Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bersih 2.0: Why I will march

Opinion

June Rubis has spent the better years of her adult life with the primates in the Borneo rainforests. She has no regrets. She now spends most of her time working with humankind. There are some regrets.
June 23, 2011- The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 23 — We can only look back at our past to recognise the pivotal points that have brought us to where we are today.

Today, I am blessed to have a boss who supports and shares the same passions as I do: playing a role in strengthening civil society in Malaysia, along with wildlife conservation and rural community-based initiatives.

I particularly look forward to her mentorship as she has played a very significant leadership role in Green Surf, a home-grown Sabah coalition that successfully fought to stop a coal power plant being built in the state.

I count back the years that has brought me to this point.

It is easy to pinpoint my early interest in conservation and environment work: a childhood memory of watching a documentary of a solitary female researcher slogging her way through a Borneo rainforest searching for orangutans (like bells ringing in my head, telling me that this would be me one day — the bells later proved right) to being fascinated by the Greenpeace protests in Sarawak in the 1990s.

I did not understand why foreigners would care so much about rainforests so far away from their homeland. I did not understand why the local newspapers were so hostile towards the protestors, to the point of making negative personal commentaries about their weight and looks.

My initial confusion made me question what I had thought was truth. That everything I read and hear from other people is not necessarily the absolute truth, but rather a semblance of truth from their unique perspective and experiences.

Yet my political awareness only fully emerged at a later stage.

I connect those dots back to my participation in the 2007 Bersih march.

It was probably the first time I had felt very proud as a Malaysian, to be surrounded by so many of my compatriots seeking a change in our electoral system that we feel is unfair and not representative of a democracy that our country is built upon.

It was the beginnings of a personal stirring to learn more about the political issues beyond my home state of Sarawak. Indeed to march along other Malaysians who felt as strongly as I did was inspiring and gave me courage to continue exploring other sensitive issues.

There has been much furore over the past week about the upcoming Bersih 2.0 march. A lot of it has been emotional, and hurtful, no matter what race or religion we belong to.

No one with a decent heart and a sane mind likes to have an ethnic community singled out either to be blamed or condemned for their apparent participation in the march. Your brother is my brother, your sister my sister. When you try to hurt others, you only end up hurting yourself.

Like in 2007, I intend to participate for I support the eight demands as listed out by the organisers of the march for freer and fairer elections.

This year, it is particularly poignant for me, as a Sarawakian, for it was the alleged abuses in the last state election that had prompted the call to revive Bersih 2.0.

Even if you don’t believe in the money politics that took place in the last state election, or worse yet, think money politics is what elections is all about, you cannot deny the very basic fact that the non-Barisan Nasional component parties had no free and fair access to the mainstream media. One of the eight calls of Bersih 2.0 for the Election Commission to rectify.

And that is one out of many legitimate grouses made not just by political parties, but also civil society.

At the end of the day, to me, it does not matter what political party is in power, but rather those in power are reminded of and humbled by the immense responsibility placed on them. I fear that those who tricked and paid their way towards political power will not have these values in check. By coming into power with arrogance, they will continue to lead us with arrogance.

The eight calls of Bersih 2.0, if implemented, will help give us more representatives that we seek, no matter what political parties they hail from.

We want statesmen who will lead us with honour and honesty, not politicians who burn images and threaten our communities.

So what role will I play come July 9?

Could this be a pivotal point in not just our personal lives, but our country’s?

And 10 or 20 years from now, when we look back and ponder how Malaysia was brought to this fine point, where hopefully we have made leaps and bounds towards advancing national social consciousness for a government that truly represents us, could we then say to ourselves, I played a small role that one fine day?

This is why I intend to march.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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