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    Posted April 30, 2012 by
    Kuala Lumpur
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    A call for clean and fair elections


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     hish87 shot this video of April 28 street protests in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by Bersih, an activist group calling for electoral reform within the country. 'After so many issues of bribery, phantom voting, vote buying, and other vote tampering issues, the Malaysian public has finally decided to retaliate and demand a clean election,' he said.
    - jmsaba, CNN iReport producer

    Today, I took part in Bersih 3.0, the third rally by the Malaysian people to demand free and fair elections. "Bersih", meaning "Clean" in Malaysia, originally started as a politically neutral organisation calling for electoral reform, but now has transformed into a national movement demanding long-term systematic change in the way our government operates.

    After attending Bersih 2.0, I attended today's rally with a sense of trepidation, but also a deep sense of patriotism. I went to support a cause I truly believe in, one that pushes Malaysia to become what we've always dreamed we could be, and more.

    I wasn't sure how many people would turn up - voter apathy is a huge problem in Malaysia, and after the clashes with police during Bersih 2.0 (where some policemen even threw tear gas into a hospital compound), I didn't know if people would come in the same numbers or with the same level of enthusiasm to Bersih 3.0. But as I walked around the edge of Dataran Merdeka (“Independence Square”, located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur) and saw the hundreds of thousands of people who had showed up to demand change, I knew that I was now part of something special. People of all races, religions, ages, and personal beliefs were gathered there to seek out their fundamental democratic right - to vote, and have their vote counted fairly, without fear of tampering, exclusion, or intervention.

    And just as the fever pitch had reached the peak of its crescendo, and the crowd readied to storm the barriers blocking the roads to Dataran Merdeka, the government fired its water cannons and released tear gas into the crowds. The rally-goers quickly scattered in search of safety.

    Civil disobedience lies at the heart of true democracy. When the government no longer represents its people, it is up to the people to demand fair representation. And when the government chooses to fire on its own people in order to guard the status quo, it has forgotten the original reason of its existence – to serve and protect the people it was elected to represent.

    In my opinion, Bersih is not just about honest elections, the end to persecution, or the call for fundamental change; it is about starting a conversation. It is about awakening people’s minds to the alternative to what has been for so long. It is about inviting people, perhaps for the first time, to discuss what they believe in, their values and hopes and dreams, and how they want to see these desires manifested in their government. If people watching become intrigued and start to think about things differently, then I think Bersih will have truly succeeded, regardless of who wins in the next election.
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