Protest in Malaysia

May 6, 2012

The Economist: Protest in Malaysia

Protest in Malaysia

It’s that time of year

May 1st 2012, 13:01 by R.C. | SINGAPORE–The Economist

THE BERSIH rallies have quickly established themselves as something of a ritual in Malaysia’s political calendar. The script goes something like this: thousands of protesters declare that they are going to march through Kuala Lumpur to demand electoral reform; a twitchy government and protest leaders spend days haggling over a suitable venue; the protest goes ahead in defiance of Police demands; violence ensues, hundreds are arrested; government issues some apologies; everyone goes home. The only significant variant is the political impact. Last year it was huge—this year it will probably be very little.

Bersih means “clean” in Malay, and the BERSIHh movement is made up of a coalition of NGOs and civil-rights organisations that want the electoral system cleaned up so as to allow all parties a fair chance of winning elections. At the moment many claim that the electoral system is heavily rigged in favour of the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), which has been in power continually ever since the country’s independence from Britain began in 1957. The BERSIH rallies have thus become inextricably linked to the cause of the Opposition, led by Anwar Ibrahim.

The BERSIH 3.0 rally on April 28th certainly attracted more people than last year’s version, perhaps as many as 80,000 (although the Police put the figure at about half of that). As there will almost certainly be a general election in the coming months, perhaps the high level of interest wasn’t that surprising. But by comparison last year’s rally, despite a relatively smaller number of protesters, achieved a terrific political impact.

At the time the government of Najib Razak badly mishandled the whole situation. Thousands of riot police were captured by video cameras and smart-phones laying into the unarmed protesters in order to disperse them; water cannon were fired into a hospital and more than 1,600 people were arrested. The use of state violence was a huge embarrassment to the government, confirming in many peoples’ minds the impression that the Prime Minister was indeed a repressive ogre of Malay nationalism and not the reforming liberal that he had claimed.

Stung by widespread criticism in the international press, Mr Najib’s government was forced to apologise for much of its behaviour. Subsequently it repealed a slew of outdated and repressive laws to win back its reforming credentials. A parliamentary committee was also set up to look into proposals for electoral reform. In all, a clear victory to BERSIH.

This year it was more of a score-draw. Certainly, towards the end of the rally there was another eruption of violence, and the Police were once again seen deploying water cannon and tear gas against the demonstrators. They arrested more than 400 of them. Once again there were reports of Police brutality, and once again the Prime Minister had some quick explaining to do. This time Mr Najib felt obliged to apologise personally to a local reporter who had been beaten up by the Police (he was one of several). Once again, these ugly scenes do little to bolster Mr Najib’s claims to be a different kind of reform-minded leader.

However, this year there were problems on the BERSIH side too. Some protesters attacked and overturned a Police car and it seems that about 20 Police Officers were wounded. This, of course, played into the government’s hands, allowing Mr Najib to claim that “The Police were victims. They became targets and were beaten.”

The leader of BERSIH, Ambiga Sreenevasan, conceded that some people will think that “the rally had gone wrong” because of the unruly behaviour of a few protesters. The violence may even tarnish the broader movement for democratic reform, a bit. And Mr Anwar had some explaining of his own to do. He was caught on video near one of the Police barricades talking to one of his colleagues; critics allege that he was inciting supporters to push aside the barriers. Mr Anwar himself says this is nonsense.

Either way, it is clear that BERSIH won’t be able to dominate the moral high ground—at least not on the score of one weekend’s theatrics—as they did last year. The campaign for electoral reform goes on, but Mr Najib emerges from this year’s fracas with his reformist credentials essentially intact, not much worse for the wear.

41 thoughts on “Protest in Malaysia

  1. Sure. they are all feathers of the same vintage. The Singapore Economist brushing the aside the impact of bersih 3 The name of the author is hidden as RC. A sahllow writing of mere opinion lacking in any analytical substance.

  2. Does Bersih 3.0 need to justify itself and the masses that came out for it’s purpose and support?
    Does Bersih as an NGO see itself as winning or losing ‘moral high ground’?? Assuredly not.

