"We have many excellent ministers. But they are getting too easily spooked by rallies! Our police are good and have no problem dealing with two peaceful rallies held at different times and at different places."
– Ambiga Sreenevasan
COMMENT | The postponement of the Suhakam festival – I loathe to call it a rally because it is not in form or substance – has grave implication for rational freedom-loving Malaysians, who are becoming an endangered species.
I do not think most Malaysians understand the gravity of the situation. This festival has absolutely nothing to with the rally against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, unless you consider irony a provocation.
What we have is two opposition political parties – Umno and PAS – dictating what Suhakam (an instrument of the state) can and cannot do. Taking cold comfort in the fact that the festival is still on albeit on a different day, is something right-thinking Malaysians will have to swallow since the government of the day is capitulating to bullies.
Mostly though, the far right has established the fact that it controls the discourse in this country. The far right answers to nobody, certainly not the government of the day. This has implications far beyond the anti-Icerd rally. What do you think would happen if any “progressive” organisation wishes to hold a rally, post-Dec 8?
Suppose Bersih decides (for whatever reasons) to hold a rally, to hold the government accountable and the Malay far right decides to hold a counter-rally in the name of race and religion? What do you think would happen?
Bersih, which used to have the logistical and political support of then-opposition politicians would now have to rely on its own devices, bereft of not only the political support it used to have but also a state which now views the threats of the far right as something it cannot handle.
The former Umno state always warned that rallies were a national security threat. State-sponsored thugs always made threats against those rallies. The state security apparatus always warned people not to attend those rallies.
Back to 'Old Malaysia'
Yet somehow, 'Old Malaysia' survived. Why is it that the state security apparatus cannot handle the threats posed by far-right opposition parties now...