Backing Down would be Unthinkable

June 29, 2011

BERSIH 2.0 Rally: Backing Down would be Unthinkable

by Terence Netto

By now, the tactics of self-declared opponents of the BERSIH 2.0 march are clear: PERKASA and UMNO Youth want to ratchet up the pre-march tensions such that the atmosphere becomes taut enough to crack. If it does, it would not be difficult to guess who would be blamed for the ensuing clashes.

Seldom in recent Malaysian history has a looming public event such as the BERSIH march on July 9 polarised opinion so sharply: one would be hard put to encounter a public issues-aware citizen who does not have an opinion – either for or against – on the march.

Thanks to provocative statements by PERKASA’s Ibrahim Ali and the reported threats by some UMNO Youth firebrands to burn the PKR headquarters down, the stage is set for a confrontation.

Of course, things need not be that way. All parties should be free to demonstrate, to engage in what can be called ‘symbolic speech’ – the espousal of opinion in civilly demonstrated forms. However, for that to take place peacefully in the context of the marches scheduled for July 9, you need the Police to be present to see that demonstrators don’t get carried away.

But the Police have pre-judged the issue by coming out early with a stand against allowing the BERSIH march. They followed up by calling up for questioning several players from the side that favours the march for electoral reform.That was not all.

By arresting some 30 Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) activists, who are actually fringe players in the BERSIH drama on grounds that the detained may have committed offences under Section 122 of the Penal Code which entails rebelling against the King, the Police are opting to be partisans in the fray rather than umpires above it.

A late attempt at balanced action against the contending parties – their calling up Ibrahim Ali for questioning and their investigation of inflammatory statements by UMNO Youth hotheads – won’t wash as demonstrations of Police neutrality.

The Police can rescue things by freeing the PSM detainees and allowing the BERSIH and other marches to go on with them opting for a policing of good behaviour role. What chance is there of that happening?

Beckoning Police’s better instincts

Well, the good point about political behaviour in a democratic arena is that it allows for redemption by the hitherto erring.

This was what PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim was hoping for in remarks he made when he emerged to speak to the press after being called for questioning by the Police yesterday. He beckoned the Police to the courage of their better instincts, alluding to unseen hands as working to deviate the force from their fiduciary duty. He said he felt that absent the manipulation, the Police were wont to do the right thing.

That is an opinion that national literary laureate A Samad Said may be loath to agree with after his experience of Police questioning a day earlier. Literati love the ineffable and Samad proved no exemption. He gave vent to his instincts by penning ‘Unggun Bersih’, a lilting ode to democracy.

The Police asked if he was paid to write the poem. Writers like Samad rarely respond to commissions; they write as the instinct takes them.

The chagrin Samad felt at the question must have singed his flowing whiskers, for he emerged from the ordeal to declare that he would be at the BERSIH march. For someone who is pushing 80 and reportedly in not too healthy a condition, the Police questioning must have recharged his batteries, for there was steel in his determination to be among the marchers.

Which is precisely what the inflammatory statements from Ibrahim Ali and his ilk have contributed to the situation in the prelude to the July 9 event.

Ibrahim Ali’s Orwellian doublespeak

Ibrahim’s latest provocation, couched in Orwellian doublespeak, sees him urging PERKASA types not to bring weapons to their march on the same day. That would be like Mullah Omar suggesting that as an earnest of the Taliban’s desire to parley with the Americans, his side would renounce suicide bombing.

The rhetoric, from one side at least, has been of the ‘offer no hostages to fortune’ type. Backing down from these prideful positions would be unthinkable. The only way out would be if the Police allow all to march and content themselves with policing the behaviour of the marchers.

Or if the Election Commission, without imposing pre-conditions, commences talks with BERSIH on their eight demands, with prior acquiescence to a couple of the demands. That would be the lever to break the looming jam.-

45 thoughts on “Backing Down would be Unthinkable

  1. Just less than 2 weeks left before the BERSIH2.0 rally, maybe backing down is unthinkable. But will there be room for compromise in the 11th Hour? I wonder if the government can compromise having taken a confrontational stance in recent days with preemptive actions by the Police against BERSIH leaders and other dissenters.

    The reaction by Prime Minister Najib is similar to that taken in November 2007 by Badawi when he was in office. Badawi paid the ultimate price in the March 2008 General Elections. He was practically hounded out of office by UMNO when he lost the 2/3rd majority in Parliament and Selangor, Kedah, Penang and Perak (regained by UMNO-BN subsequently) to PKR, DAP and PAS. Maybe, Najib has other ideas including Emergency rule if BERSIH2.0 rally turns violent. Is that possible?–Din Merican

  2. the ‘polis’ should back down from their gestapo stance and protect the rally, i.e. do their duty.Should the Malaysian public go to London to demonstrate?

