July 5, 2011
Now who is running yellow over BERSIH2.0
by RK Anand
All it required was a press conference to announce the date and venue for a rally. As expected, Barisan Nasional leaders took the bait and turned it into a roaring success even before it hit the streets.
And if it is true that BERSIH chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan harbours political ambitions and plotted to use the rally to make herself famous, this objective too has been achieved.
With all the publicity given to her by the media, including the likes of Utusan Malaysia and TV3, the former Bar Council president is now a household name.
Even foreigners have taken notice of the media blitz as illustrated by an incident where a Burmese restaurant worker pointed to her photograph and remarked to the surprised patron holding the Tamil newspaper, “Ini perempuan banyak berani, macam itu Aung San Suu Kyi.” However, he stopped short of saying if the BN government is behaving like the Burmese junta.
Running yellow over Bersih
The powers-that-be are running yellow because they fear that a massive turnout similar to the BERSIH and Hindraf rallies of the past will shift the political tectonic plates again, creating another tsunami, perhaps one even more powerful than its predecessor, and submerge Putrajaya.
Then again, if BN is convinced that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is on the right track and that the public have lost faith in the opposition as claimed, it should allow this rally with a “hidden agenda” to proceed and exploit the dismal numbers to its advantage and silence the critics.
It will prove that Malaysians believe the Election Commission has been executing its duties without fear and favour, while all those allegations of electoral fraud in the past are hogwash. Perhaps, intelligence reports indicate otherwise and this prompted BN to pull all the stops to ensure that the rally does not take place, especially when memories from the Middle East are still fresh.
But the government claims that it is an issue of national security and the livelihood of taxi drivers and businessmen will be affected. One MCA minister argued that people will lock themselves up in their homes for no less than three days – the day before, on the day of the rally and the next day. In dollars and cents, she said, this will be nothing short of a financial catastrophe.
So in other words, protests, no matter how just the cause, are wrong because it is bad for business. It is indeed a shame that leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were not privy to such pearls of wisdom.
But if BERSIH has a hidden agenda to sway the political momentum in Pakatan Rakyat’s favour and if the opposition coalition is truly serious about reforms, then isn’t three days of losses a small price to pay for a corrupt-free, transparent and equitable business environment in the future?
The MCA minister also appealed to the people not to participate in the rally for it will tarnish the country’s image.To her, the police’s crackdown, the use of draconian laws, groups baying for blood and those urging the King to strip Ambiga of her citizenship have done nothing to affect the nation’s pride.
Locking up the wrong people
As for the rally being a security threat, it is because of the likes of PERKASA, which never fails to stoke fears of violence, and a martial art exponent who has vowed to wage war because he considers himself the third line of defence and therefore feels duty-bound to stop this enemy, armed with dangerous yellow T-shirts, banners and placards, calling for free and fair elections.
And while those who propagate violence continue to roam free, others campaigning for a peaceful march to safeguard their rights enshrined under the Federal Constitution are locked up for wearing yellow T-shirts.
PERKASA’s chief Ibrahim Ali warned that BERSIH stands on the verge of committing treason but stressed, in his usual warped logic, that if the movement forges ahead with its rally despite the King’s advice, then he will do the same.
Ibrahim is nothing more than a political opportunist exploiting a vacuum left behind by the post-2008 UMNO, which decided to leave the keris in its scabbard to entice Indian and Chinese voters.
UMNO’s critics claim that the party has now sub-contracted its Malay supremacist agenda to PERKASA and it is because of this, Ibrahim is allowed to get away with verbal murder.
The BERSIH issue has become a public relations disaster for Najib, with observers claiming that in a matter of weeks, he has lost much of the ground gained since taking over the reins two years ago.Public sentiment, the observers noted, has shifted and the premier’s image is soiled.
The controversy has diverted attention from the problems in the opposition camp and once again brings to the fore BN’s arrogance and impunity for which it was punished in 2008.
Back to the Mahathir era
What is transpiring has turned the clock back to the era of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and earned the Najib administration the title of being a repressive regime which uses fear to intimidate opponents and citizens in order to remain in power.
Perhaps Najib has taken heed of Mahathir’s reminiscence at a recent function that under his rule, people did not have loose tongues. While the current administration may decide to board a time machine and return to Mahathir-Malaysia, it must not forget that the former premier ruled over a generation that had little access to information and gave little thought to issues of constitutional rights and freedoms.
It is a different ball game now, and the tricks of the past will not work. Even Mahathir’s daughter feels the same. In the final analysis, even if BERSIH calls off its rally or shifts it indoors, the movement has managed to get the message across, hidden agenda or otherwise. And if the turnout is poor, it can always blame the authorities for instilling fear.