Mahathir–The Game Changer for Bersih 4?


September 1, 2015

Malaysia: Mahathir–The Game Changer for Bersih 4?

by Scott Ng

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

mahathirbersih-4The Game Changer for Bersih 4 or a Free Rider?

Mahathir Mohamad’s presence at last weekend’s Bersih rally marked a watershed moment in Malaysian politics. Perhaps it was not the watershed moment Bersih was looking for, but it was of singular significance nonetheless, considering the less than illustrious history Mahathir has had with street demonstrations, something many felt compelled to point out.

Up till that point, Bersih 4 had been impressive, but lacking the needed impact to turn heads in Putrajaya. The crowds were well-disciplined and jovial, everything was proceeding as planned, but there was no spark to ignite the moment, unlike previous Bersih rallies, where turmoil defined the protests as some of the most significant in Malaysian history.

There was also the matter of the crowd’s racial composition, as the low Malay turnout led to government mouthpieces spinning Bersih 4 into a Chinese-DAP movement as opposed to a truly Malaysian one. The full spectrum of Malaysian colour needed to be on its most extravagant display, but it fell short and Najib celebrated another victory as media headlines painted the day’s procession as a largely tame event.

Then the rumblings started. Mahathir will be at Bersih. Tun M is coming. He’s coming when we need him. And sure enough, Mahathir appeared out of the blue, causing a media frenzy that shot Bersih back into significance. Although he left as quickly as he came, he had ignited a spark for Bersih. Immediately, Najib’s damage control team went into overdrive. They accused Mahathir of being a hypocrite and traitor, having betrayed Umno by having the sheer, unmitigated gall to step foot among the rabble rousers. How dare he consort with the enemy, they screamed.

Mahathir would make his intentions known the next day as once again, word spread of his impending arrival at the rally, this time accompanied by photos of him and his wife making their way to the crowds along with former law minister Zaid Ibrahim. And sure enough, he came and delivered a speech from the steps of Central Market.

In his speech, Mahathir made four very bold statements that may lay the foundations for future protests. One, he emphasised that he was at the rally for the people, placing importance on people power in the effort to oust Najib. Two, he announced that all UMNO MPs had been bribed by Najib, along with all of Umno’s division chiefs. Three, he proclaimed again that Najib’s RM2.6 billion did not come from the Arabs, but from 1MDB. Four, he told everyone to keep demonstrating, saying it was one of the last resorts in their attempt to be rid of Najib.

Mahathir’s presence changed the perception that Bersih 4 was a “Chinese thing” and legitimised Bersih and all future rallies as avenues to oust Najib, regardless of the intentions or agendas of the organisers. As an elder statesman, his words carry more weight than the voice of the multitudes, especially to the Malays.

Bersih 4.0 in Jalan Tun Perak

Despite all this, some, including some people in Bersih, felt that it was an apt time to make Mahathir account for his past sins. Yes, his sins are numerous, and yes, there are people who cannot forgive him. He paved the way for Najib to act the way he does.

You can hate him all you want, you can criticise and you can mock, but do not pretend that you did not need him. He came when you needed him the most, deeply aware that some people in the crowd despised him.

Some have called this Mahathir’s repentance. Perhaps it really is his repentance for hand picking what many consider to be the worst Prime Minister in Malaysian history. Perhaps removing Najib is the last goal he needs to achieve so that he may rest a little easier when he goes off for his long sleep. If the old man wants to repent, who are we to stop him or mock him?

Mahathir changed the game for Bersih and the people. He repainted the battle lines as no longer being a case of “DAP/the Opposition against UMNO,” but a case of “The rakyat versus Najib.” Whatever you think of him, Mahathir came through for the people last weekend. Perhaps we should be focusing on that a little more.

BERSIH 4.0: A Pathetic Response from Prime Minister Najib Razak


September 1, 2015

BERSIH 4.0: A Pathetic Response from Prime Minister Najib Razak

by Anisah Shukry

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Published: 31 August 2015 3:13 pm| Updated: 31 August 2015 4:48 pm

Von MisesAn Apt Message of Shameless Najib Razak

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s dismissal of Bersih 4 rally goers last night was pathetic and showed that he was in a state of denial over the extent to which Malaysians were unhappy with him, former diplomat Dato’ Noor Farida Ariffin has said.