  3. Today the IGP have said that anybody wearing bersih apparel will be arrested. Better not wear yellow anything now. If this is not ironfisted I don’t know what is. How come that imbecile Ibrahim Ali gets a free pass for inciting hate and spewing inane statements?

    How come Bersih becomes a taboo word and lewd placards being carried by members of Perkasa aren’t? I think Najib wants to model himself as the second coming of Chairman Mao.

  4. Its funny, it seem Ibraham Katak has been condemning PKR, DAP, Bersih and a host of others, citing multiple reasons on why he opposes the rally. Reasons given were alleged plot to wage war against DYMM The Agong, communists, funding by Christians etc.

    But it seems he failed intentionally or otherwise to condemn PAS, who I believe has promised to bring in almost 300,000. If Bersih is all the above, does it mean PAS is an accessory to the fact? Froggy, why silent on PAS? And also, it seems PAS who has gained a lot of support from all races has been rather quiet on the western front, and it seems their silence is deafening.
    BERSIH is no longer a civil society matter. Politics has taken over and Ambiga has no control over developments leading July 9. She and her friends and associates forget that they are dealing with Police who are very good at their game.

    I note PAS has been rather quiet on BERSIH after their 300,000 announcement. I have not heard from PAS Deputy President Mat Sabu in recent days. The business community in Kuala Lumpur are unhappy if there is blockade of the city.In the meantime, the tension is mounting because the crackdown against dissenters has started.–Din Merican

  5. First, they banned some religious stuff in a particular language,
    and though appalled, we forgave. Then they trumped up pornographic charges on the leader of the Opposition, and we thought it was all down to filthy, infantile politics. Then they made illegal a civil society’s march for free and fair elections, and we thought they were just paranoid. Then they blamed it on Christians and in the same breath the Communists, and we knew they were hovering at the edge of sanity. Then they hauled up an elderly distinguished poet laureate, and we confirmed that they were mad.

    Now, they are banning yellow T-shirts and anything yellow; even the fundamental word “Bersih”! So how are we to keep our hygiene? We conclude: They are suffering from terminal Jaundice with attendant Encephalopathy (brain damage). This is too much!!

    As Martin Niemoller would say:
    “First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

  6. It’s VERY possible Najib is allowing everything to escalate towards his invoking the Emergency Ordinance. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, if Malaysians can recall how the Tunku was hounded from office too.

    Mark my words, the police will continue their program of illegal search & seizure without warrants, false and illegal arrests, trumped-up charges and complicit tolerance of Umno/Perkasa-sponsored public nuisance and violence.

    There’s a better than 50% chance of Perkasa/Umno-provoked violence on 9 July, either by direct action or through their agents provocateur among the Bersih 2.0 marchers. All of which will be blamed on Bersih 2,0 by the PDRM.

    The EC will NOT budge on any concessions. It would make its life easier if Najib invokes an Emergency; it wouldn’t even need to lift a finger to help BN cheat at the next General Elections then.

    We’re heading towards a Myanmar-style coup, sans GE 13.

    It’s absolutely vital that all human-rights NGOs and international news agencies with any interest in Malaysia be there in full force with all their recording devices to ensure the world knows the truth. Our only safe bet is that Najib & Co. doesn’t want Malaysia to be seen as being run by a gang of thugs.

  7. Here’s another way to look at things.

    An oppressive regime in its death throes would react desperately to cling on to power. It would strike out every which way it knows how and in whatever directions it deems fit. What could well develop into a targeted crackdown on the intelligentsia appears set to precede harsher treatment with illegal street demonstrators. A score or so of organizers invited to sample the hospitality of His Majesty’s Government from behind high walls is worth the price. That’s nothing new. Been there, done that.

    What choice has it got? Negotiate? You don’t negotiate from a point of weakness but from strength. That can only translate to mean that any reforms will be undertaken at a time of the regime’s own choosing, and to the degree sufficient to appease rather than placate the demands of the regime’s political adversaries. Najib will then emerge from behind the curtains to claim victory for himself and UMNO. That’s politics 101.

    Now here’s the deal. The hope is that an oppressive regime will do what an oppressive does best. Oppress. It doesn’t stop there. For is it not true that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? That sounds rather cliché but is true.

    The orchestrated ouster of an anointed successor in the midst of the worst financial crisis by his mentor has given rise to a stronger opposition and goes on to become a source of renewed strength in a fledgling democracy. That is a milestone. Bersih 2.0 can be that other milestone.

