Electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 has hit out at Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong for questioning whether it is really representative of the people, or a front for Pakatan Harapan.
Bersih chairman Thomas Fann said he read Kua’s comments with “bewilderment, amusement and sadness,” and wished to address the allegations levelled at the NGO.
“Bersih is not beyond scrutiny nor criticism and we welcome constructive criticism based on facts and truth, not scurrilous and slanderous accusations based on hearsay, imagination and one’s own obsession with a certain former leader,” Fann said in a statement.
“In answer to Kua’s question, ‘Is Bersih a people’s front or PH front?’, I can categorically state that we exist for the purpose of advocating for reforms that would protect and promote the interests of the people and not that of any party or coalition, let alone an individual.
“Kua alleged that Bersih was in hibernation during the 22 months that PH was in power. Anyone who follows the politics of this country or our Facebook page or website postings would know that far from being compliant or in hibernation, we have been speaking out through press releases, media interviews and comments about the political and electoral developments in Malaysia.”
In addition to public statements, which Fann emphasised were generally critical of PH, he said Bersih leaders were also active members of the Electoral Reform Committee set up to look into and propose potential changes.
“It is manifestly clear that Kua’s allegation of Bersih being compliant (or silent) during PH’s 22-month rule, is false, imaginative or both. We spoke up for the rakyat and the then opposition when it was unpopular to do so amid the euphoria of Malaysia Baru.”
In response to Kua’s assertion that Bersih leaders were “co-opted into the administration” after the election, Fann called upon him to be specific and state who he was referring to.
“If Kua’s allegation is grounded on facts and not imagination, he should courageously name the person for the public to make their judgement, and any accused person can opt to take actions to clear his or her name.”
In his open letter, Kua also questioned why Bersih did not protest broken manifesto promises, such as abolishing toxic institutions and laws like Sosma, and prohibiting the appointments of politicians to posts at publicly funded investment bodies.
In response, Fann said: “Bersih is an electoral reform watchdog that pushes for reforms that strengthen our democracy, not a one-size-fits-all NGO that monitors and holds protests at the drop of a coin over every single issue that people like Kua are unhappy about.
“Where PH was reneging on manifesto promises with regards to electoral or key institutional reforms, Bersih issued many strongly-worded statements to remind them and the public of PH’s promises.
“During the 22 months of PH rule, there was much engagement between civil society and the new government, and progress was made in some areas, albeit slower than we would have liked. Does Kua seriously expect Bersih to lead massive protests when the new government is still engaging with us?”
On Kua’s comments that Bersih lacked concrete demands, Fann countered that all their rallies had clearly spelled out requests for electoral and institutional reform, many of which were taken into account by PH. – FMT