Global Bersih February 2016 newsletter is now ready for download. FEBRUARY 2016 E
Bersih NL organized another gathering on 21 February 2016 in Utrecht to celebrate Chinese New Year. We were also privileged to have Global Bersih visitors who flew in from Geneva: Mr Bala Chelliah and his wife, Sharnti. The event was attended by 18 members, guests and friends of Bersih NL.
It was a potluck lunch and in true Malaysian spirit, everyone brought delicious home-cooked food and desserts to share, ranging from yu sang to apom balik. It was truly a feast of Malaysian delicacies and makan – something close to every Malaysian’s heart, especially those living overseas who miss such food.
Amidst the amiable atmosphere and fellowship, everyone got to know one another and caught up with events and developments in Malaysia and what Bersih 2.0 is currently doing.
After dessert, Bala gave a short briefing on Global Bersih’s (GB) objectives and touched on Bersih NL’s own objectives which link us to the wider GB community. Basically, GB’s main objectives are to carry out outreach work with the Malaysian diaspora spread across the globe and international advocacy work. GB’s strategic location in Geneva is ideal for advocacy and lobbying with the UN High Commission for Human Rights and other international human rights organizations and NGOs based there, and to bring attention to political, social and economic issues in Malaysia and human rights violations. Bala emphasized that similar advocacy work is being carried by GB supporters in London, Paris, Washington, Sydney and New York and his hope is that each Bersih country organization will undertake similar advocacy work with the respective country’s Foreign Office/Ministry and international organizations based there. For example, Bersih NL can explore what advocacy work is possible with the International Human Rights Court based in The Hague or visit the Dutch Foreign Minsitry to explore what support they can provide for protecting human rights and advancing democratic practices in evolving democracies such as Malaysia.
In addition to his GB Secretary role, Bala carries out the above-mentioned activities in Geneva by working closely with SUARAM and Aliran and also acts as their Geneva representative to the UN High Commission for Human Rights.
Bala encouraged all overseas Malaysians to spread the word on Global Bersih’s goals and activities and connect with all overseas Malaysians and get them to contribute in any way they can (e.g. IT, media, design, photography, publicity, financial, etc.).
Bala’s concluding comment was that we overseas Malaysians can play an important role to suppport the movement for change in Malaysia, and that this will be achieved if each of us passionately believes in the Cause. But as a minimum, he implored all of us (and all Malaysians) to register to vote and suggested that we start putting some money aside to fly back to vote when the next elections are called.
An important milestone is the registration of Bersih Network Netherlands as an official stichting (NGO) in the Netherlands. We would like to encourage all like-minded Malaysians in the Netherlands to sign up as members to support our local Bersih activities. Here are some of the activities and programmes in the pipeline:
- Social activities to connect with like-minded Malaysians in the Netherlands
- Talks/seminars on democracy in Malaysia to create awareness and raise consciousness
- Sale of Bersih NL T-shirts to raise funds to cover expenses incurred
- Encourage all overseas Malaysians to register as voters
- Address all questions and concerns overseas Malaysians have about the Malaysian voting system and how to register as postal voters
- Discussions with local human rights organizations and government agencies on human rights issues faced by Malaysians in Malaysia
- Inquire about dates and locations where people can register as voters and communicate the information through available channels
If you have not signed up as a member of Bersih NL, we would like to connect with you. Do come forward and send us your contact details ([email protected]). Small steps make a big difference!
Help Radio Free Sarawak (RFS), the independent station which is dedicated to the concerns of the rainforest peoples of Borneo, continue to provide an alternative and independent source of news during the upcoming state election. RFS is the only independent platform where these forest dwellers, who are struggling against state-backed logging, land grabs and indigenous rights abuses can let their voice be heard.
We recently attended a Deepavali lunch organized by the Malaysian Association of the Netherlands on Saturday, 14 November 2015, at the Indian Palace in Zoetermeer. Because we were late, there were hardly any empty seats left. Luckily we found a table in the middle of the room. About 15 minutes later, the organizer announced that the guest of honour, the Malaysian Ambassador to the Netherlands, HE Dato’ Ahmad Nazri Yusof and his family had arrived. They walked in and were ushered to our table!
That was indeed a pleasant surprise and we were relieved that the organizer did not ask us to leave the table. I felt honoured to be in the company of a distinguished guest and took the opportunity to introduce ourselves and get to know the ambassador better. His Excellency graciously answered qustions that were posed. The following are among the items discussed:
- The recent terrorist attacks in Paris where 130 people were killed and many left injured. Should this happen in the Netherlands, the Malaysian Embassy will be responsible for tracking down all Malaysians and ensuring that they are safe. However, according to the ambassador, there are currently about 300 Malaysians registered with the Malaysian Embassy in The Hague. We agreed that this figure is low, and that there would be a number of Malaysians who have not registered with the embassy. The ambassador plans to make available an online registration form for Malaysians in the Netherlands to register themselves without having to make a trip to the Malaysian Embassy in The Hague.
- The Sarawak state election is coming up soon. My question was whether we could cast our vote as postal voters from the Netherlands. The answer is no; we have to go home for the state election. It is only for the General Election that we will be able to cast our vote at the Malaysian Embassy in The Hague.