    Or it can be the tombstone of democracy that never was for what could be eternity.

  8. C’mon do you think that Bersih 1.0 or any other demonstration was free from agent provocateurs? As far as i know, all the participants are well aware of the danger – and the same applies to the Umno and Perkasa Rallies. Rumors are bountiful, and it’s easy to lose focus.

    Emergency applied will definitely be the death knell (literal) of FLOM and his cohorts, by saboteurs within his own party. The situation is fluid and it makes no sense to ‘predict’ anything. Chaos is determined by choice. Tell me different..

  9. Mark my words, the police will continue their program of illegal search & seizure without warrants, false and illegal arrests, trumped-up charges and complicit tolerance of Umno/Perkasa-sponsored public nuisance and violence. — PhilipY

    Unfortunately, the Malaysian Constitution has none of the search and seizure clauses of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment as it applies to the states.

    Malaysians are never safe, have never been safe in their own homes. Malaysia is a police state. Dato may be about to bear witness to the most grotesque interpretation of human rights.

  10. Let it all go down the drain after all what is the point of living in a country where your daughter is afraid to drive to college in her 6-year old second hand beetle her dad bought her for scoring 11A+s because she’s afraid if being arrested or worse still, harassed on the way by thugs and goons employed by a political party that has totally gone out of control? This is anarchy if you ask me. I might sound negative but enough is enough, I am seriously looking at migrating too….

  11. Thanks to provocative statements by PERKASA’s Ibrahim Ali and the reported threats by some UMNO Youth firebrands to burn the PKR headquarters down, the stage is set for a confrontation” Terence Netto

    Known among game theorists as the ‘chicken game’. The first to veer off the bridge falls into the water below.

  12. It’s VERY possible Najib is allowing everything to escalate towards his invoking the Emergency Ordinance. -PhilipY

    Najib does NOT have the balls to invoke Emergency Ordinance.

    All the UMNO cronies in the commercial sector will bray for his blood.

    It will put Malaysia back by 15 years.

    And the next GE, UMNO is doomed for a good.

    I say, Najib has no balls to declare a state of Emergency.

    I wish he WILL declare a state of Emergency… simply because that will be the end of UMNO/BN.

  13. The civil society and the Pakatan Rakyat are calling UMNO’s bluff.

    It is brinkmanship learnt from the last Bersih rally.

    This time around, tails UMNO loses, heads, UMNO loses.

    Najib and Hishamuddin know it. They are trying to push the envelope further to see whether civil society will blink.

    More interesting for Malaysians is where does the MONARCHY stand in this issue….

    To support UMNO/BN means AGAINST the rakyat…. and that is not good… it makes our Monarchy untenable and sustainable.

    It looks like the Malay Rulers are watching which side will win. If there is a state of Emergency, the Monarchy becomes compromised. This is something the Malay Rulers must think carefully to see which basket they want to put all their eggs in.

    UMNO is on the losing end…. because the rakyat and civil society will not blink… come what may.

    The Malay heartland will not forgive UMNO for allowing the Police to question Pak Samad, our respected Bangsawan Melayu.

  14. I say, Najib has no balls to declare a state of Emergency.

    I wish he WILL declare a state of Emergency… simply because that will be the end of UMNO/BN.

    frank – June 29, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    I can understand where you’re going with that.

    For that to happen the ‘chicken game’ is part of the strategy, a precondition to what is to follow. Then he would be seen as doing the next best thing. He would appear to the world to show restraint. His role has been carved out for him. A cooling off period will then follow.

  15. Najib does NOT have the balls to invoke Emergency Ordinance.

    All the UMNO cronies in the commercial sector will bray for his blood.

    Dare we hope Ambiga & Co. are barrelling ahead with Bersih 2.0 for this reason too, hoping that those dUMNOs will bite?

  16. Mayhem ahead..that is a worst case scenario, call it chicken game or whatever. Mongkut Bean in far away New York will be watching the unfolding of Malaysian democracy with a can of beer in hand.

    I am concerned because November 2007 Bersih is different from Ambiga’s BERSIH 2.0. This time we have Perkasa with the bugle on a rampage : just throw a few wild kerbaus into the ring, and see what happens. There will be a stampede, and the FRU in the full battle gear will be waiting at the other end with their truncheons.–Din Merican

  17. To back down from the Bersih 2.0 rally because of Perkasa is sending the wrong message.

    All the more, the rally MUST GO ON… that Malaysians and civil society cannot allow one racist NGO to dictate the aspirations of the people.

