November 8, 2016
Bersih 5.0: UMNO plays hardball
by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee
It is no surprise that the sabre-rattling and harsh rhetoric by UMNO and various members of the Government is growing in intensity as November 19 – the day of the planned Bersih 5 rally in Kuala Lumpur – approaches.
At least three hardline tactics are discernible from the UMNO side. One is of crude threats (once again) to start a blood bath by Red Shirts leader Jamal Yunos. Showing his complete disregard for the law and showing his middle finger to the agencies that are supposed to enforce it as well as abandoning whatever sense of civic decorum may still linger in him, the Sungei Besar UMNO leader made the following threat during a press conference :
“Kami berikrar dan menentang mereka habis-habisan. Kami tidak akan teragak-agak untuk melakukan apa saja, walaupun sanggup bermandikan darah. (We swear to fight them to the end. We are prepared to do anything, even shedding blood)”
Malaysians can expect this fascistic and openly lawless grouping within UMNO which is bent on suppressing any form of opposition and criticism – in the name of supporting the Government and ensuring peace and order – to make more provocative statements and more blood curdling threats in the coming days.
Supporting the Red Shirts
Meanwhile a parallel attempt to kill off the Bersih rally is being made by Jamal’s superior in the UMNO leadership lineup. Intent on burnishing his ketuanan UMNO credentials at this time of leadership turmoil in his own party, Khairy Jamaludin, UMNO Youth chief, has called on the authorities to shut down the roads leading to Dataran Merdeka to prevent Bersih supporters from gathering at the square.
He has argued that the Red Shirts have emerged as a reaction to Bersih 5. His logic: if there were no Bersih 5 rally, there would be no Red Shirts demonstration.
The same argument can be made that the civil society opposition – which now includes ex-members of UMNO and their breakaway party – is marching due to the Government’s failure to bring about institutional reform, including in the electoral process, and its responsibility for the 1MDB and other cases of misgovernance. Hence all that’s needed to defuse that opposition is for the present leaders to step down.
Khairy and his UMNO colleagues such as the Home and Deputy Home Ministers, Zahid Hamidi and Nur Jazlan Mohamad, need to go back to school and enrol in “Fundamentals of Political Democracy 101” if they think that particular argument is a reasonable one to prevent citizens from exercising their right to dissent in legitimate and peaceful ways.
The third approach is that of using official channels to block the Bersih rally participants. We have a history of City Hall refusals to grant permits to opposition-organized rallies. A similar response can be expected of Bersih’s application to DBKL wherever the rally organizers may decide to hold the rally and however far it may be away from the city center.
At the same time the Police and FRU can be expected to mobilize en masse along the rally routes to prevent members of the public from joining the rally. They, as seen in the past, will have no qualms on using water cannons, tear gas, truncheons and other means of physical coercion on protestors who they perceive as resisting their instructions.
In addition, there is likely to be a new para-military team waiting to jump into action in case the rally event is seen as getting out of control. It is unlikely that Prime Minister Najib will use the newly minted National Security Council Act to declare the rally locality a Security Zone and to crack heads. That task is rumoured to be outsourced to the Redshirts.
UMNO’s Top Rogues
But if the National Security Operations Force (NSCOF) is brought into action, there could be repercussions which the Government will surely regret, and have to pay for letting this particular genie of state sponsored violence and mayham escape from the bottle. Already the National Security Operations Force team photographed in full combat gear with guns and apparently supported by helicopters and 4WD vehicles has demonstrated to the public its ominous incompetence by its grammatically fractured motto – “speed and accurate” – displayed prominently on the showy extra-large arm badge worn by its team members.
Despite the heightened beating of UMNO’s war drums to dissuade the rally organizers and participants, the rally will surely happen. There will be a rally in Kuala Lumpur on November 19 in which we can expect a formidably-sized assembly of protestors – as described by Hishamuddin Rais, activist and Bersih resource person – “taking the Gandhi philosophy, non-violence.”
The rally will be a multi-racial and peaceful one as previous Bersih rallies have been. We can also expect that the majority of participants will be from the Malay community, increasingly disillusioned and estranged from the present UMNO leadership.
This will make meaningless any blackening of it as a traitorous non-Malay or Chinese attempt to overthrow the Malay government, except by those belonging to the asylum.
But who is it that we can expect from the Malay community to march with other Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur and from another 40 or more cities in the world in support of Bersih’s peaceful objectives? There will be the usual supporters from the opposition, less PAS members aligned with PAS president Hadi Awang. There will also be PAS dissidents who have broken away as well as those still in the party but who do not go along with Hadi’s dalliance with Najib.
How large will the rally presence be from UMNO dissidents, some already with Parti Pribumi Bersatu and others still in UMNO but with little or no confidence in its present leadership? 50 thousand, 100 thousand?
The last grouping is the wild card. Khairy’s open warning to UMNO Youth members who intend to participate in Bersih 5 that they will face disciplinary action shows he is clearly worried that they will turn up in their tens of thousands.
But can such bullying and intimidation still work? And if blood is to be spilled as Jamal Yunos has promised, Malaysians and the rest of the world will be in no doubt as to whose bloodied hands are the ones responsible.