COMMENT | While some of us may not agree with the motives of the demonstration at Dataran Merdeka on Dec 8, most would agree that it was in no small way an unqualified success for the organisers, as much as it was for the fledgling democracy of Malaysia Baru.
It proved to all and sundry, that the Malaysian rakyat, given the freedom and space by the authorities, can manage to voice out their socio-political grievances in a civil fashion, without causing violence and threatening our national peace.
The harbingers of doom and gloom, those who subscribe to the idea that public expressions of dissatisfaction and opposition will only result in civil disorder and mayhem, were proven wrong in more ways than one.
During our student days in the 1970s, we demonstrated peacefully in the very heart of the streets of London, without any untoward incidents and dreamt of the day when we could do similarly on our home ground.
On the contrary, during the BN heydays, anyone daring to protest would first face a hostile and rabid mass media determined to whip up negative public sentiments against the likes of Bersih et al.
And prior to the event, there were arbitrary road closures, interrupted train services and closed LRT stations. And during the demonstrations, armies of Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel and their beastly demeanour, rows of police trucks, water cannons, CS gas (2-chlorobenzylidene malonitrile, which is used in tear gas) and a baton strike or two await the intrepid demonstrators.
And if you are unlucky to be caught, a spell in the police lock-up and a maiden appearance in the law courts.
Therefore, kudos to the Pakatan Harapan government and the national security agencies for their show of goodwill, patience and tolerance which made the Dataran Merdeka anti-Icerd (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) demonstration a showcase of a living and vibrant democracy, unlike the violent street protests prevalent elsewhere in the world.
They stuck to their words to allow an opposition party-mooted national protest-cum-celebration of anti-Icerd. No threats were issued on national television to discourage the public from joining the protest.
There were no roadblocks to hamper the demonstrators from gathering at the historically cordoned Dataran Merdeka. LRT stations were operating normal hours. There were no planted agent provocateurs to instigate hostilities and violence. The press and TV media teams were allowed a free hand to cover the events without any collusion from the powers that be.
We can now hold our heads high
The half-a-million strong demonstration (or 50,000 participants, depending upon who was doing the counting) actually turned out to be quite an anti-climax. Unlike the Bersih demonstrations, where the tension and morbid fear of violence was all-pervasive, demonstration 8/12 turned out to be more like a fun and festive occasion.
Malaysians can now hold our heads high and march peacefully in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, like in London and New York, but we are not sure about Paris though!
We Malaysians might teach the world a thing or two about what the spirit of democracy entails, especially so to our close Asean neighbours.
Ironically, the recently ousted leaders of Umno (and its newly-found bed partner and strongest ally) were the biggest benefactors of this new enlightened policies of freedom of thought, expression and movement.
After years of suppressing demonstrations with brute force, they now wholeheartedly embrace these “jalan raya” (street) politics and despite facing a slew of corruption, misdemeanours and criminal charges in court, they unashamedly joined in the procession, proclaiming their love for Islam, the Malay race and the Rulers and vowing to protect them. Humbug!
After years of pilfering the national coffers to the brink of bankruptcy, these guys are now claiming sole guardianship of the Malays and Islam.
The most derisory scene typifying the fall from grace was the images of the leaders of Umno and its partners sitting meekly on chairs placed on top of a small pasar malam (night market) lorry. How the mighty have fallen.
And what did the BN and PAS leadership and followers do with this new-found freedom? They prayed to God to cut short the tenure of the enlightened Harapan government. Ingrate behaviour indeed!
DR MUSA MOHD NORDIN is a board member of the Muslims Professionals Forum Bhd and PROF DR AWALUDDIN MOHAMED SHAHAROUN is with University Technology Malaysia.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.