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Sunday, 10 July 2011

Bersih 2.0 Winners or Losers? Time to move on!

No winners, just losers


IT’S becoming tiring for many Malaysians. We are talking about our politicians and supporters regardless of their political affiliations.

Take, for example, the organisers of Bersih 2.0. They need to realise that not all Malaysians are their fans. Not all share their beliefs and decision to stage a rally in Kuala Lumpur.

Their supporters have the right to argue and convince others that it is their constitutional right to protest but, again, do not expect everyone to share their enthusiasm.

When jazz singer Datuk Sheila Majid tweeted: “I am disappointed with all political parties, NGOs and Bersih. There are better ways to approach,” she immediately received a nasty rebuke from a PKR activist who shot her down, saying he used to respect her. She probably lost a fan because of her tweet.

There are enough people who would like to tell them that their protest was illegal and that they should know this is basic law.

Protesters should know better that when you attend a demonstration, it is not going to be a picnic. One should expect to be arrested and hauled into a Black Maria, so let’s not kid ourselves into believing that the cops would give them a red carpet welcome.

Certainly, only a politically naive person, or someone in self-denial, would believe that Datuk S. Ambiga was acting on her own.

Yes, of course, it was not politically motivated. The opposition politicians just happened to be there. Yes, they just bumped into each other at KL Hilton.

In the case of the government, many are also shaking their heads at the authorities’ sledgehammer treatment of Bersih 2.0.

Just weeks ago, not many Malaysians knew who Ambiga was. Thanks to the over-excitement of the authorities, she has become an icon overnight.

And don’t blame Malaysians for being cynical over the claims that communist elements were involved in the rally. More so when those dreamer socialists were said to have T-shirts bearing the names of dead Commie leaders.

Suddenly, Che Guevera, whom many teenagers at Pertama Complex had all this while thought was Bob Marley, was declared dangerous and subversive.

Then there was the obsession with the colour yellow. By the way, there were enough Malaysians who actually believed the Digi Man was arrested by the police, although the e-mailed picture was doctored.

But it was a funny spoof, and I wish there were enough Malaysians with a sense of humour to laugh at the fat yellow man.

Arresting people who wear yellow T-shirts with the word “Bersih” is not going to help the government win votes. Something is wrong with us if we believe revolutions can be launched by wearing yellow T-shirts with the word “Bersih”.

One need not be a rocket scientist to know the political backlash of such an action, even though there may be good security measures.

And the police, trying too hard to be friendly, put on its Facebook pictures of those detained being served with a buffet meal. There were round tables covered with tablecloth. Not bad at all, man!

No wonder there are many people who think a protest in KL is really a stroll on a weekend.

And then there was Perkasa’s Datuk Ibrahim Ali. The man is really comical. After driving enough people into a frenzy with his racist tirade, he decided to stay home. At one point, he claimed he could mobilise 15,000 people. As a face-saving gesture, he declared he would take “a stroll” at Tasik Titiwangsa. It must have been a pretty long stroll. He was probably walking around in circles.

And we can assume everyone would declare themselves winners. Bersih 2.0 will say that they managed to stage a protest despite the police locking down the city.

The authorities, too, will say that they won this round by claiming that the Bersih 2.0 crowd wasn’t as massive as they had expected.

Ibrahim Ali could also declare himself a winner as he could have successfully earned a place in the Malaysian Book of Records for taking the most number of strolls at Tasik Titiwangsa.

Umno Youth’s Patriots can also claim to be winners despite walking barely 200m before being tear-gassed and arrested.

There was another record – Anwar could still post a tweet at 4.40pm that says “undergoing CT scan for injury. Wishing #Bersih all the best.”

How he could take his mobile phone into a CT scan machine is a wonder. The Opposition leader had purportedly fallen during the protest.

Either Malaysians must be very bad in Maths or they are very good at exaggerating. The police said there were only 5,000 protesters whereas Datuk A. Samad Said said 50,000 while the pro-opposition Malaysia Chronicle news portal claimed 100,000 people.

The silat exponents turned out to be a lot of hot air in the end.

The biggest losers were the public who got stuck in horrendous traffic jams. Businesses can count their losses, vendors could not distribute their newspapers, commuters found at least eight LRT stations shut, the city’s cabbies had to stay at home and, worse, terrified city dwellers had to stock up on food unnecessarily.

And taxpayers must certainly be wondering why their money is being spent on bringing so many cops into the city – and serving a buffet meal to law-breakers at Pulapol – when they should be busy catching criminals.

It must be brought to mind that not everyone who supports Bersih 2.0 are pro-opposition. Many middle class urban voters are unhappy about many issues and it won’t hurt the government to listen to them. Don’t give up on them so they won’t give up on the government. Some concerns are legitimate ones that need fixing.

Likewise, Pakatan Rakyat should not misread today’s rally as an endorsement of the Opposition.

The game is over, time for everybody to move on!


EVERYBODY seems to have achieved what they wanted over yesterday's Bersih 2.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur.

The demonstrators had no access to any particular venue, so they gathered anyway en route.
And so they declared the rally a success.

The police had also imposed a 22-hour lockdown of the city.  They, too, declared the day a success.

The Federal Government had observed the minimal participation of the public and declared yesterday a success too.

There seems to be no rancour or bitter recriminations.

Since everybody appears to have got what they wanted, perhaps the country as a whole can now move on.

Although 1,667 protesters were detained, all were released last night.

Many who had taken to the streets may well have been committed to the cause of a clean election.

Then there are the political players who would relish any opportunity to make the nation's political incumbents look bad.

After much haranguing over the protest venue, the legitimacy of the protest and even the legal status of the Bersih group itself, the logistics of the protest came to eclipse its purpose.

The organisers' efforts in internationalising the protest by getting supporters abroad to hold simultaneous demonstrations worked, at least as an international news item.

News reports were filed and foreign commentators weighed in.

So, regardless of whether protest organisers succeeded in assembling exactly where they wanted, they got all the publicity they wished.

And yet the underlying question remains: was there no better way of putting across the message, cause or demand for a clean general election?

Whether or not a street demonstration should be the last resort for aggrieved parties, it should seldom, if ever, be the first.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong had advised rally organisers against a street protest, and the Prime Minister had approved in principle a stadium rally.

But had the organisers tried to hold a top-level dialogue with Government leaders to press their case?

If every complaint made one or the other party take to the streets, bringing a city to a standstill, people would not be getting much work done.

Demonstrators would also not be making many friends, let alone winning supporters.

There should be a better way, but we can know only if we try.