The group of prominent Malays, or G25, spokesman said Malaysians turned out in full force over the weekend to demand answers from the government, and he would do well to heed them instead of shrugging them off as “shallow-minded”.

“It’s really pathetic. If they are wise, they would listen to the people.But instead, they are in a sheer state of denial and accusing us of all sorts of things,” said Farida, who had also attended the rally in her personal capacity.

“He made a speech so contrary to the facts of what was happening on the ground. They are just in total denial of reality.If I were him, I would listen to the people and really do something about accepting and instituting changes that the people are demanding.”

During his Merdeka Day message last night, Najib said the rally was unwise, shallow-minded and showed a lack of national spirit.

He said the government rejected any form of street protests that disrupted public order, adding that it did not reflect maturity.

But Farida said today that instead of insulting the protesters, Najib and his administration should have been grateful that the thousands who gathered near Dataran Merdeka were peaceful.

She said the rally yesterday proved Malaysians were not interested in a violent overthrow of the government, but were merely voicing out their views.

Farida added that reports of a low Malay turnout were far from the truth, even though she conceded the Chinese made up the majority of the rally goers.

“There were more Chinese than Malays, yes, but it’s not true there were no Malays at all. They came in full force. There were so many makcik, pakcik, youths – I took pictures with young Malay girls in tudung.”

She said that the absence of rural Malays should not be interpreted as a sign that the country’s largest ethnic group supported Najib. “Rural Malays couldn’t turn up because they couldn’t afford to. During previous rallies, PAS was involved, it put them in buses, brought them into the city.

“They can’t afford the trip to Kuala Lumpur on their own, the overnight stay. It doesn’t mean they are apathetic or don’t care.”

She said she was happy with the rally and the police’s restraint, and declared it a success. “What was so amazing was that people were so well-behaved and good-natured. There was very little police presence. In spite of the baking hot sun, people didn’t lose their cool. They cheered, the mood was party-like – it was more like a carnival.Many of us couldn’t even hear the speeches, but people cheered on anyway,” said Farida with a laugh.

bersih4.0xBersih 4–A Resounding Success

When asked whether her presence at the rally meant G25 wanted Najib to resign, Farida said she and other members of the group who attended were there in their personal capacity.

She added that she was there to demand answers from the government over the state of the country and the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

“We want answers. We are very unhappy with rapid endemic corruption, allegedly by our leaders.We are fed up with the loss of confidence in the ringgit, what is happening with the economy, we are concerned about 1MDB.”

The two-day gathering, which ended last night, was not only to demand that Najib step down but also for institutional reforms. – August 31, 2015.

It’s the Economy, Mr. Najib, so don’t blink


August 31, 2015

It’s the Economy, Mr. Najib, so don’t blink

by Martin Khor@www.thestar.com.my

FT Najib

TODAY(August 31) marks the completion of 58 years of Merdeka. On the economy, there is much to be proud of, with nearly six decades of generally good growth. One key reason is that the national economy has become well diversified. At Independence, Malaya was dependent on exporting just rubber and tin.

Through the years, more commodities including palm oil and petroleum were introduced and the raw materials were processed and manufactured, for example, into rubber gloves and furniture.

The manufacturing sector also diversified to include electronics. Construction has boomed and has high potential. There have been mistakes, too, along the way. Policies could have been better designed and implemented. And growth, though quite well-distributed, could have been more inclusive.

There are many regions and communities still left out of development. This Merdeka, we should resolve that those living at the bottom of the pyramid should receive the most attention and resources.

There is no reason why, 58 years after Merdeka, Malaysia cannot cater to the needs and interests of the poor and vulnerable. Despite the achievements, the economy is now facing what could be its greatest test. We are already inside the start of an economic crisis, and it will get worse before it gets better.

The fall in prices of petroleum and palm oil has rightly been blamed. Our economy is still reliant on commodities and thus affected by the booms and busts of the global commodity cycle, which turned downwards in the past couple of years. Even more important, Malaysia has also become dependent on another boom-bust cycle – that of global finance, the rapid inflows and outflows of funds.

This cycle is even more volatile and dangerous than the commodity cycle. Volatile because the flows can be huge and can change suddenly, and dangerous because the change can damage many parts of the system. There is a large body of literature on the dangers of global financial flows, when trillions of dollars of short-term funds go hunting for investment venues and modes in search of higher yield.