    Bersih made a statement and for all intents and purposes, a noble one aimed at giving dignity, purpose and integrity for electoral reform. That meant opposition against an authoritarian establishment hell-bent on self preservation – through a process of electoral fraud and gerrymandering. It meant fighting for the very basis and meaning of the word “Democracy”.
    The violence was unfortunate but only the terribly naive would have thought it would end without state sponsored brutality and terrorism.

    If the Economist and this crap of a analyst doesn’t like it they should just shaft it up theirs! But to call it ‘draw’ is unadorned perversity. Didn’t their father(s) teach them right from wrong or is everything seen from a pragmatic ‘economic’ point of view? Really bad ‘theology’!

  3. This is so shallow, similar to what we get from the NST/Star/& um.
    I suggest we spend no more time on this article. One last thing, who ever you are, restrict your reporting to some of your Singapore people, Malaysians have moved far above Singaporeans like you.

  4. The fundamental aspect of the movement and its objectives remains intact.. This is the most essential element to guarantee its survival hence progress.. Whatever that is written in the aftermath of every Bersih led protests does little to sway the general populace away from its core intent and that is to realize electoral reforms.. Thus , there is no two ways about it only the BERSIH way . The onus is stacked heavily on the government to put into efect demands of such reforms or at least earnestly , be seen moving towards that direction…

  5. you are absolutely right, CLF. this is not about winning or losing. this is about the malaysian public showing its middle finger to the pathetic regime in power for which any method is right to cling on to power.
    we have seen the buyout of a BBC programme, compared to it, what is Economist?
    the violence was purposefully created to teach the crowd a lesson and importantly to discredit Anwar.

    we are showing our middle finger to you, RC of Economist Singapore!

    this article is specially meant for Makcik, Pakcik, rocky and all the like minded morons.

  6. Just for your info, guys & gals – KJ, the SIL, was an ex intern at the “Economist”. So should this inane article which was posted on the ‘Bayan blog’ of big ‘Ee’ surprise anyone?

  7. then, probably KJ wrote this article for them, would’nt surprise us.

    Economist is joining the ranks of NST, Malay mail and Berita Harian!

  8. The ‘Ee’ is controlled by graduates from Magdalen College, Oxford, thus the bad ‘theology’. Notice how msm has painted the town ‘Ee’?
    Phew.., luckily i got my A-levels from Cambridge!
    Any questions?

  9. The about turn by the Economist vis-a-vis Bersih 2.0 to 3.0 must be seen in the light of UK PM Cameron’s visit here recently. At the same time there was an extensive interview on BFM88.9 with the local CEO of British Aerospace and how wonderfully they are supporting our arms industry.

    Cameron was here to push that sucker Najib into replacing our Migs with Eurofighter Typhoon Areoplanes. However, despite being asked several times about the cost of a plane, the CEO waffled on about “the whole long-term package including maintenance and economically competitive pricing etc., etc. etc.

    So, everyone can now understand why the Economist thinks that despite PM Najib blocking any investigation by PDRM into identifying who ordered the killing of Altantuya, that Najib’s transformation proposals and economic performance has suddenly carried the day.

    Another $8 billion scorpene submarine-type government initiated financial fraud and scandal is in the making; only this time, it’s the British!

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human Race


    Zarkozy got booted out. Which means Najib may lose his pants ! The French submarine scandal is now ripe for exposure.

  11. bean suk,
    Am I not brilliant? I predicted nong nong time ago Sarkozy would lose. However, I am quite worried over Obama. If Rommey win, it would be another messier affair in asia pacific.
    Perhaps, it’s time for china to take over the role of taiko. Of course, CLF got second opinion.

  12. donypaks,
    singapore make friends with everybody. Once Najib is useless, BN-UMNO would be ditched. People like pakatan & singapore should be made to see the light.

  13. Loose,

    2012 is not a good year for incumbents. However, Mitt Romney is no match for Obama who will reduce this piece of shit to an unrecognizable mass that even his dog will confuse him for dog shit.

