KUALA LUMPUR, 5 May 2009: The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) has urged all Malaysians to wear black on 7 May to protest the “ongoing Perak coup” by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
“It will be a peaceful but powerful message of civil disobedience: that we, the people, are the politicians’ bosses and no politician defiant of public opinion can escape punishment at the next poll,” said Bersih representative Wong Chin Huat at the launch of the 1BLACKMalaysia campaign today.
“Let’s paint every state and territory, every town and village, black with our clothes, headbands, hats, turbans, veils, armbands, ribbons and stickers on 7 May,” said Wong, noting that the gesture was an act every citizen could participate in.
When asked why black was chosen, Wong said it was the colour of grieving, and that 1BLACKMalaysia was a symbolic mourning for the death of democracy in Perak.
He noted that symbolic funerals for political causes were not new. “In 1946, Umno berkabung (mourned) when they opposed the Malayan Union. We are just following in their tradition.”
The 1BLACKMalaysia campaign is timed to coincide with the beginning of the Perak state legislature sitting. The Perak state assembly is slated to sit on 7 May, despite efforts by Speaker V Sivakumar to postpone it.
The High Court is also scheduled to hear the case to determine Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir’s legality as Perak Menteri Besar for two days, beginning today.
Wong, a political scientist who is also a columnist with The Nut Graph, criticised the Perak state secretariat’s directive to allow only 13 selected media organisations to cover the sitting. “While Zambry has since retracted the ‘media curfew’, the initial move reveals a regime that fears public scrutiny.”
The 1BLACKMalaysia campaign is being spearheaded by Bersih, a coalition of 71 political parties and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It has also been endorsed by the Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI), Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), and Anwar Ibrahim Club (AIC).
Present at the press conference were parliamentarians Sivarasa Rasiah (Subang, Parti Keadilan Rakyat), Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (Kuala Selangor, PAS), Tony Pua (Petaling Jaya Utara, DAP) and Teo Nee Ching (Serdang, DAP).
From left: Teo, Dzulkefly, Wong, Sivarasa, Pua and CPI director Dr Lim Teck Gee
“We must show that we protest what has happened in Perak. The day when dissolution of the state assembly was denied by the Perak Sultan, the people of Perak suffered a great injustice,” said Sivarasa.
Sivarasa said that Bersih, since its founding, championed the right of citizens to be able to participate in free and fair elections.
“With Perak, we have not just been denied the right to free and fair elections, but the greater right to self-determination itself,” he added.
Dzulkefly said that the 1BLACKMalaysia campaign was a continuation of Bersih’s “historic” efforts, citing the coalition’s successful 10 Nov 2007 rally in Kuala Lumpur.
“We call on [Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak] to avoid the carrying out of 1BLACKMalaysia by addressing all these pressing issues,” Dzulkefly added.
The campaign’s slogan is, “1BLACKMalaysia, democracy first, elections now”. It is a play on Najib’s “1Malaysia, people first, performance now” vision.
Citing disappointment with Najib’s slogan, Pua said national issues such as the Internal Security Act and land rights issues in Perak have not been resolved.
“This shows that not only are the people not first, but they are sidelined. Is this ‘performance now’?” Pua said.
CPI director Dr Lim Teck Ghee, who was also present, cautioned that those who participated in the 1BLACKMalaysia campaign risked being branded treasonous or unpatriotic.
However, Lim said it was the “basic responsibility of every Malaysian to question and oppose illegal, unconstitutional acts.”
“The real enemies of the state are those who condone [acts like the Perak takeover],” he added.