Bersih brought out the best and worst in Malaysians
Posted on May 12, 2012, Saturday
SHOULD we be surprised that the nation is still in Bersih mode, two weeks after the April 28 rally? Do we, Malaysians, have nothing better to do than to keep harping on about Bersih, street protests and public rallies?
Perhaps those of us living in Peninsular Malaysia, particularly in the Klang Valley, feel the Bersih heat more than those in Sabah and Sarawak.
From personal experience and feedback from friends and associates, it is true that things are quite ‘cool’ in East Malaysia as Bersih has yet to catch on in a big way. I suppose this is normal as Sarawakians and Sabahans are not known as the street rally type.
Reports indicated that the April 28 rally only attracted lukewarm responses. Only a few hundred people turned up for Bersih 3.0 in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. In the national capital, at least 100,000 people participated — the biggest turn-out in a public rally so far.
Well, I suppose Bersih reports are still hogging the national limelight because there were no other significant events in recent days to capture the imagination of Malaysians.
The safe return of the 12-year-old boy who was kidnapped near the Mount Kiara International School in Kuala Lumpur was happy news. It was discussed a fair bit online when the boy was still missing. Then there was the death of an elderly jogger who was bitten by a pitbull in a Subang Jaya housing estate. This sad event was talked about for a while.
Over the past fortnight, I also did not hear of any exciting news bites from Sarawak save for the usual politicians from the same coalition accusing each other of sabotage as the general election looms. Nothing new there or is there?
Ha, I think only a national catastrophe of epidemic proportion could shift the Bersih discussions and debates to the back of Malaysian minds. If there isn’t one coming soon, I’m afraid it will still be Bersih and more Bersih for another week or two.
I think it’s interesting and yet strange too how Bersih has brought out the best and worst in Malaysians.
Let me relive a few incidents which have given me a lot to think about.
Firstly, I received an email critical of my column last Saturday in which I basically asked those who could not behave at public rallies to stay at home. I also mentioned that I know of one Member of Parliament who, in my opinion, seems to enjoy getting worked up and challenging the police at every public rally.
In defending the MP concerned, the reader who signed off as ‘Akai’ also suggested that I must be writing in the comfort of my home in Kelana Jaya and possibly did not attend the April 28 rally.
He then went on to take a racial swipe at me, which I thought was unkind and rather distasteful. Let me inform ‘Akai’ that I’m not a Bumiputera and that the Bumiputeras in Sarawak are not as gullible as he thinks. And another thing ‘Akai’, my Bumiputera friends in Sarawak do not indulge in hurling racial slurs at others.
I did not want to mention I was also at the Bersih rally in my previous article as there was really no big deal in being there. There were already hundreds of thousands of people present. To me, it was simply an ordinary effort to be part of a huge crowd like Bersih 3.0.
I’ve read so many emails and articles online about those relating their experiences at the rally. It is well and good to share their stories and emotions of the day. But then those who felt that their participation was a show of great concern and love for their country and the ultimate sacrifice on their part had better think again.
Try protesting with just two dozen people over their native land rights or against logging or dam construction and you will have my utmost respect. That to me is a real show of concern and ultimate sacrifice for your fellow citizens and their rights. These less popular issues need your support too. But who cares — they are only minor protests which do not get the coverage and attention humans undeniably crave for.
To ‘Akai’, let me make it very clear again that I was one of the 99 per cent who went to attend a peaceful assembly on April 28. I am vehemently against the 1 per cent who went there to create trouble.
I got off at the Pasar Seni LRT station, walked with the crowd to Masjid Jamek, took a break just outside the Bar Council building, then heard Datuk S Ambiga speak at the Central Market. After Ambiga asked the crowd to disperse, we did. The huge numbers were there. The message was clear. It was mission accomplished for Bersih 3.0, even before 3pm when Ambiga instructed the crowd to disperse.
As far as I’m concerned, that was enough. There was no need to break the barrier to enter Dataran Merdeka and confront the police. But I’m painfully aware that there are bound to be characters who have no intention to attend a rally peacefully and go home peacefully. To them, it isn’t a protest without the street brawl and violence. That’s where the 99 per cent differ from the 1 per cent. And it’s unfortunate that the actions of the minority 1 per cent have created so much havoc among us all.
Let me repeat that I’m not amused by the actions of the MP who was arrested on April 28 and possibly at every public protests he has attended. I do not condone such unruly public behaviour. Period!
Another incident worth mentioning is the high-profile disagreement between a famous father and daughter over Bersih 3.0.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has written to a national daily to refute his daughter’s latest column in the newspaper, where she decried police violence against Bersih 3.0 participants.
According to a report in the daily, the ex-PM appeared to strongly disapprove of Marina’s position, which alluded that the disproportionate use of force by the police could have been ordered.
I’m sure the father and daughter can bring the matter up at their next family dinner. Dr Siti Hasmah could possibly play peacemaker then.
The final incident I wish to bring up here is the one involving DAP vice-chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim. He touched a raw nerve with his party when he asked Bersih leaders before the April 28 rally to heed police advice and assemble at Stadium Merdeka instead of Dataran Merdeka.
I thought that was a reasonable suggestion from the elderly senator, the first from DAP. Tunku Aziz made it clear that he also supports free and fair elections as demanded by Bersih but he was against illegal public rallies.
However, after the rally, Tunku Aziz again spoke out against Bersih 3.0 and expressed his unhappiness that the rally was hijacked by the opposition.
Well, the DAP leadership thought that their vice-chief had overstepped and, not surprisingly, did not extend the Tunku’s senatorship term which ends this month.
Well, the DAP has decided that Tunku Aziz wasn’t such a ‘big catch’ after all. Perhaps, Transparency International needs him more.
In conclusion, it’s only fair that I speak up for Bersih leader S Ambiga. She has been under attack from all corners. Some went too far such as calling on the government to strip her of her citizenship. It was also a dumb move by anti-Bersih traders to set up a burger stall outside her residence to protest against the rally.
The more Ambiga is persecuted by Bersih’s enemies, the more support she will garner from Malaysians. Many of us out there feel it is much easier and more worthwhile to support a non-politician like Ambiga because she has no personal interests to protect.
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