Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Street Protests..

After seeing many of the video clips on the 28th April BERSIH 3.0 event showing the actions of the yellows (protestors) and the blues (police), I should say that both parties were influenced by the mob psychology rather than rational arguments. The action of the yellows in bursting through police barricade certainly calls for threatening reaction. But the kicking and punching of some youths in yellow sitting peacefully in the compound of Masjid India while the muazan was calling the Muslims to prayer, appears most irrational and emotionally driven. The more so when a group of blues started kicking and punching a helpless victim while his friends merely shouted their objection and did not come to help.

The overturning of a police patrol car was certainly done in an angry-mob spirit. But then a police car plowing throng a throng of unarmed people was not a wise thing to do either. Especiaally when there was a suspicion that someone could have been trapped underneath the car.

And now the police are going after some characters who are shown on video to be actively involved in provoking the police (or attacking the police with stones and sticks) or c causing material damage to public property. Is that fair when they were under the influence of a mob psychology as were the police when they thrashed the youths in yellow at Masjid India? Hundreds of protestors have been detained, we hear. They certainly would be Malay youths and students who could never employ the best lawyers around to defend them, while the non-Malay organizers of the event get their lawyers around to defend their case if charged.

The entire pandemonium and wild skirmish seemed to start from the ban on using the Dataran Merdeka and blocking all roads leading towards the venue. All stadiums were offered as optional venues but BERSIH organizers refused to accept the offer.Of what good is a stadium for a street protest. one may ask. It's only good for the police to facilitate crowd control while the crowd is the essence of a public protest movement. An open place somewhere else should have been offered if the city center was to be avoided.

No,one cannot blame the government for doing what it has to do to counter the opposition from hiding behind the public protest movement. And no one can blame the police for doing what it has to do to control the crowd. What can be questioned is not what has to be done but HOW COULD IT BE DONE? Lao Tsu said that the best way of winning a war is to win it without a fight. The best victory is won by not fighting. Couldn't we learn something from this philosophy? The government could have easily preempted the use of the Dataran Merdeka for some other purpose to move the protest to some other dates and some other place. Better still was to remove the causes of the protest or minimize its scope. The police can't just "close the door for any other discussion/negotiation"?. That's very peremptory and inappropriate in a democratic society.

I think the police has to rethink matters and not just issue orders not to do this and that. People with political freedom and freedom of choice want to know why certain things, not to their liking, are done. Make them appreciate the need for doing something before it is done, not try to explain (with lots of excuse), after it's done. In psychology we say make people want to do something and the thing will get done very easily. Don't try to stop a river but channel the water elsewhere if you want to avoid a flood in a certain area.

Protest movement and street protests will continue to take place in a democratic society for people have a right to state their case. There are thousand and one ways of letting people be heard. But stop them from ventilating their feelings, and democracy is sacrificed.


kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
Democracy is sacred. How things are done invoking democracy as a principle reason is mocking the intelligence of the masses. Agreed wholeheartedly your take on the ideals of giving voice of democracy a chance.

But those who organized and led the protests had democracy far from their resolve.

Instead what did we have: 1. individuals paid to attend ( Nik Aziz confirmed this) 2.Foreign support (read: finacing) through known organizations 3. Near failure students looking for fun ( bright students laughed at them!)4. Foreign support of known LGBT 'practitioners' and sympathizers 5. Frustrated policians' last push before age catch up with them. 5. The opposition's realization that they couldn't hope to break the hold of the BN govt unless they sink their differences. So we get PAS sacrificing their basic principles ( Islamic to Welfare State and today Hj Hadi agreed not to have Islam as our official religion should they win GE13)just so to court political acceptance.

We expound ideals of democracy to allow voice when those involved were tainted with deceit of their hidden agenda.

The silent majority is bidding their time.


abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
If I am not mistaken, this is by far the most serious "test" of the newly gazetted law pertaining to "Peaceful Assembly" which resulted in the not so "Peaceful" assembly. As a country that has a long history of insurgency and the mentality of "meeting force with force" it would take time for things to reach the mentality of what we see happening in Europe or Japan. The best thing is not to get caught in such an explosive situation and refrain from being anywhere near it. Discretion is the better part of valour.

norzah said...

Akhi Kaykuala. Thanks for the response. Every protest movement it seems to me is tainted with some hidden agenda, above what the protest seems to be all about. You're definitely right that the 'protestors' had been sponsored in some ways and not genuinely prompted to protest but their own ideals or objection to what the government is doing. They might even be paid by some foreign elements opposed to the government in power.

The sad thing that I see is that most of the protestors are Malays. Thus they don't represent the population of the country at all. You can even suspect that the protest can be directed at dividing up the Malays. When the Police act on them you can imagine who will fill up the jail.

Should we ban all street protests? That seems to be what the Police is going to do. Why should the government be afraid of protests if it is certain that what it had done so far for the people of Malaysia is the best that can be done?

norzah said...

Akhi Halim, thanks for the response. If the Bersih 3.0 protest was a test case for the new law on Peaceful Assembly, it has proven that no protect can be peaceful. The will always be elements that want to take advantage of the crowd and create trouble. But we have seen that the trouble was really started by both the protestors and the Police, both parties being carried away by mass psychology. Could the blame now be placed on the "irresponsible students" alone?

Keeping away from such street protests is a good fatherly advice. But that is like giving becoming a part of the silent and "dumb" majority, just accepting all that the government throws at us. Will there be any change in the government if everyone behaves that way? Can anything be improved at all, except in the way that the government sees fit?

abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
I am for a peaceful rally which is not foreign to us when the Malays started to protest on the formation of the Malayan Union.
However the present day kind of street protest has the tendency towards rioting and violence, regardless as who starts the fire. That is against the ground rules of peaceful assemblies. The authority should not place too unrealistic conditions for a peaceful protest. The recent Bersih 3.0 sit-in could have been a peaceful one should there be more liberty given in using the Dataran rather than declaring it off-limits to the organisers. On hindsight, the Dato' Bandar should not have invoked such a puny law to spite the peaceful assembly meant to allow a greater freedom of expression. There is a choice now for all the people to change the government at the coming election.

norzah said...

I fully agree with you Akhi Halim. We don't know whether the Dato Bandar was pressured to close the Dataran Merdeka so that the rally would be held in one of the closed stadiums to facilitate control. But I'm certain that the closure of the Dataran was the primary cause of disorder and disregard of the Police blockage.
The decision to close the Dataran seemed most undemocratic and authoritative. After all the Dataran Merdeka is a symbol of democracy and open to the public.