By Alfian Zohri Mohd Tahir

Why we need to protest and hold public rallies

I was too young to remember the 1998 reformasi demonstrations in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

There were no Facebook or Twitter or any social media tools for live updates and the only mobile phones available were those huge solid ones, resembling a brick!

However, I do remember reading about the event on Utusan Malaysia. Yes, I used to read Utusan Malaysia. Anyhow, I was too callow to understand the politics and reasons of those events being unfolded.

As time goes by, everything changes. From Sept 11, 2001 to the recent Arab Spring (Arab Awakening as put by Robert Fisk) a new chapter of human struggle was created.

If in the 60s, Americans were protesting against the Vietnam War, today not just the Americans but the whole world are protesting against war, any war.

We have anti ‘Gitmo' demonstrations in New York or London; and we also have anti-Internal Security Act (ISA) demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur.

Anti-nuclear power demos in Japan for instance, also happens in Australia, France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Public rallies or street protests, civil disobedience or whatever you want to call it, are a manifestation of rejection against the unpopular regime in that individual country.

It can be a one-man protest, a hundred, one thousand or a million, it doesn't matter. When you are oppressed, you stand up and fight for your rights. As simple as that.

Not too long ago, we have witnessed a classic example of the domino effect in the Arab world.

From one country to another, each one of those ruthless regimes responsible for numerous atrocities and human rights abuses collapsed due to the peoples' uprising.

But did it solve the problem? No! Does it create more problems? Yes!

The problems are yet to be solved and as a matter of fact the problems have only worsened.

Arbitrary killings, executions, violence against women, minorities and children and in fact a humanitarian crisis ensured at rather alarming rates.

Civil conflicts become our daily feed. Still the question, why is such discontent met with further escalations of violence?

It is very important for us to be fair and to assess this matter wisely. If we were those young Egyptians, are we going to march on the street screaming "Enough is Enough" or would we rather watch it live on TV?

Mubarak's oppressive regime is no secret to the world. Political opponents and progressive thinkers were often sentenced to jail and subjected to torture, the minority groups such as women's rights groups and student's movements were not allowed to voice out their concerns.

The most important issue that triggered the Uprising in Egypt is that only the rich become richer and the poor become poorer.

By knowing all of these injustices were happening for the last 30 years, as a young liberal minded Egyptian, what would you choose next?

Demanding an uncompromised and democratic change in the governing system or sit back, spend the fat cheques, raise a family, occasionally change hobbies, get sick and watch your government continue oppressing the people even if the people are your own family?

It is the same saga in Syria, Tunisia and Libya. Corrupt governments, fat wealthy leaders sipping expensive champagnes, puffing Havana-bounded cigars, while the people had to fight for a loaf of bread and steal just to buy a bottle of water.

Yet, all we do is, we condemn those people who took the streets, we portrayed them as thugs, branding them as uncivilised or ungrateful human race.

If we were those people in Libya or Syria, what do we have as an option? Do we send letters to Gaddafi saying "Dear Honorable Colonel Gaddafi, me and my kids have not eaten for three days. Would you mind sending us a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken?" hoping for Gaddafi to say this as an answer "To my loyal citizen, I will not send you one bucket but instead I will send you five buckets of KFC so you and your kids can eat for a week. But remember do not join any street rally!"

Do we really believe that this is the option that we have? And do we really believe that Gaddafi would eventually read those letters?

Then we argue: "In Malaysia we are much better than those Arab or African countries". "The word ‘democracy' is always muttered by our leaders.

"We managed to have elections without missing a single ballot paper". "We have been living peacefully for more than 50 years, why do we need to change? Why can't we just live normally?"

Yes, we are living in a logical sense of harmony. No doubt about that.

But does that mean our ruling system is corruption-free and puts humanity and the rule of law into practice? I believe no.

Let us all be honest with ourselves. We are living in a corrupt system. From the judicial institution to the election commission and to most government departments.

Corruption is endemic but it's almost tolerable! Will this corrupt system disappear when Pakatan Rakyat takes over Putrajaya? No!

Will Pakatan be able to remove and replace it with a more transparent system within 100 days after they ‘seized' Putrajaya? The answer is again, no!

It would take them years and years and years to repair the whole system. This is the process that we Malaysians are about to go through right now.

This is the ‘moment of transition' that we are trying to walk through and this period will not going to be easy.

In fact this is the hardest part for us Malaysians and we need to realise that we are making a huge change in our life. A change that is irreversible.

It is also important for all Malaysians to realize another matter. We are calling for a better system.

A system that can guarantee our rights and a system that based on the rule of law and is people-oriented.

We are not calling for Pakatan to replace BN just because we hate BN. Pakatan can be as corrupt as BN as soon as they take over Putrajaya.

This is not impossible.

All we want is Pakatan to guarantee the people's rights, improve judicial system, promote transparency and accountability within the governing bodies, shut ISA detention centres completely, try those who committed human rights violations in a fair people's court, demand openness and accuracy on information related to government spending i.e. military budgets, overseas trips and individual assets, improve the education system for all Malaysians - the list goes on.

Jan 12, 2013 was a date vital to both BN and Pakatan. There is no turning back.

The people are moving forward, you can put barricades as you will, those barricades will surely be toppled by the people. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

And for those of you who are against public rallies in Malaysia, I have a question, are you against public rallies because you do believe there is another solution for the problem i.e. (sending out letters and hoping your leaders will read it) or you'd prefer to pass on your "talk to the hand" mantra to your offspring so they too can suffer like you?

Oh wait, will you go onto the street now that Pakatan is bullish?