  14. Bean suk,
    I sensed very heavily that Hollande would win. Perhaps, I am a socialist at heart. Quite fond of the Labour Party back in Yingeland. Apart from Iraq invasion, Tony Blair had done well though din might have disagreed with me. Ok la, finally, that tory bastard party is buried. And I am part of history. Yay!
    As for France, I would prefer Segelone Royal instead but then again, Hollande is ok. Jospin can be quite good too.
    As for USA, I sincerely hope that Obama doesn’t end up like jimmy carter. Remember, there is a tea party that might take quite a no of voters from obama. If that Ronald Ragan be President, Mitt too! What a catasphrophe

  15. Mine is the era when the IRA finally comes to senses that they can’t terrorise anymore. Anyway, landscape in northern ireland is far more beautiful

  16. Its nice ot know that M’sia not the only ones suffering from indoctrination/propaganda. Our neighbours are too.

  17. ‘Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.’ Florence Nightingale

  18. The aim of this propaganda article is to paint the event as a “draw”
    between the Bersih 3.0 reformists and the UMNO-BN reactionaries.

    As one of the members from the international team of observers at Bersih 3.0 mentioned, one of the oldest tricks in the book is to instigate violence and then say that the reformers are “discredited”. If this does not work, they try to claim “moral equivalence” i.e. police violence is the same as demonstrator violence.

  19. If UMNO-BN is assured of retaining power, why this paranoia of the Opposition Pakatan Rakyat and why the unwillingness to clean the electoral rolls and replace the two UMNO top honchos in the Election Commission?

    I think Najib is scared of rejection by voters on two counts: a) the Rosmah-Kutty Mahathir factor and b) mismanagement of public finances and the economy including massive corruption and scandals (NFC, Amangate, PKFZ, Shafie Apdal affair). If Sabah and Sarawak do not support him, it would be tough for him. He has, therefore to be nice to Musa (aka Musang) Aman and Pehin Sri Taib Mahmud and buy voters using public funds and privatization deals. in the run up to GE-13, the politics will get dirty and murky. More contrived disclosures of Pakatan politics, starting with Azmin. The activities of Tian Chua and Elizabeth Wong, among others, could be next.

  20. Kathy, your quote is interesting. Dissent & dissenting views are like antithesis such that the Synthesis become better.

    Like Right/s. never exhaustible, and more often relative, esp when there are opposing right/s.

    Right is never absolute. There is No right without responsibility/obligations, Conversely, no Obligation without right/s. They are always Mutual & Reciprocal…..

  21. UMNO has successfully planted some of its mercenary writers in Singapore. If it can buy its way into the BBC what’s the problem reaching out to the Economist.
    Who is the writer? Why hide behind initials?

  22. You guys sound like the ever so confused Fred Flinstone… Malaysia’s predicament is very much on the surface…Why enact mammoth imaginative barriers and reason that these are the hindrance , when in reality , the actual ones are as small as dwarfs. Stop digging to deep for clues!

  23. Yup, danil – these flurs are all over the place – until we have totally irrelevant comments esp. from those who lick used tampons like Mak Cik – who somehow can’t distinguish fair Electoral reform from fatwas elucidated from ‘bad theology’ and her antipathy wrt Anwar.

    Why has Singapore been whacked? ‘Cuz without the Malaysian diaspora there, they are dead-meat and probably morph into meat-floss. Yet Bersih 3.0 was not allowed into the speaker’s corner. Some balance from their Business Times:

  24. The Economist is just parroting the Singapore government view. The Singapore government is very scared of what’s happening in Malaysia. A demo the size of Bersih 3 would probably topple the government there.

  25. Why should we care what The Economist thinks about Bersih 3.0? The rakyat know what they want and they know what they are doing. It’s our country and only we can decide her future.

  26. the MAS Airasia share swap is not scrapped but put on hold till after the election! the 20,000 MAS employees fate is open.

