In your Facebook reference to Bersih 2.0, you said that you are glad the rally is over and you asked the question, “Is this the Christian approach to do things? What will Jesus do?” I guess the sight of so-called “street battles” in our capital city between protestors and the police are too distasteful to you and unbecoming behaviour for a follower of Christ. Furthermore it looks too much like a revolt against a sitting government in which case it would be against the words of Paul in Romans 13:1 that we must all submit to governing authorities.
In case you were not aware, I was there to support Bersih and what it stands for. Let me try to explain to you why I went.
In doing voters’ registration for the past year and a half, I have come across too many irregularities firsthand – people who tried to register over and over again but failed for no reason, people who voted before but deregistered, again for no reason. People in the same house but assigned to different constituencies, people who never registered but found themselves registered in some Felda scheme they have never heard before. I can go on and on.
What about gerry-mandering and malapportionment of constituencies? BN strongholds, fewer voters per seat; opposition strongholds, more voters per seat. E.g. Kapar 112K voters PKR; Putrajaya 6K voters BN. Generally, this has been the pattern nationwide. Boundaries are modified after each election to reflect change in the voting patterns. In fact, the way it is, even if the majority of people voted for opposition by 55% to 45%, BN will still form the government. Is this fair?
What about election fraud? The abuse of postal votes where police and military personnel have to vote under duress of being witnessed by their superiors and their votes are used to shore up key BN losing candidates. The buying of votes is now part of the BN election strategic now, doesn’t mind that it is a clear violation of election rules. Remember the famous “You help me, I help you” offer by the PM, not once but over and over again? He promised and delivered that if you vote for his candidate today, he will personally sign the cheque for millions of ringgit tomorrow, if not, don’t bother to come and collect. Is this right just because the PM does it? It is a known fact that huge amount of money were used to buy votes at by-elections these past few years. Power outages during crucial counting of ballots so that bags of ballots could be swapped are regular occurrences.
The fact that 4.3 million eligible M’sians are not registered as voters (about 1/3 of total eligible voters) when they could be registered at a click of a mouse like in S’pore where every citizen automatically becomes registered on their 21st birthday, is yet another concern. Yet, M’sians have to find out themselves how to register, find a place to register, fill up a form in duplicate, submit it, crossing their fingers hoping that SPR would not reject them. They won’t even be notified if they are registered or not, they have to go online to check on their own. Why should it be so in this day and age of technological advancement? The problem is not the lack of technology or funds but the lack of political will to want to register these unregistered voters. Could it be that these 4.3 million are mainly young voters who are more open to change and are better informed than their parents?
There are many, many more issues as demanded by Bersih 2.0 but I won’t go on.
For me, it is an issue of justice. There is a perversion of justice here. And believe me, the people who made up the Bersih 2.0 committee are not thugs or unlearned people. They have tried for years to get the authorities to reform our electoral system but to no avail. Taking to the streets for a peaceful demo is our constitutional right and that only after all other avenues have been exhausted.
I was there. I saw with my own eyes how the PDRM assaulted ordinary men and women without provocation or warning. The protestors were outstanding in their discipline – 50,000 over people and not a single property damage reported, no littering because we picked up our own rubbish and put them in the trash can. There were no street battles or unruly protestors provoking the police as portrayed by the government and the mainstream media. Despite the continuous assault by the police with tear gas and water cannons, the people did not fight back. There was no anger on the faces of the protestors, no fear, no despondency, just a quiet determination to be heard and for our rights to be upheld. I salute these pakciks, makciks, aunties and uncles, the young generation who came out despite the intimidation and unprecedented attempt by the authority to lock down an entire city. I am very proud to counted amongst them.
As we marched together, one elderly Malay gentleman turned to me, looking into my Chinese eyes, he said in Malay “This is the real 1Malaysia”, I agreed and said it is. It is not a slogan, not a logo, not a jingle without any reality. It is a walk. When people come together not to defend their own race or religion but to ask for their most fundamental right to be respected, the right to justice and to be heard, we are one, for we are. When every now and then we broke out into singing our national anthem, it was never more meaningful, especially when we came to the part “Rakyat hidup bersatu dan maju” – The People live in unity and in progress. We are Malaysians, we are all God’s creation, loved by Him.
For too long our nation has been divided when after fifty-three years of independence we should be more united and integrated. I still remember those times before politicians put their dirty fingers into the cultural pot and muddle it up, we were more 1Malaysia. There was no slogan or logo or PR firms to tell us how to be united but just a human decency to respect and accept each other’s differences, be it religion, race or social standing. Most of my best friends in school were people not of my own race and we never thought or talk in term of race or religion. We were Malaysian.