    To back down is to encourage racist entities like Perkasa to flourish.

    If push comes to shove, the Bersih Rally HAS TO TAKE PLACE… at any cost, not because the Govt made it illegal, it is because the RAKYAT must send a message that RACIST ENTITIES like PERKASA and Ibrahim Ali cannot be allowed to undermine the social fabric of this nation.

  18. Racial undercurrents flowing just beneath a racially polarised Malaysian society is something we have to accept and live with. It is not that there are there. We know they are there. It is what we do with them. To play the racial game would be to play Perkasa’s game. That is what they want you to do.

    Instead you go on the less racially tinged issues, issues that really count which is equality before the law, justice for all and human rights. These are no longer separated by issues of race.

  19. Instead you go on the less racially tinged issues, issues that really count which is equality before the law, justice for all and human rights. – Mr Bean

    Easier said than done. What issues that really count that are not tinged with racial undertones?

    Poverty? Child upbringing? Patriotism? Peaceful rally? Education? Brain drain? Mental health? Jobs?

  20. Keyword is “less”. Go on the universal issues which all could identify with and demonstrators could unite under. Use the umbrella concept. Racism is never going to go away be it under a Pakatan government or another just because you and I will it to go away.

  21. Silat or silap?
    There are always 2 sides of any equation.
    As far as i know (again), the Amal PAS have adepts too.
    They will be manning the margins.
    Not to mention exponents of Other martial arts.
    A bunch of parochial goons who can’t see beyond the tip of their breathing apparatus.
    The only worry is Live Ammunition, not dickhead machetes or stabbing implements. Nor tear gas or chemical laced water.
    The attempt at chicken baiting is racial-religious Bean, but the reality is not.
    Bersih has never been about race, even if they want to paint it so..

  22. Our laws are laced with racial discrimination issues. Race which has long been institutionalised is never easy to dismantle. That’s something a Pakatan government could work once they to get to unseat UMNO-BN from power but not before. I believe it is still an issue that separates the opposition though no one wants to admit it for now.

  23. Live ammo will never be used. You can bet on that. More like pepper laced water shooting out of cannons, and gas and gas cannisters and batons. It would be interesting to watch though what would happen when demonstrators pick up the gas cannisters and throw back at the police.

  24. Btw, Perkasa and Umno Youth are not figuring all that much in the imaginations of the organizers of Bersih. They have enough to do and have been focused. Ambiga & Co. have not for once denied them their right to do the same. If they want to play kotor, so be it. The damage to FLOM will be incalculable. Best they look for a roost in Kazakhstan or Makassar.

  25. What pot?! The way the goons are behaving, it’s as if they are on acid, besides porn! Btw, Gracie looks better:

  26. All the Sultans and Raja like to wear yellow. Even their Rolls Royces are painted yellow. Let see if the Police will arrest them for using and painting their cars the Bersih colours.

    Kerismuddin the joker entertaining and trying to outdo Ibrahim bin Ali. Now the joke is on him. Next he will be singing Yellow Liver oops Yellow River.

  27. Compromise? With terroists who have played dirty with the elected pposition and suverted every principle of democracy for decades? Learn from the West. USA has the most corrupted legistalture, and in the current campaign of the super-capitalists through “economic reforms”, US citizens were the first victims. Europe is now on the front line, and Europeans are now waking up to battle these “alien” monsters. Get ready, learn to identify your enemies, organise, strategise and don’t get distracted by trivialities.

  28. Polonius:
    This above all: to thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.
    Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

  29. Semper,

    Don’t be shy about playing the song. It is Frank’s favourite song as he sat in Seng Nam coffee shop eating his char siew pau

    And now if everything goes as expected (with Bersih) it is time to pack up and take that last boat out to Yellow River.

  30. Sin Seng Nam with the Yong Tau Foo and Chee Cheong Fun stall in front, the rojak man at the side door and the waiters ordering in sing song fashion but never lost an order is no longer there, all boarded up.

    No last boat to Yellow River but Last Train to Georgia and Working on The River.

    Maybe it’s time to turn the Bersih 2.0 into a Mardi Gras since every NGO and political party are mobilising their members, so lets celebrate. The FRU and Police can join in as Village People.

  31. Can’t wait to see Perkasa, Mat rempit aka mat gemilang and that silat group. Sounds exciting. Lewd placards, hooliganism and ridiculous accusations will be aplenty. How I wish I can join Bersih.

  32. Unfortunately I had a ‘flesh wound’ and only had skeletons to show. Otherwise I would like to flash in front of all these demonstrators and flaunt my assets for all to see. That should make everybody run for cover. What do you guys think?

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