    Jibs’d do anything to win back Selangor and we’d do everything to keep Selangor free of umno-bn!

  27. Didi,

    If we truly believe in free speech you know that’s a no-no. We do not choose whether to allow speech or not to allow speech. But we do have a choice of which speech to hear and which we rather not hear. Bad speech is sitll speech. That way we do not encroach on the First Amendment right to free speech. I assume your familiarity with the U.S. Constitution because that is where we are right now. That’s only the substantive right. Then there is the procedural due process right under the 5th and 14th Amenment (the 5th applies to the federal government and the 14th applies to the states involving the same rights – most of them anyway – as you find in the country’s Bill of Rights).

    Malaysians have lived for five decades without ever knowing the importance of free speech. Sad to say today when a Malaysian refers to his or her fundamental right to free speech he or she is likely to refer to his or her own freedom of speech and not the other person’s. When we hear speech that is not on all fours with our own we ask that it be censored. Even worse than that a Malaysian engages in a far more devastating form of censorship called self-censorship. Others term it as ‘responsible free speech’ which is coded language for self-censorship.

    Makcik is the resident troll. He does not interfere with your freedom to speak you mind or live your life the way you want to. Like you he is exercising his constitutional right to free speech.

    Now if you extrapolate that to the situation in Malaysia, Pakatan supporters are no better than the rogue supporters of UMNO-BN they are seeking to replace. They scream themselves hoarse like forever that their right to speech, assembly and association is being ceasely stepped upon, torn up and discarded like useless garbage. However, I am quite sure that when they finally get their hands on the levers of power, they may shift gear initially but the direction they are moving will be the same i.e. towards regulation of free speech.

    Having said that to say that in Malaysia we have the equivalent of the U.S. First Amendment right to free speech is to ignore Article 10 sub clause (2).

  28. Yup CLF , No intention of kick starting a Bersih like movement on this blog but lately it seems anything contradictory to the wishes of readers are pelted at all ends.. People are getting very edgy , a vivid sign of revolt but what kind of revolt remains to be seen. Absolute disgust with matters concerning obstructed liberty will eventually drive a person up the wall.. Marina , a fair minded lady , jotted it down nicely when she remarked no way she is gonna sit and watch her kinsfolk be subjected to jailhouse like settings .. An honest wanting of ‘ fairplay ‘ is all that it takes , and is in itself a powerful catalyst to manufacture reform .. Nonetheless , thoughts of this nature comes from the oppressed… How many are in this category? , is the big question.

  29. I was talking to some real mak ciks and pakciks from Rembau this afternoon who attended the rally, danil. Still having the sniffles and conjunctivitis. What struck me was that while they were not ‘oppressed’ in the traditional sense, they repeatedly talked about dignity and fair-play. Their prime concern was also about the MYKad fraud, that they saw happening with their own eyes. Of course, their children rubbed in the ‘salt’ and there they were – UMNO only in membership, but far from it in spirit.

    I asked if they were here for the UMNO shindig and they said yup! But they will vote Opposition, and even challenging me on the assumption that i was a MCA running dog. Hahaha..

  30. Makcik is not giving opinion that is supportive of the government. He is giving opinion that is well, not even an opinion.

    What free speech, Bean? You’ve been staying in the US for too long. Soon you’ll be hearing that it’s ‘haram’ to even criticize the government. Do you know the government sent spies to spy on people rallying for Bersih in the US? So there’s no freedom of speech for Malaysian. Not even for the ones living in the US.

  31. What offences can they charge you with didi? Crimes, assuming they are crimes, if committed in Malaysia when committed outside Malaysia are not crimes. You cannot be charged, for example, with inciting disaffection (to use the language of the Sedition Act 1949) against the Agong if such acts are committed out of their jurisdiction.

  32. “Makcik is not giving opinion that is supportive of the government. He is giving opinion that is well, not even an opinion” — didi

    To borrow the fanciful words of a U.S. Supreme cout judge:

    “A statement is opinion if it has no provably false factual connotation”

  33. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
    You definitely know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something informative to read?

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