But today, after 30 years of “engineering”, we are so polarised that we have formed our own little “ghettos”, cut off from people not of our own race. We do not understand each other’s cultures, traditions, manners and customs like we used to or we should. In many of us, there is a deep-seated suspicion, resentment, and some, even hatred of the other races. We have forgotten that we are just people, who by divine providence, found ourselves sharing the same homeland. This is OUR home.
That day, as I marched with my fellow Malaysians, it all came back to me – we are as we should be, just honest, decent human beings who care for the future of this nation. I saw elderly pakciks and makciks being rudely spoken to, roughly man-handled and some arrested for simply being there. Have we lost our decency that we have to behave this way even if we are only discharging our duties? The protestors were peaceful but the provocateurs were the police. Have they forgotten who pays for their monthly salaries and who chose the political masters they are now serving? The very people they are now calling and treating as traitors, chasing them around like animals, firing tear gas and water cannons on! We are the rakyat, as you are.
Coming back to your question, John, what would Jesus do? If Jesus were to be living in this country and in this time, what would He have done? If he had known about the injustice done to the people through a flawed and corrupt electoral system, would Jesus have kept quiet and looked away and perhaps plan to migrate to “greener pastures”? If he had wanted to speak up but was told that he needed to apply for a permit and that permit was turned down, would he have just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I tried”? Would Jesus have said, “But the Bible said I have to submit to all governing authority, I can’t go against the government”? You know what. If Jesus had turned the other cheek to all the wrongs and evil in his days and submitted to the governing authorities, He would probably have lived to a ripe old age, gotten married and have children and grandchildren. So would all his disciples – Peter, Paul, Stephen, James, and countless others, they would not have been killed by the governing authorities. Jesus was framed by the politicians of his day, the Pharisees, accused of high treason and executed or as we would like to call it, crucified. Most of the early disciples were martyred because they spoke up, that is, became a “security risk” to the governing authorities. They refused to submit to their demands to be silent and they were executed.
But John, you may be saying, “But Jesus didn’t hold illegal rallies and go on street marches”. Well, he spoke to thousands when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount and when He fed thousands with only two loaves and five fishes. And wherever He went, hundreds, if not thousands followed Him. But He has permit, you say. Well, we don’t know if He has permit or not, though I doubt it. What if He needed to apply for permit and was not given? Would He still have delivered the Sermon on the Mount and fed thousands? I’ve a feeling that Jesus would still have gone ahead. What if in the middle of delivering the sermon, the governing authorities fired tear gas into the crowd and charged at them with batons, turning an otherwise peaceful gathering into a riotous scene. Was Jesus to be blamed though He offered no resistance to the police?
As a man, Jesus was a fire-brand speaker and a radical social reformer and He has asked us to follow in His footsteps. You are right to ask, “What would Jesus do?” I am just not too sure that I would agree with your assumption that Jesus would not be involved in the Bersih 2.0 rally. It was just as well that tear gas and water cannons were not invented during Jesus’ time, otherwise the Gospel pages would be rather scant and most of His speeches would have been interrupted by those same governing authorities He was condemning. Providentially for us, He was able to speak freely even though it offended the authority greatly, enough to plot His death.
John, it is my hope that you would realise that it is not easy for us as Christians to live a pluralistic society like ours and to try and figure out what Jesus would do if He was here. One thing for sure, Jesus was not one to avoid controversies or be cowed by those who opposed Him or is one who avoided taking action when the occasion calls for it; I think of Him overturning the money-changers’ tables in the Temple.
Let me close with this quote by Jesus when He was asked about John the Baptist. In Mathew 11:12 – And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. By “violent” I am sure Jesus does not mean those who would hurt others just to get what they want but Jesus meant that in order to advance the kingdom of heaven, it must be by people who have an inner character quality of quiet determination and discipline to pursue after that which God has called him to. With that I conclude and hope even if taking to the streets is not your cup of tea, you would at least stand with us for what Jesus stood for – freedom, justice, fairplay and love, for that is what Bersih 2.0 is about.
Another thing that I realised when I marched with fellow Malaysians of all races and religion, I am staking a claim to the future of Malaysian on behalf of my children and their children and on behalf of my race and religion. For now we are still defined by our race and religion but may there come a day when we are not. Maybe I will write to you again to explain further about this. Till then, take care.
Your brother in Christ,