These funds choose Malaysia and other emerging economies to place many billions of dollars. When fundamentals or perceptions change, the funds move out.

Allowing the free flow of speculative funds is not a good idea. When too much comes in, effects include stock market and property price bubbles and currency appreciation.

And when the investors exit, there are other bad effects, as is now becoming evident. Foreign funds in the stock and bond markets are leaving the country. The ringgit has fallen more than 20% since a year ago, with expectations of further falls prompting further outflows. Local capital flight is also taking place.

Since the trade surplus has declined, it cannot fully offset the outflow of funds. Thus the overall balance of payments is now negative and this is reflected in the falls in the foreign reserves from US$132 bil (or RM424 bil at the exchange rate then) on August 29, 2014 to US$94.5bil (or RM356bil) on August 14, 2015.

Unless the investor mood reverses, there is potential ground for higher foreign outflows. The relevant foreign funds are in four categories: equities, bonds and deposits (denominated in ringgit) and loans to Malaysia denominated in foreign currency. Foreign investors have around RM300-400bil in the stock market. This year up to 31 July, they pulled out RM11.7bil from the stock market, according to MIDF Research. Foreign funds invested in bonds denominated in ringgit are high and falling fast. Foreigners own RM206.8bil of government and corporate bonds at end-July, down from RM226bil at end-2014 and RM257bil in July 2014, according to government data.

They also own deposits in Malaysian institutions of RM91bil as at end-March. Thus, there are RM600-700bil of foreign funds in the country as equities, bonds and deposits. If a sizable amount moves out, this would further drain the foreign reserves which stood at RM356bil on Aug 14.

On top of this, the public and private sectors also had RM399bil of external debt (of which RM157bil is short-term) denominated in foreign currencies as at end-March 2015, according to Bank Negara.

The country has thus become dependent on foreign funds and lenders to maintain their assets in and loans to Malaysia. The foreign reserves are still quite high, but has been declining and subject to future stress if outflows continue.

It is timely that an economic task force has been set up by the Prime Minister and it should examine all facets of the emerging crisis.

Should the country re-establish a currency peg? If this is done, there should also be controls on capital outflows, otherwise the fixing of the currency may not prevent and may instead cause further large capital outflows. The 1998-2000 policy measures that overcame the crisis were successful because they were done in combination: a fixed exchange system; control over certain types of capital outflows; and reflationary monetary and fiscal policies. One without the others would not have worked.

The committee should also consider whether it was wise to have recently liberalised the financial system so much, to now have such free inflows and outflows of funds. Excessive fund inflows and debts could have been limited in the first place, as done in some other countries. Local institutions should also not have been encouraged or allowed to invest so much abroad; now it is not easy to get them to reverse the flow.

The policies have resulted in high dependence on foreign funds, and the economy being susceptible to the stress of capital outflows. We shouldn’t welcome or attract all the funds that want to enter to do so, and then later bewail the fact that these same funds now want to exit when the economy cannot afford them to do so.

In any case, it is important to give priority to reviving the economy, which is now clearly under stress and already inside a crisis.

 

Malaysia: Shameless and Spineless Najib clings to the Job


August 31, 2015

Malaysia: Shameless and Spineless Najib clings to his Job

by Asiasentinel Correspondent

Supporters of beleaguered Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak are claiming a tactical victory out of what might otherwise be regarded as a defeat – the presence of tens of thousands of yellow-shirted protesters on the streets of Kuala Lumpur over the weekend calling for his resignation.

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library

BERSIH'S demandsDemand No.6: Undur Lah, Najib

United Malays National Organization leaders characterized the two-day rally organized by the reform movement Bersih 4.0 as composed almost entirely of the country’s Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities, with only 10 to 20 percent of the protesters coming from the country’s majority ethnic Malay population.

That was an indication, in UMNO eyes, that the rally, to protest massive corruption in the disastrously managed 1Malaysia Development Bhd. state-backed investment fund and vast sums in Najib’s bank account, was actually an attempt by the Chinese to destabilize the country’s democratically elected parliament, which is dominated by Malays.

Whatever the reason, despite the presence of a huge crowd estimated at 200,000 by the organizers, 80,000 by government-dominated local media and 35,000 by the Police – “a sea of yellow shirts,” said Americk Sidhu, a prominent Indian lawyer – it clearly wasn’t enough to dislodge Najib.  The betting is that unless there are further defections from his party or even more sensational revelations, he has the backing to stay in power until the next general election.

