An Open Letter to Ambiga – Zaid Ibrahim
I write this letter to you and to all of your supporters with the best of intentions and sincerity. I have known you for many years, and unlike those in BN who have chosen to personally attack and malign you, I see you as a woman of exemplary courage and integrity. I write this letter as I am worried what might happen to you and the thousands of democracy-loving citizens of this country if you proceed with the Bersih rally on 9 July.
The authorities have already said they will use all the resources at their disposal to stop the march. They have already used the Emergency Ordinance to detain six Parti Socialis Malaysia leaders in Penang. I believe they will detain many more. I believe they will inflict the severest of punishments on those who defy the order. They may even declare an emergency and all that entails with such a move. There will be no General Election then, let alone a free and fair one. Why give them the excuse to do this?
I have suggested that we not proceed with the march if there is no permit, and for this I have been accused of many things. The “warriors” who are prepared to fight the Police and all other forces at the disposal of the Government call me a coward and a turncoat. Allow me to explain.
The Government today is uncertain of its own popularity. If Bersih is successful in attracting huge crowds on 9 July, the Government is worried they might lose the next election. They also know what mischief Anwar Ibrahim is capable of creating. Anwar is in dire straits, what with the impending sodomy case and the negative publicity surrounding the sex video. They believe he is capable of creating trouble – look at what he did to the Tunku by fomenting trouble in Baling in the early 1970’s, and the street march against Mahathir after Anwar was charged in 1998. You can’t blame the authorities for believing that history may repeat itself.
You are caught in a situation not of your own making, but for you not to recognise these political considerations would be a mistake. You had originally planned this event as a peaceful protest against the weaknesses of our electoral system, but the rally has since taken on a life of its own.
Having a peaceful march is a fundamental right. I agree that the points you have raised about the electoral process need to be considered or implemented if we want free and fair elections. But you see, despite the shortcomings, we still have the General Election, one that is by and large free, one where the Opposition has done well.
It may be flawed, but it’s still the best hope we have for a peaceful change of Government. Do not destroy this last chance. Democracy is tenuous and fragile in our country. If we are too robust in pursuing our “democratic rights”, if we are even prepared to take on the Police in the streets, then soon we would have to take on the military. We may lose it all. I urge you to reconsider.
Like Ho Chi Ming said to his Generals, it’s wise to take a step back if we can ultimately move forward. He was right. To abandon the rally will be a step back, but at least we will see another day and can still embrace that small hope of democracy and free elections surviving in our country. I admire your courage to take them on, but please ponder the issues I have raised.