Friday, August 23

A tribute to brave Malaysians

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IT could have come and gone with a minimum of fuss.

Indeed, in the overall scheme of things, many probably would have missed it or, at best, dismissed it as just another futile exercise, based on the misinformation provided by the mainstream media.

But, as I write this while events unfold on Saturday, July 9, 2011, the culmination of Bersih 2.0’s campaign is fast taking shape in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

By the time you read this, report after report would have been churned out by a compliant and pathetic mainstream media about how brilliant our boys (and girls) in blue were.

How they managed to save us all from all manner of threats from jealous foreign powers, Christian groups and, rightly of course, long-dead communists and their ideologies. The only thing missing from all this would be how our forces saved us from an added invasion from Mars.

But, really, the facts speak differently.

For all the demonisation it had to endure, Bersih 2.0 just had eight requests:

1. Clean up the electoral roll to address irregularities.
2. Reform postal voting.
3. Use indelible ink.
4. Establish a minimum campaign period of 21 days.
5. Ensure free and fair access for all political parties to the media.
6. Strengthen public institutions.
7. Get rid of corruption.
8. Put a stop to dirty politics.

And, really, how could any decent Malaysian have problems with any of the above?

The campaign had absolutely nothing to do with race, Malay rights and privileges, overthrowing the government or waging war against the Agong.

But, it was depicted that way by self-serving groups and individuals. And, of course, the mainstream Semenanjung media.

Unfortunately for them, in trying to silence what many could see initially as a plaintive plea from concerned Malaysians, the powers that be – and their idiotic minions – elevated Bersih and its cause to heights that their leaders and followers could not have dreamed of.

And as the sun set on Kuala Lumpur, and the numbers arrested increased to about 1,000, some things are clear.

First, this has been a massive public relations disaster for the state. A simple message that was, indeed, reportedly acceptable for the Agong, that could have been accepted quietly with grace by purported leaders, unfortunately for them, has become a clarion call simply because of overkill, of sledgehammer tactics being used to silence these voices.

Indeed, when you have eyewitness reports that the authorities fired tear gas directly into the crowd, and receive YouTube images of demonstrators being kicked and punched while on the ground, you tend to question the use of all these strong-arm tactics in a democratic society. Or one that proclaims to be.

Second, in this age of the Internet, you may try to lock down a whole city (causing much loss of income for ordinary folk working in the city, among other things), but there is very little you can do about the other coordinated rallies in other parts of the world.

There was even one in Singapore, for heaven’s sake. And it certainly wasn’t tear gassed.

Third, the words ‘honour’ and ‘honesty’ appear to have disappeared from the lexicon of many of our highest leaders. Assuming, of course, they were there in the first place.

I’m sure, as children, you, like me, were constantly reminded by your parents, religious leaders and teachers never to lie.

It wasn’t about the fear of getting caught. It was about growing up to be honourable human beings; it was about dignity, about separating us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

But now we have seen the very people who should be setting an example blatantly lying through their teeth and not keeping word.

In so doing, for me at least, they have lost the moral authority to lead. They have lost all honour.

And, believe you me, these are things that people are not about to ‘lupa’.

Fourth, the patriots succeeded in making utter ninnies of themselves. Even the most generous of reports I’ve read so far said their number was less than 500. And they were giving away free T-shirts.

The report that brought a smile to my face was that they marched for 200 metres, stopped, declared this to be a moral victory, and dispersed.

Yeah, moral victory indeed.

Fifth, and more seriously, assuming that all the news reports are right – and virtually all that I have read have been consistent – what are we to make of the contradictory responses of politicians to the call by Malaysia’s head of state, the Agong?

I’m sure you read, as I did, that the King had asked for all parties to come together for discussions. And Bersih’s representatives certainly wanted to comply with that.

So who really was not following the King’s advice? As if we all don’t know.

I hope, and I’m not holding my breath here, that the authorities will eat humble pie and learn from this.

There’s no sense in going into denial mode, because there are just too many people – and many of them young – who are now more aware of their rights and are hooked up via new media.

And they are not afraid to practise those rights. Like the many brave ones on the streets of KL on July 9, 2011.

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