Malaysians have spoken loud
and clear in the peaceful mammoth BERSIH gathering yesterday to support
petition to the Yang di Pertuan Agong for electoral reforms for clean, free
and fair elections - but will Abdullah listen and act or will he remain
deaf, blind and mute
by Lim Kit Siang
Malaysians have spoken loud and
clear in the peaceful mammoth BERSIH gathering yesterday to support the
petition to the Yang di Pertuan Agong for electoral reforms for clean,
free and fair elections - but will the Prime Minister, Datuk Abdullah
Ahmad Badawi listen and act or will he remain deaf, blind and mute?
When he became Prime Minister four years ago, one of Abdullah’s first
public pledges was to listen the truth however unpleasant.
However, Abdullah had not been listening in the past four years. Last
month, the Information Minister, Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin assumed the
new roles as Abdullah’s “Truth Gatekeeper” and Press Censor, laying the
law to the media that Abdullah’s pledge to hear the truth was limited to
Barisan Nasional leaders and top government officials and not to the
public or the press.
It is significant that in my parliamentary exchange with Zainuddin on
press freedom which is accessible on YouTube, thanks to RTM website,
Zainuddin did not specifically deny that he had become the new
“Gatekeeper” as to what is the truth to be conveyed to the Prime Minister.
This has resulted in all the printed media today playing down yesterday’s
biggest peaceful public gathering during the four-year premiership of
Abdullah to petition the Yang di Pertuan Agong on electoral reforms for
the simple reason that the Prime Minister had refused to listen to the
voice of the people.
No newspaper dared to publish photographs of the mammoth peaceful
gathering, which is a tribute to Malaysians for their love of peace and
commitment to democracy. This is because of Zainuddin’s directive to the
printed media that no such photographs were to be published. All that the
newspapers could print was pictures of massive traffic jams!
The mainstream media were not allowed free and independent reporting of
yesterday’s gathering, which was completely peaceful except when marred by
excessive force by police in firing tear gas and water cannons.
Newspapers dared not give an estimate of the mammoth peaceful gathering,
and were forced to use the official figure by the Inspector-General of
Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan putting the gathering at 4,000 people.
If the Inspector-General of Police had not been misquoted, then the
country’s top police officer suffer from the grave ailment of innumeracy
or difficulty with numbers – as there is at least one zero missing when
Musa said only 4,000 people responded at the mammoth Bersih peaceful
Like illiteracy, innumeracy will impede the country’s vision to “reach for
the stars” and become a science and technology power, especially if this
ailment is prevalent among the top leaders in government!
It is a shame that in the era of information technology, there should be
such ham-fisted attempt to control the free flow of information where
Malaysians can only find out the truth from independent electronic news
portals, whether local or foreign, and the foreign press.
Abdullah should honor his pledge when he became Prime Minister four years
ago to listen to the truth from the people, however unpleasant, and to
introduce institutional reforms for justice and democracy.
He should ensure that the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday give a positive
response to the BERSIH petition to the Yang di Pertuan Agong on electoral
reforms and support the immediate establishment of a mechanism to ensure
that the next general election can be truly clean, free and fair.
One other thing Abdullah should do is to get rid of Zainuddin as the new
Press Censor and his “Truth Gatekeeper” to decide what reports and
photographs the media should publish for him to see – which will only
ensure that Malaysia’s press freedom ranking, which plunged by 32 slots to
the worst placing of No. 124 in the 2007 Freedom Without Borders (RSF)
worldwide press freedom ranking, will plummet even lower next year!
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman