ASIA/MALAYSIA - "Transparency and reform": civil society is demonstrating, with their eyes towards the "Arab Spring"

Kuala Lumpur (Agenzia Fides) - The "Arab Spring" is coming to the East. The biggest event of the Malaysian civil society in the last 50 years is announced for tomorrow, July 9, which plans to bring together over 400 thousand people in the capital Kuala Lumpur to ask for "reforms and transparency". The event was launched by the movement "Berish 2.0" (meaning "cleanliness"), a forum of over 80 NGOs that have been holding talks with the Electoral Commission to ask for transparent elections, honesty, fairness in the treatment of the different parties , equal opportunities, law enforcement without a "double standard". Failure to respond to issues raised by the Commission of civil society - explain sources of Fides in Malaysia - has produced ill-feeling and desires to protest publicly to expose to the government and the whole nation the urgency of a comprehensive reform of the electoral system, when in about a year’s time general elections will be held. The forum criticizes, among other things, the presence of "ghost voters" in the lists, postal voting, the machines used to count the votes, the failure to use indelible ink and a brief campaign.
The initiative of "Berish 2.0" - "2.0" emphasizes its modernity, the youthful character and the reference to the extensive use of new media and social networking - has alerted the Malaysian government, led by the UMNO party, the representative of the Malay majority. Concerned about the possible spread of the movements of the "Arab Spring" in the country, Prime Minister Najib Razak has launched a series of extraordinary measures: he will close the capital's streets from midnight tonight to prevent the influx of protestors from other parts of the country; has banned gatherings in the streets, confining the event in a stadium outside the city; has restricted the freedom of movement of 91 activists and leaders of civil movements. In recent weeks, when the Berish forum began to raise public awareness, the government responded by declaring it "illegal" and arrested 200 activists.
Even the King, the figure traditionally heard in the country, has appealed for calm, calling for the good of the nation. The Berish leaders have not given up, announcing that they plan to hold the event, appealing to the freedom provided by the Constitution, in the "Merdeka Stadium" in Kuala Lumpur: The structure has a historical and symbolic significance, since it was built for the Declaration of Independence of Malaysia in 1957.
"Tension is high in the capital," notes a source of Fides of the Malaysian Catholic community. "There is an atmosphere of great expectation, especially among young people. There is fear of confrontations and violence, but the movement seems peaceful: they only claim transparency and reform, without any revolutionary intent. The government, however, fear the possible political consequences". In addition, continues the source of Fides, what emerges in this circumstance is the old problem of discrimination which exists in Malaysia, where national policies in many areas openly favor ethnic Malay citizens and of Muslim religion compared to other social and religious realities (Indian and Chinese minority). "Of course removing these privileges – concludes the source - it is very difficult for any government, which is an expression of the majority of the population. But it would be an important sign of justice and democracy". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 08/07/2011)

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