SOME people up there — and it appears the number, sadly, is fast increasing — have mush for brains.
You see, there was this news announcement less than three weeks ago, on Thursday, April 19, and it couldn’t have been any clearer.
The intro on the main news of the web news portal read: ‘Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today the April 28 rally by Bersih 2.0 does not pose a security threat to the nation’.
Indeed, in the very next paragraph, for good measure, he was quoted further: “April 28 is not an issue”.
Indeed, he even used dismissive terms to describe the Bersih initiative, such as the event having “no traction”.
Now, let’s please remember that this is our Minister of Home Affairs who’d been quoted.
Yes, the very same person in charge of home security and our much-maligned police force which, quite miraculously, recently managed to meet all its KPIs, reducing overall crime in the country, and making Malaysia, I’m sure, the green and pleasant land many of us were hoping it could become, and not the grey and bankrupt one that we feared it had been turned into.
So, given that it’s a statement made by the Home Minister, we could all assume, I suppose, that the Bersih sit-in — one that was meant to be a peaceful — that took place not only in Kuala Lumpur, but also all around the country and in numerous other parts of the world, would have gone ahead unimpeded, uninterrupted.
But, as it became more and more apparent that there was, indeed, more than a little bit of ‘traction’, as it became all-too-obvious that Bersih 3.0 was going to be attended — all around the world, mind you — by more than just the organisers, the official flip-flopping began.
And with it, earlier, ‘friendly’ promises of the sit-in being facilitated by the authorities turned into open threats by the very same people.
Of course, having made the initial statement, having dismissed the occasion as a non-event that could, nonetheless, go on, the home minister could not really openly disown it. But what he did was something that’s become quite predictable these days — he washed his hands and passed the buck to the local authorities, Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL), and, of course, the police.
But, wait a minute … to reiterate, this same minister is the person in charge of our police force. So, he can’t really now say that it was out of his hands — that line had already been used some time ago by an old former prime minister. And nobody really took him seriously then, so it was quite unreasonable for us to be conned this time as well .
Hence, despite keeping very quiet then, you can bet your bottom dollar that the minister was very much informed about what was going to transpire. Indeed, quite possibly, he was on top of it all throughout the episode.
And so it came to pass. After all the to-ing and fro-ing, flipping and flopping, Bersih 3.0, that act of peaceful civil disobedience, that demand for free and fair elections, came and went on April 28.
And much as the mainstream peninsula media may wish to spin it, in terms of sheer numbers alone, this was simply bigger than any previous one. Indeed, let us not forget that, apart from the many thousands of us on the streets of KL that Saturday afternoon, there were thousands of others gathered in other states of Malaysia and, more remarkably, in other parts of the world.
And we all know now, of course, that up until about 3pm, all was peaceful on the streets of Kuala Lumpur where we had assembled, inching our way to Dataran Merdeka. Ask anyone, from the fresh-faced college student on her first walkabout to the makciks and pakciks who had come from as far as Kedah to walk, and they’ll tell you how peaceful and carnival-like the atmosphere was.
Until about 3 pm, that is.
The time when Datuk Ambiga and the other Bersih leaders declared the gathering a success and asked us to disperse; this message being sent out to all and sundry via text messages and even Twitter.
The time when, ominously, all of us found that we couldn’t use our mobile phones to send or receive messages or phone calls. The time when those around one section of the barricades at Dataran somehow breached this barricade and headed towards Dataran.
That was the time, it appears, when all hell broke loose.
That was the time when many of us so far away from Dataran saw whiffs of smoke in the distance, started to sense our face stinging, began feeling rather choked up and realised that tear gas had been fired.
And many of us simply retreated, shaking our heads, wondering as we ran, why ‘they’ could be so dumb.
Now, a week later, there’s been spin after spin. Much of it aimed at demonising the peaceful act of thousands of Malaysians.
But such shameful demonising of concerned Malaysians cannot absolve the authorities of a series of serious missteps, indeed possible rights violations.
Nor should it make us all forget why we, the rakyat, went out on the streets on April 28 to demand for free and fair elections.