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Bersih vs Himpun shows Najib's double standards

PM Najib Razak is saying that the Bersih 2.0 rally should have been held - all nice and orderly like - in a stadium instead of invading the streets of KL. Just like how the wonderful and cooperative Himpun rally was held in Stadium Shah Alam last Saturday.

Let's recap why Bersih 2.0 was not held in a stadium.

When PM Najib was forced to accept the breadth and depth of public support for Bersih 2.0, he moved quickly to try and wrest control of the situation. Bersih 2.0 was verbally legitimised and even promised the use of a stadium for their rally. They decided on the historic and symbolic Stadium Merdeka which has capacity for 30,000 people.

Abruptly, their request to use the stadium was turned down and Bersih 2.0 was de-legitimised again - despite PM Najib's overtures and promises - with the excuse that the expected 300,000 attendees would be way over Stadium Merdeka's capacity. That would be ten times too many people for the stadium to hold.

Way to troll the entire population of Malaysia! You can almost imagine our IGP's face scrunched up in a a wry smile, going "Problem?"

Outraged at this about-turn, the rally went ahead anyway, bringing its message of clean and fair elections to streets (and worldwide via sympathetic rallies). After everything, Bersih 2.0 claims 50,000 attendees showed up. Meanwhile, the media estimates between 10,000 to 15,000 people - well within the capacity of Stadium Merdeka. And the police mockingly put the number at a pathetic 6,000.

Wherefore then the justification for denying Bersih 2.0 the use of Stadium Mereka? Can a measly 6,000 people not safely gather and chant their slogans as the tear-gassing, chemical-spraying police in full riot gear close in on the stadium?

Now let's look at Himpun.

The full title of the rally itself clues us in to the hoped-for turnout - 'Himpunan Sejuta Umat', one million people.

Yet Himpun was cleared to use Stadium Shah Alam - in record time nonetheless - even though the venue can only accommodate between 70,000 to 100,000 with some squeezing.

Similar to Bersih 2.0's original planned turnout-to-stadium-capacity ratio, Himpun would have had ten times too many people for the stadium to hold. But Himpun's planned excess of 900,000 people is a completely different paradigm from Bersih 2.0's mere excess of 280,000!

How can PM Najib and the authorities justify and handwave away the blatant double standards shown here? The hypocrisy is insulting enough, but expecting us to swallow it is doubly insulting!

(Don't get me started on the narrow, factional purpose of the Himpun rally - protesting 'apostates from Islam', which carries worrying echoes of the official plus mob persecution of Christian Copts in Egypt which is often triggered by rumours of converts leaving Islam.)

And just for the record, only a paltry 4,000 attendees actually showed up for Himpun. Can we take that as a resounding Malaysian TAK NAK!!! to religiously divisive politics?

So in this Bizarro World, fringe gatherings with disruptive aims are to be commended and legitimised, while broadly-appealing rallies with noble goals are actually lawbreaking riots bordering on rebellion and civil war.

Finally, I'm going to risk making readers fed up with US/Malaysia political comparisons - but US politics offers us key lessons about what might be up with our local politics.

For a few weeks now, Occupy Wall Street and its related protests have been touting their narrow, factional demands which basically amounts to ‘end capitalism for fairness’ but which as a practical matter translates to ‘people who work hard all day should give free stuff to slackers like us’ - complete with plenty of vulgarity, violence, crassness, lawbreaking, hundreds of arrests, and even the occasional defecating on police cars.

However, the media has been coddling the protests with carefully edited coverage, focusing only on the few individuals who seem the least abnormal, ridiculous and unreasonable. The ABC, CBS and NBC networks gave them 33 full stories or interview segments in just the first 11 days of October 2011.

Meanwhile, the massive nationwide Tea Party protests against wasteful government spending - comprising hundreds of rallies, each with thousands of very normal, job-holding attendees - were given only 13 total stories by ABC, CBS and NBC in all of 2009.

Even then, they are usually depicted as hateful, potentially violent and radically extreme - despite the total lack of observational evidence and about zero total arrests. They even pick up their own trash, instead of pooping on the street!

So in this Bizarro World, fringe gatherings with disruptive aims are to be commended and legitimised, while broadly-appealing rallies with noble goals are actually lawbreaking riots bordering on rebellion and civil war.

Wait, didn't I just use that whole paragraph earlier?

You see, it all depends on who is favoured by certain political parties and their crony mainstream media. And who they oppose as a threat to their precious status quo of power and control.

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