While the outward support and the zeal for taking part in the latest Bersih demonstration may have dropped just by looking at the turnout, I would dare to add that the turnout probably does not tell the full story.
Imagine 40,000 plus people still turned out after repeated arrest warnings and key leaders being arrested a day before the planned rally. To me, this shows the movement is still going strong and many are willing to risk all by participating, one way or another.
Mocking Bersih for the low turnout will not dampen the spirit of the active and passive supporters as staying silent in the face of such abuse, corruption and general malaise in everything we do in accepting that pocketing monies earned or unearned is rising, is not an option.
In this aspect, Bersih should take out a newspaper advert to say thank you (akin to many self-congratulatory adverts that appears after a minister opens a building or someone receives state of federal honours) to thank the red-shirts and the police, as well as some government ministers, for the free publicity they have given to Bersih unwittingly.
It is also ironic that the massive traffic jams caused on Saturday everywhere was not due to Bersih but due to needless police roadblocks all over. In this context I refer to an article in The Star where the writer pilloried everyone for spreading rumours about road closures, although it turned out to be true after the article has been printed.
Red-shirts continuing doggedly in pursuit of Bersih was a masterstroke. If I didn’t know any better, I would say the red-shirts may have been hired by Bersih themselves for self-publicity, but am sure this can’t be true.
Someone recently wrote that the media practice double standards as they are prohibiting the red-shirts movement from expressing their opinion here. In my opinion the prohibition sought against the red-shirts is not to stop their freedom of expression but to stop their allegedly violent and disruptive ways.
While talking about red-shirts, I am puzzled how in Malaysia any organisation can be called an NGO when many in its ranks hold government or government-linked positions. NGOs by definition must be fully independent from the government and if there are any links, then it should not be called an NGO.
It may be difficult to dislodge the present ruling government at the next general election as alleged gerrymandering and various boundary realignment may still allow the current ruling party to form a government with a majority in Parliament, but with a minority popular vote. Some will say what is wrong with this since the next and the last Republican US president were elected to office with minority votes.
Regardless, I salute all those who put aside their own self-interest and took part in demonstrations to highlight weaknesses and abuse of power.
Irony lost on the authorities
Don’t you think that a movement that is highlighting and fighting for good governance and ending abuse of power is being subjected to an abuse of power itself? Such is the irony that is lost on the authorities.
They keep saying the rally is unlawful as the necessary notification/permit was not obtained, so by default it is not possible for the rally to be against parliamentary democracy as the essence of parliamentary democracy is the right to dissent.
How about arresting someone for rioting when no riots took place. How come Maria is being held under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) when other trouble-makers who allegedly threatened to bring down Malaysiakini and created violence or fracas wherever they have gone were only arrested and remanded for a few days.
During Sosma’s passage through Parliament, repeated assurances were made that this law will only be applied on terrorists and terrorist activities, but now it has been used on a rights and good governance champion. When I was learning law as an elective subject at university, our lecturer often said that the courts should and will interpret laws according to the wishes of Parliament.
I hope Maria Chin Abdullah’s lawyers will be able to convince the court that the Parliament did not intent Sosma to be used against Maria.
I also hope the lawyers will initiate action for abuse of power against all those who abuse the law in their own capacity so that in future everyone will think twice before abusing laws willy-nilly and hide behind the cloak of government/authority.
This brings us to the recent National Security Council (NSC) law where again assurances were given by everyone that it will not be used during peace time and against legitimate dissent. Only time will tell if this promise will be kept or not.
I hope and pray Maria and the rest will be released soonest, including the red-shirt leaders. Charge them in court if they have broken any law, not detain them unnecessarily for investigation.