Din and Kamsiah at Bersih4.0Bersih’s Message Delivered in Resounding Fashion

Whether the Barisan Nasional, the ruling national coalition, can stay in power beyond that time, however, is unsure, according to political analysts. There is widespread and growing disgust with the deep levels of corruption, particularly in UMNO. “UMNO is likely to be finished,” a Malay lawyer told Asia Sentinel.

The Prime Minister has waged a dogged fight to stay in office, firing his Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney-General as they allegedly closed in him, and neutralizing several other figures.  Ominously, he and other UMNO leaders have openly fanned racial attitudes in the attempt to blame others for the country’s deepening economic and social troubles. 

In the weekend’s event, the protesters were careful to stay within the boundaries of political protocol, thronging the city center but not entering Merdeka Square under Police orders.  Unlike previous Bersih rallies, the government, while threatening to arrest anybody who wore a yellow shirt emblazoned with the words Bersih 4.0, used kid-glove tactics to handle the crowd, thus avoiding allegations of Police brutality such as were made in previous rallies.

Pretty much a carnival atmosphere prevailed, with singing, prayer, skits, criticisms of the government and interminable speeches. Hundreds of Bersih adherents crowded downtown restaurants and bars, turning the event into a largely happy one. Events continued into the early hours of August 30, with thousands of people sleeping in the streets and wakening to aerobics and calisthenics workouts to resume the previous day’s crusade to oust the Prime Minister.

Nonetheless, “Malays think Bersih is entirely the [Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party],” said a Malay lawyer in an interview. Pro-UMNO bloggers repeated the theme, saying the event was actually a DAP action to attempt to wrest political power from ethnic Malays.

Bersih organizers disputed the claim, saying there was adequate participation by ethnic Malays.  “I was there,” Sidhu said. “There were many Malays but you know what, I didn’t even think about it as I am colorblind. But look at the prayer sessions [in local mosques], the gathering at the National Mosque….who were these? Chinese Buddhists or Indian Hindus?”

However, their absence was clear.  The first Bersih rallies drew a majority of ethnic Malays although subsequent rallies have seen Malay participation drop off.  The first Bersih rally in 2007 to rally for campaign reform was composed of 80 percent Malays and 20 percent other minorities. The ratio fell to 60 percent Malays in the second Bersih march and to 50-50 in the third.

The drop-off is regarded as due to the split in Parti Islam se-Malaysia, the rural-based fundamentalist Islamic party, which left the three-party opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition earlier this year over the refusal of the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party and the moderate urban Parti Keadilan Rakyat to agree to the implementation of hudud, or seventh-century religious punishments including stoning of adulterers and amputation of limbs of thieves, in Kelantan, the only state that PAS governs.

At previous Bersih rallies, PAS provided healthy organizational skills and money to round-up rural Malays and bus them to Kuala Lumpur to join in the protests.  Ominously for the opposition, the lack of ethnic Malays meant that neither Parti Keadilan nor Gerakan Harapa Baru, composed of the moderates who quit PAS to remain in the opposition coalition, had the star power or the organizational abilities to get large numbers of ethnic Malays to the rally.  If they are to come together as a cohesive force to contest the next general election to be held in 2018 at the latest, the development considerable organizational skills are going to be necessary.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has been attempting to oust Najib from office for months, sought to bolster the impression of Malay support for the event by showing up on Aug. 30 in the evening with his 89-year-old wife, Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, to see and be seen, although he stayed only a short time and left. He returned, however, on Aug. 30 to renew his call for Najib to go.

Accompanied again by Siti Hasmah and Zaid Ibrahim, the former law minister who left UMNO several years ago, he was swarmed by followers, saying “I just want Najib to step down.” He called for continuing street demonstrations, saying the only thing that drove former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986 were massive crowds.

Those crowds were in the millions, and they were backed by the country’s business and religious establishment as well as much of the social structure.  Malaysia, riven with Malays siding with the government out of fear and envy of the much richer Chinese, shows little promise of that kind of action.

