IT was perhaps timely that the controversy surrounding Seksualiti Merdeka followed the earlier euphoria of Bersih 2.0. Both were events which tested the extent to which Malaysians understand and define democracy. Interestingly, some who supported Bersih 2.0 were against the very idea of something like Seksualiti Merdeka. The Nut Graph asks political scientist Dr Wong Chin Huat whether this is a contradiction in what we want in a democracy, and how democrats can navigate their opposing ideals.
TNG: Amid all the controversy around Seksualiti Merdeka, Bersih 2.0 chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said she stood by her initial agreement to launch the event. On the other hand, PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said that while he supports Ambiga’s work on Bersih 2.0, action should be taken against all those involved in Seksualiti Merdeka. Is Ambiga’s support for Seksualiti Merdeka damaging Bersih’s goals?
There are two issues here: first, Bersih 2.0’s goals, and second, the individual beliefs of personalities associated with Bersih 2.0.
Bersih 2.0 was designed to be an advocate of procedural democracy. We just want to see a multiparty democracy functioning, regardless of the substantive policies which may be attained. By extension, this will require free speech, other civil liberties, rule of law, and basic inclusion of all. The point about procedural democracy is that the ultimate goal is open-ended. We therefore don’t take positions on other issues involving class, religion, language, or sexuality. Within the steering committee, we have a good combination of left and right, of liberals and conservatives. Nevertheless, Ambiga’s stand is shared by Maria Chin Abdullah and a couple of others in the Steering Committee including myself.
While a big portion of Bersih supporters would probably prefer a more homogeneous and conservative Malaysia, to say that Ambiga is damaging Bersih 2.0’s work is to effectively tie Bersih 2.0 with a close-ended vision for a reformed Malaysia. It would be the same if