[2390] A disappointing Bersih compromise

Despite what I wrote yesterday, I have to agree that the stadium option is probably the best given the circumstances the electoral reform group Bersih faces.[1] It is a safe compromise for everybody.

The ultimate purpose of Bersih is electoral reforms. It is not a purely civil liberty organization. It is not bound to push through its right to freedom of assembly. It loses no ground in choosing the stadium option while backing down from its initial intention to march the streets peacefully. As as I have written earlier, because Bersih explicitly makes the King their referee, they are bound to the King’s words. The King views the peaceful march negatively.

I planned to attend the now-cancelled street march. With all the news of possible disturbance and threats issued, quite honestly I was afraid for my safety. I am sure many felt the same way. They were afraid. Afraid but brave, nevertheless.

So, the compromise is a relieve. Now they know for certain that they will not face any water cannon or arrest. There is no need to call for courage now.

Still, I am disappointed. I know, there are various arguments out there portraying the compromise as a victory. It may be a victory from various point of view but from a libertarian one, I see it as a defeat.

I see Bersih as a vehicle to push the envelope in the illiberal Malaysia. With a successful exercise of freedom of assembly, I had hope for Malaysia to become less illberal and more tolerant towards peaceful protests.

That scenario will not play out and instead, we will see a compromised scenario. That is a compromise on individual right.

Lastly, I have to say that I am not a fan of protests per se. I always try to judge the worth of a protest based on its agenda. But that statement has a qualifier: only under liberal environment where freedom of assembly is guaranteed.

Without the guarantee, the suppression of that right is enough a reason for me to sympathize with any protest exercising freedom.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

[1] — KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — Bersih 2.0 will continue its rally for electoral reform but in a stadium and not on the streets, the group said today fresh from an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in Istana Negara. [Syed Mu’az Syed Putra Ambiga: Bersih to rally in stadium, not on streets. The Malaysian Insider. July 7 2011]

By Hafiz Noor Shams

For more about me, please read this.

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