 

Mahathir: I’m here for the people


August 30, 2015

COMMENT: I cannot understand why Malaysians who were at Bersih 4.0 last night and this afternoon are excited at the sight of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in their midst. I am glad that my wife Dr. Kamsiah and I missed him on both occasions. We both feel that the former autocrat is not interested in electoral reform, democracy, human rights and good governance. He has a different agenda, which is basically to protect his legacy and UMNO Baru which he created after UMNO was outlawed.

Bersih 4.0 in Jalan Tun Perak

Tun Dr. Mahathir has always been an astute politician of the Machiavellian mould with a Master Yoda touch. He said he came to Bersih 4.0 to support the people, not Bersih’s struggle which goes beyond the removal of Najib as Prime Minister.

I want to remind him that Bersih is  a people’s movement  for political change. Bersih 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 were all about people power against the corruption, electoral politics, and abuses of power of the UMNO-BN clique.

BERSIH'S demandsBoth Ambiga and Maria Chin and their associates have not changed Bersih’s mission.  Bersih 4.0 is  continuation of our fight for free and fair elections. Since Najib is a major obstacle to electoral reform, Bersih 4.0 is also about asking him to step down as Prime Minister on grounds of corruption and abuses of power and mismanagement of our economy. Tun Dr. Mahathir’s presence at Bersih 4.0 is not a good move since he has exploited rally to serve his self-interest.–Din Merican

Mahathir: I’m here for the people

by FMT Reporters

Najib’s arch-critic captures attention with sensational second appearance at KL protest rally

Dr Mahathir Mohamad made a sensational second appearance at the Bersih protest rally today, this time accompanied by former law minister Zaid Ibrahim, as he took advantage of the huge turnout to press his year-long campaign to force UMNO President and Prime Minister Najib Razak out of office.

Speaking to reporters at Central Market, the former Prime Minister remarked that it was his first time at a street rally and reiterated that he had come in support of the people, and not Bersih.

Dr M at Berish 4.0He said the people had no other choice but to take to the streets – a position in marked contrast to his position during his 22 years in power when he cracked down hard on opposition and demonstrations, and was responsible for Operation Lalang (1987) in which more than 100 were detained under the Internal Security Act.

Dr Mahathir said Najib had closed off all other avenues for the people to make their voices known and gave as examples the popular uprisings that led to the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

He had made similar remarks at a public forum in Johor yesterday at which he had said that this weekend’s rally, in which tens of thousands of people had peacefully occupied the streets of central Kuala Lumpur, was different from previous Bersih rallies.

“This Bersih is not the same as Ambiga’s Bersih,” he had said. “This one is about the people, about people power, where the people must take to the streets because they have no other choice, Najib has closed down all other avenues.”

His reference to Ambiga Sreenevasan was to the Berish rally of 2012 which was put down with tear gas and water cannons, when some rally-goers were reported to have attempted to take down barricades around Dataran Merdeka, and opposition politicians were accused of having hijacked the demonstrations.

A few hours after his Johor appearance, Dr Mahathir and his wife Dr. Siti Hasmah turned up outside Kuala Lumpur City Hall, and were mobbed by enthusiastic rally-goers. He said little last night, except to encourage them to carry on, “teruskan, teruskan”.

At today’s media conference, he once again made a careful distinction between Bersih itself, and the rally proper, to keep at arms-length any association with the political parties and politicians who have dominated at previous street rallies.

Dr M in and Out of Power“I’m here not because I support Bersih but because I support the people. We are not here because we hate UMNO or Barisan Nasional. We just don’t want a Prime Minister like him (Najib Razak),” Dr Mahathir said.

He reiterated his support for a confidence motion to be brought against Najib in Parliament, in order to remove him from office. “We cannot allow this man to abuse his position as Prime Minister. We should move a motion of no confidence in Parliament,” Dr Mahathir said.

Opposition politicians such as Lim Kit Siang as well as Zaid Ibrahim have campaigned for a new political alignment across the parliamentary aisle, for like-minded MPs to come together and form a new transitional government for political reforms in the two years before the next general election.

Zaid has also championed UMNO veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah as the People’s PM to replace Najib after a confidence motion. However, on Saturday, Tengku Razaleigh announced that he would not seek re-election after nine successive terms as MP for Gua Musang.

In the 1980s Tengku Razaleigh led a challenge to Dr Mahathir as UMNO President and came within 41 votes of ousting him. The power struggle led to UMNO’s deregistration, the formation of a new party with a similar name, and years of what many regarded as iron-fisted rule by Dr Mahathir.

