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Make democracy the only game in town

Joint statement of civil society on 2nd March 2010

Two years ago, Malaysians wrote history by weakening Umno/Barisan Nasional’s electoral one-party state. For the first time since independence, the ruling coalition lost its two-third parliamentary majority and a total of five states were ruled by the opposition parties.

As a result, Malaysians have benefited tremendously from the vibrant competition between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. As Pakatan Rakyat advocates “Ketuanan Rakyat” and values like competence, accountability and transparency, Barisan Nasional under Prime Minister Najib Razak has responded with his “1Malaysia” campaign and “Government Transformation Programme”. In brief, Malaysians are enjoying the bonus of democratisation.

Unfortunately, the budding democratisation is also threatened by some politicians from both sides of the divides who refuse to accept “democracy as the only game in town” and try to subvert or undermine the voters’ verdict through some or all of these four unscrupulous means: (a) defection and change of government without fresh elections; (b) politically-motivated investigation, prosecution, harassment and detention of opposition leaders, civil society activists, journalists and bloggers; (c) discrimination in development funding against opposition-run state governments and opposition-won constituencies; (d) media campaign to play up ethno-religious sentiments and to delegitimize the opposition.

These undemocratic acts disrupt our public life and threaten political stability. The latest defection and quitting of PKR lawmakers are both a betrayal to their voters and an assault to Malaysia’s party system. Malaysia would be in total chaos and may witness coups if popular mandate can be ignored and violated at whim.

On the 2nd anniversary of March 8 election, we the undersigned civil society groups call upon all political parties to respect the voters’ verdict and demand for competitive politics made on March 8 2008. We urge them to promise the following six basic reforms in their present or future capacity as federal and state governments.

  1. That Article 48(6) of the Federal Constitution and similar provisions in state constitutions be amended to allow elected representatives resign and re-contest when they disagree with their party.
  2. That “recall elections” be introduced so that voters may sack elected representatives who underperform or betray their mandate.
  3. That the Federal Government respects the spirit of federalism and treat all state governments and members of parliament without discrimination regardless of party affiliation in term of grants, subsidies, royalties, allowance, support etc.
  4. That the State Governments treats all state assemblypersons without discrimination regardless of party affiliation in term of allowance and support;
  5. That the Federal Government and the state governments amend the Federal Constitution and all the related laws to facilitate the conduct of local governments elections so that all parties may have the opportunity to win representation in local governments.
  6. That all anti-human rights legislations be repealed and all politically-motivated investigation and prosecution be stopped immediately.

We also call upon all Malaysians to pursue these demands with both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. We call upon all eligible Malaysians who have not registered as voters to do so immediately.

We must defend the fruit of March 8 and defeat all attempts to roll back the democratisation process. Come next elections, let us cast our votes based on the coalitions’ fulfilment of or commitments to these demands.

Let us reclaim our country and make democracy the only game in town.