- Voter registration. I asked if we could register as a voter at the Malaysian Embassy in The Hague. However this can be done only when there is an official voters registration campaign organized by the Election Commission. The most recent campaign was last year. The ambassador did not know when the next one would be. He will keep us informed. Meanwhile, when you are back in Malaysia for holidays, do drop by any post office and present your MyCard (IC) at the counter and they can register you as a voter there. You will need to wait between 3 and 6 months, after which you can check your status on the SPR website (www.spr.gov.my). Sometimes, there are counters at pasar malam or shopping complexes to register voters. Do look out for those too!
- I asked what happens to votes which are mailed to or dropped off at the Malaysian Embassy during a General Election. These votes are sent by secure post to the EC in Kuala Lumpur, and then to the respective constituencies under special police escort. The votes are then counted in front of the candidates in the voting centres. There is currently no arrangement whereby the votes cast by Malaysian citizens overseas are counted at their respective Malaysian embassies. A change in election policy is required. The ambassador advised overseas Malaysians to approach any of their MPs back in Malaysia and request them to bring up this issue in Parliament.
In summary, we should encourage all overseas Malaysians to register themselves at their respective Malaysian embassy so that in the event of an emergency, their embassy can trace and contact Malaysians and provide help if needed. Some families may contact Malaysian embassies overseas for help in tracking their family members if they are unable to contact their loved ones. In the next voters registration campaign, all Malaysians in the Netherlands will be encouraged to go and register at the Malaysian Embassy to exercise their civil right to vote. As many Malaysians are skeptical as to whether votes cast actually reach the respective constituencies, and some are concerned that votes might be tempered with, the safest option is for Malaysians overseas to go back to Malaysia during the General Election or State Election to cast their votes. Therefore, start saving for your air ticket now!
It is our pleasure to welcome Ivy Josiah, Steering Committee member of Global Bersih & Member of the Programme Committee, Bersih 4 Malaysia, to The Hague. We organized a meeting with a group of Malaysians, and Ivy shared her recent experience in the history-making Bersih 4.0 rally back in Kuala Lumpur which took place on 29-30 August 2015. The forum with Ivy was held in a meeting room in The American Book Center in the centre of The Hague from 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
We started with a short video featuring Datuk Ambiga who gave a summary of current developments in Malaysia. Details of the forum with Maria Chin (Bersih Chairman) and Dato Noor Farida (Member of G25) that took place on 3 October 2015 in London were also shared.
Participants then introduced themselves and gave their views about on what is currently going on in Malaysia. This was followed by Ivy’s account of what took place at the Bersih 4.0 rally. Below is a summary of her experience:
1) The event was a success, and hundreds of thousands flocked to Kuala Lumpur on 29-30 Aug 2015. It was so packed that moving from one point to another took a lot more time than usual, e.g. it took 45 minutes to cover a distance which usually takes 10 minutes.
2) The event was attended by all races. Compared to Bersih 2.0 and Bersih 3.0, Bersih 4.0 saw a bigger participation by Chinese.
3) Compared with Bersih 2.0 and Bersih 3.0, when the police used tear gas, Bersih 4.0 was more organized and coordinated and there was less intervention by the police
4) Thousands also stayed and slept on the streets of Kuala Lumpur on the night of 29 August – something which the organizers did not expect.
5) There was an incredible spirit of camaraderie and sense of unity.
6) Ivy was on one of the ‘mobile stages’ (pick-up trucks) from which Bersih leaders addressed the people during the rally.
7) There were also ‘tactics’ by certain parties to create chaos or confusion among the Bersih 4.0 organizers, e.g. there were bogus text messages about several rally participants killed by the police.
When asked whether there were plans for Bersih 5.0, Ivy mentioned that the current focus is on mobilizing NGOs on the ground to create awareness about rampant corruption and abuse of power by the current government.
Ivy also brought a message from the Global Bersih Committee that we should continue to reach out to more Malaysians and create awareness about what is going on in Malaysia. What we can do is to register ourselves as voters (more details in this link) and to encourage more Malaysians to participate in an overseas voting survey that is accessible online (so that Global Bersih can work towards a reform of the overseas voting process for Malaysians overseas).
Next we introduced the goals and objectives of Bersih NL:
To promote awareness among Malaysians living in the Netherlands and nearby countries of current social, political and economic developments in Malaysia.
To encourage discussion and critical thinking about the state of social, political and economic progress in Malaysia.
To seek ways and means to ensure a fair and clean overseas voting system for overseas Malaysians casting their votes in the General Election.
To link Malaysians in the Netherlands to the Global Bersih movement.
To create a platform for Malaysians from all walks of life in the Netherlands and nearby countries, for them to be informed and to share their views about the social, political and economic situation in Malaysia.
To encourage Malaysians in the Netherlands to exercise their right to vote and to register themselves for the General Election.
To disseminate reports and recordings of Bersih-related events to a wider audience through written and audio visual media.
We then had our first membership sign-ups from the participants who attended the forum. We hope to raise €350 to start a stichting (foundation), so that Bersih NL is registered as a legal association with its own bank account for collecting donations for all Bersih NL activities.
Our target is to get at least 20 members to sign up within the next two weeks. If you would like to make a difference, join us! All you have to do is to download the membership form, fill in your details and email it back to us at: [email protected].
We hope to organize more events to gather like-minded Malaysians together to share and exchange views and experiences on important topics close to our hearts and involving our beloved country. So come one, come all and stay tuned!
Salam bersih from Bersih NL