people to cast their votes to effect a change and to make sure that their votes count.

If the 47 percent who voted Barisan Nasional at the last General Election only knew half of what the other 52 percent knew about the systemic corruption, wastage, abuse of power and gross mismanagement of our national wealth, there is no way they would want to keep things as they are.

The challenge is how to get the facts to them. We all know that the bulk of these 47 percent are in the semi-urban and rural constituencies and that they are mostly Bumiputras whose language is primarily Bahasa Malaysia, both in Peninsula and East Malaysia.

We must find a way to circumvent these barriers especially in East Malaysia where roads are almost non-existent, communication poor and education is low, we have to do it the good old fashion way – face-to-face.

Apart from voters education in the rural and semi-urban constituencies on their rights and the truth about what’s happening to our country, there are three other important activities to ensure that the ballot box truly reflects the will of the majority of the voters in a constituency.

The first is new voters registration. If you really want to serve your community, organise regular new voters registration exercises together with your local EC office. Since the EC has disallowed political parties to register new voters due to alleged abuses, this need to register new voters has become even more urgent.

The second is to make objections to the upcoming redelineation exercise by EC for  those of you living in Sabah and Peninsula Malaysia. Sarawak just had its redelineation exercise early this year. Electoral boundaries are drawn unfairly through gerrymandering and malapportionment to favour the ruling coalition. Though it is an uphill challenge to object to EC’s proposal, we have to do it because it is our right and BN should not have a walkover in this process.

Lastly, to really make our votes count is to guard our votes on Polling Day. Volunteer yourself as a polling agent, counting agent, booth agent and poll observer. We have heard of mysterious electrical blackouts during the counting of votes, appearances of phantom voters, extra ballot boxes, vote-buying and bribed counting agents. You can make a huge difference to make sure that our votes are not stolen.

Again, I am sorry to disappoint you. Instead of hoping for a quick and dramatic solution or waiting for a saviour to deliver us from a non-performing Government, we have to go down to the ground, talk to people, convince them one at a time and monitor the whole election process.

No pain, no gain; no sacrifices, no rewards. Let the battle for GE14 begin.