The former premier made no mention of past events but accused Najib of having abused his power as Prime Minister and said: “We cannot allow this man to make use of his election as an MP to be the prime minister and abuse the power”. In order for Najib to be removed, “the people must show the people’s power”, he said.

He brought up questions regarding the controversial 1Malaysia Development Bhd as well as a reported US$700m million deposit in Najib’s private bank accounts, and accused Najib of having stayed in power by buying support.

“He has told me that cash is king. If you give money to people, they will support you,” Dr Mahathir said, and disparaged Najib’s explanation that the money in his account was a donation from the Middle East.

“No Arab would give that amount of money to anyone. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Zahid Hamidi: Malaysian Politics’ One -Trick Pony


August 29, 2015

Clean Malaysia.2015

Zahid Hamidi: Malaysian Politics’ One -Trick Pony

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT If there is a one-trick pony in Malaysian politics, it’s Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. He’s got only one trick up his sleeve and it’s a sledgehammer which he is pleased to deploy, especially when he’s got his back to the wall.

That a politician of his dearth of skills can rise to the No. 2 position in the country is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in an UMNO that has dominated Malaysia’s politics to its detriment since Independence.

That this dominance has brought the country to decay can be seen from the contagion of controversies that presently beset it.

The distresses have reached a point where the only way out is for the No. 1 man to exit office, but this is not to say that the No. 2 should then take over.

The sober-minded know that often in politics, the choice is not between good and better; more commonly, it is between the undesirable and the intolerable. But in the case of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his Deputy, the selection is between the intolerable and the execrable.

No, this isn’t saying that that’s the choice we are faced with. It’s that both leaders in combination have succeeded in dividing the country between those who want to be freed of stupidity and those in whose material interest it is to support a benighted tyranny.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Zahid certified this division through the banning notice he issued yesterday against the wearing of the yellow Bersih T-shirts whose sales have been brisk the past week.

Yellow a color of resonant significance

The yellow of Bersih has been a color of resonant significance since Queen Elizabeth (photo) used a yellow dress with a yellow floral arrangement in the backdrop of a reception hall in Buckingham Palace when the English monarch received Najib and wife Rosmah Mansor who were on state visit when Bersih were planning a their second march a few years back.

Yellow, contrary to its nominal signficance as an emblem of cowardice, has become in the protest march parlance in Malaysia the color of defiance and even subtlety.

The rapid turnover in T-short sales and the reported RM2 million in collections by Bersih for this their fourth protest march planned for today and tomorrow must have caused panic in government ranks.

Panic is not something that is calculated to bring out the best in the government. Accustomed to bringing out the mailed fist when under duress, the government has relied on the home minister for its final thrust to foil today’s gathering by Bersih when all other devices for heading off the protest had failed.

The government had tried subterfuge, offers of alternative venues, and there was the threat of anti-Bersih action by vigilante groups which was quickly retracted, and, lastly, the resort to a warning by the Armed Forces chief that the military will intervene if an emergency is declared in the event of disturbances.

Liable to compensatory action by victims

Even an attack imputing disloyalty by Bersih in wanting to stage their protest on the eve of the annual Merdeka Day commemoration failed to make a dent on their determination to go ahead.

When all these variations on a general theme of dissuasion proved of no avail, in stepped the Home Minister with the only prohibitive weapon he has in his arsenal – a banning of the yellow Bersih T-shirts.

How efficacious this ban is going to be can be inferred somewhat from what retired judge Gopal Sri Ram (photo) has said about the extent of the ambit of the Printing and Publications Act under which the banning order was issued.

The former jurist who has returned to legal practice has been vocal in recent years in pointing out legal niceties which in the case of yesterday’s banning order, does not include T-shirts in its ambit.

In an opinion that may well stay the hand of the banning authority, the learned lawyer contends that arrests of yellow Bersih T-shirt wearers would be liable to compensatory action by the victims. If this is true, Zahid may have bitten off more than he can chew. He’s had plenty of practice for this overreach.

Two years ago, almost to the month, the Home Minister made headlines, when in the face of rising instances of gangland shootings, he said police would shoot first and leave the ask questions for later.

It was a stance of breathtaking insolence. For if he has stubbed his legal toe in the dark of trying to thwart the Bersih 4 march, he will have asked for it.