By Stephanie Sta Maria
KUALA LUMPUR: The Election Commission (EC) today echoed accusations by anti-Bersih supporters in branding the July 9 rally as a political ploy to overthrow the ruling government.
EC deputy chairman, Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, pointed out that Bersih’s insistence on pushing for electoral reforms at the expense of security concerns is clear indication of its real agenda.
“An NGO that is truly fighting for a democratic process will not put priority on a time line but on negotiations and discussions,” he said during a luncheon entitled “Bersih’s demands – What is EC’s explanation?”
“Opposition political parties are promising to contribute large numbers to the rally. When NGO intentions are combined with political intentions, then it isn’t a Bersih rally but a political one.”
“Right now we are only listening to an NGO’s perception so the EC may have to start going down to the ground to explain the situation to the people. They need to know that electoral reforms don’t happen overnight.”
Wan Ahmad explained that the EC and Bersih were meant to hold second round of talks after the Sarawak state election but the latter evidently lacked the patience to wait until then.
“Now the situation is being exploited by political parties which will also take advantage of the outcome,” he warned. “History is about to repeat itself. Bersih is aiming to overthrow the government.”
He expressed both regret and puzzlement over the stance taken by Bersih chairman, S Ambiga, especially after the “satisfying” preliminary talks between both sides last November.
‘Bersih is kotor now’
“The Bersih today is not the Bersih I knew before,” he told the 100-odd crowd. “It has changed, it is now kotor (dirty). I was in many forums with Ambiga before and I don’t understand her hardened stance now.”
“I appeal to Ambiga to distance herself and Bersih from political parties that are taking advantage of her. But I also believe Ambiga is caught in this situation. She has allowed herself to be trapped and cannot withdraw now.”
Wan Ahmad then suggested that Bersih register itself as a political party and contest in elections if it intended to pursue this path.
In doing so, he said, people would have a clearer picture of Bersih’s stand and decide whether they wanted to throw their support behind it.
“This would make it easier for everyone,” he added. “Right now, Pakatan is a problem to the EC because it is not a registered organisation and sometimes two party members want to contest the same seat.”
“We have already asked the Pakatan leaders why they have not registered themselves with the Registrar of Societies (ROS). Maybe it’s because they couldn’t reach a pact among themselves.”
Wan Ahmad also repeated the EC’s earlier offer to meet the Bersih committee if the rally was called off. Ambiga, however, had said the time for negotiations had passed.
“I’m making a final plea here,” Wan Ahmad said. “The door to negotiations is still open. The EC is not rejecting Bersih. There are certain quarters who have urged us not to meet with Bersih at all but this is not our stand.” – FMT