Dear fellow Malaysians,

On 5 May 2013, we will go down to the polls for the 13th General Election in what will hopefully be a watershed moment in Malaysian history – the toppling of Barisan Nasional (BN) as the government of the day. The fact that the same government has ruled us for so long uninterrupted is an unwanted world record and certainly a serious stain in any democracy, never mind then Prime Minister Najib Razak’s outlandish “best democracy” claim.

The BN government has continuously ruled Malaysia with an iron grip for the past 55 years while having nominally democratic elections. However under this veneer of democracy, there is no media freedom or basic civil liberties like freedom of speech, association and assembly and political opponents are routinely arrested and prosecuted on politically motivated charges, aided and abetted by compliant state institutions including the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

It is no secret that the Malaysian political landscape has been dominated by BN who has over the decades, greedily shaped state institutions, power structures, political, economic, social and cultural policies to suit its own self-serving political and often times unlawful and undemocratic agenda. The rich, powerful and well-connected continue to flout the law, behaving as they please, as BN continues to protect them while enriching their family members, political cronies and a small group of super-rich businessmen allied to them.

Such continuous BN rule has created a culture of impunity where the government is accountable to no one. BN has “naturalised” itself in important state institutions as the only “rightful” government while those dissenting including opposition parties and civil society, with the helping hand of compliant or government linked mainstream media, are quickly demonised and depicted as enemies. Any attempt at reform would be met with silence, inaction, lip service or worse, retaliation.

From the A-G’s Chambers, police and MACC’s selective investigation and prosecution, to the often times obliging judiciary, it is clear that these state institutions share the same functions when it comes to certain cases: to uphold the political power of the ruling party and its allies, instead of ensuring rule of law and justice for all Malaysians without fear or favour. And in return, these state institutions are protected by the government and BN politicians when they commit crimes and other wrongdoings including extra judicial killings – see Teoh Beng Hock, Aminulrasyid and C. Sugumar – just to name a few of the most high profile senseless deaths caused by the police and MACC.

The death of Teoh Beng Hock brought a judicial inquest and a Royal Commission of Inquiry which incredibly concluded that he had committed suicide and no foul play was involved in his death at the MACC office building. The policeman who had fired the fatal shot at 15 year old Aminulrasyid was set free by the High Court, stating that his actions of firing at least 21 bullets at a fleeing car driven by a juvenile was not criminal in nature. C. Sugumar’s body continues to remain at the Serdang Hospital morgue with the police maintaining he had died from a “heart attack” even though he was publicly beaten and had his neck stepped on while facing down and his hands cuffed to his back.

Make no mistake, BN is incapable of genuine reform and as the deaths of Teoh Beng Hock, Aminulrasyid and C.Sugumar have shown, state institutions will always protect each other while their political masters will always defend them. There will be no justice, fairplay and rule of law as long as BN remains in power.

Yes, Malaysia is not as bad as some “African states” as many BN politicians are fond of saying but Malaysia can certainly do better; let us not fall victim to the old adage that in a democracy, the people will get the government they deserve.

We deserve better and let us all vote for a better Malaysia!

Yours sincerely,
Eric Paulsen
Co-founder and Adviser to Lawyers for Liberty