Saturday, 2 July 2011

Women's groups rally behind Empower

Representatives of women’s NGOs hold a press conference ,
July 1, 2011. Picture by Melissa Chi

Nine women's groups rallied behind Empower when it was raided by the police. The women's groups are:
PSWS, WAO, AWAM, Tenaganita, WCC, AWL, Sisters in Islam, SAWO, Perak Women for Women Society.

Struggle for Women's agenda
The women activists in these groups go back to the 1980s and have been instrumental in putting women's issues in the public view. Issues such as:
* violence against women
* women workers - domestic, informal workers  and migrant workers
* women and religion

Women activists' sacrifices
Many of these women have sacrificed their times with their families to better the cause for women. For eg it took 10 years for the government to recognise domestic violence as a crime. The women struggled through these years, facing rebuke from their own family members and the public but still struggled to push for the women's agenda to be heard.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bersih a struggle for the unheard voices to be heard
The Bersih cause is a struggle for the unheard voices which are muffled and unheard in the main stream media. Why can't these voices be heard? Why must we always hear the voices of the government in the mainstream media. Bersih is a cause for the unorganised workers' voices to be heard. Its also the voice for the rakyat who want change, for dignity and recognition. There's no dignity for the unorganised workers who are paid below the poverty line of RM720/month (which is meant for 4.4 members of the family). This is an official figure. This is ridiculous!!!

Women's groups are proud to say that women are leading the Bersih march for free and fair elections. Women like Dato Ambiga Sreenivasan and Maria Chin

This is TMI's report on the press conference held on 1 July, 2011.
PETALING JAYA, July 1 — Despite repeated warnings and claims of communist links from the authorities, the Bersih secretariat today insisted they will continue organising a rally for free and fair elections as they are “not challenging anyone”.
Police have said they will ensure the July 9 rally does not take place while leaders from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government have warned people to stay away from the Bersih movement, which they claim has been hijacked by political interests.
“I appeal to the government to be rational. Deal with the issue brought to the table and give us an explanation... don’t attack the civil societies.

“They think they are killing the nerve of this campaign. But in fact, it has gone beyond this the secretariat. The rakyat is the nerve,” Empower executive director Maria Chin Abdullah told reporters here today.

“They think they are killing the nerve of this campaign. But in fact, it has gone beyond this the secretariat. The rakyat is the nerve,” Maria Chin
Empower’s premises acts as the Bersih secretariat, which was raided by police two days ago. Seven activists were called in for questioning while police seized goods related to the planned rally.

Pictures of Samsiah Fakeh and Abdullah CD, former leaders of the now-defunct Communist Party of Malaya, were also confiscated, and were used to link the NGO with communism. Maria said the communist claim was to discredit the organisation.

All Bersih-related materials are now deemed illegal as they are said to be promoting the illegal July 9 rally.
Maria said Bersih, which represents 62 non-governmental organisations, has gathered 5,000 people to act as security personnel, with 100 doctors volunteering to be part of the medical team along with lawyers to deal with the immediate arrests.

“If there is any violence, certainly it will not come from Bersih,” she said, adding that the police should co-operate with them to ensure the rally will be peaceful.

Police have shut off all forms of negotiations with all organisers of rallies on July 9, with the Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar warning earlier today that the police will make sure the rallies do not take place.

He said there would be no more room for discussions, and warned the organisers — Bersih, Perkasa and Umno Youth — to be prepared to be arrested if they did not abort their respective rallies.

Despite Khalid’s announcement, Maria said they will still arrange for a meeting with him again in the coming week.

Bersih yesterday asked the police to suggest different routes and directions for the three groups on July 9 to ensure that its rally goes off without a hitch.

WAO executive director Ivy Josiah said it is not Bersih’s intention to challenge the government and that the rally should not be seen as a threat.

“We are not challenging anyone. We just want a free and fair election. It is not a competition,” she said.
Her remarks was in response to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s announcement that he could have three million members from Umno to take part in the rally, but that it would be irresponsible to do so while adding that the BN government would not resort to force.
“We think every political party should be behind this. We’re not looking for a fight,” she said.
Maria pointed out that Bersih is a civil society movement, not a political one.
She also said that the eight demands by Bersih have been presented to the Election Commission (EC) “many years ago” but no action has been taken.

Election watchdog Bersih along with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) component parties are gearing up for a rally this July 9, the second such gathering calling for electoral reform.

Among others, the group is demanding that the government ensure a clean and fair general election, reforms in the postal voting system and an extended campaign period of at least 21 days.

The first rally, also organised by Bersih, was held in 2007 and saw some 50,000 people take to the capital’s streets. The gathering eventually descended into chaos when the police deployed tear gas and water cannons on demonstrators.