The debacle of mishandling

Edited version

JULY 11 — The dust has settled from the Bersih 2.0 march and life is now back to normal.

The much-anticipated rally took place and despite the heavy clampdown,  shutting KL-bound roads and diverting traffic, an estimated 20,000 people walked in many parts of the city to express their wish for a cleaner and more transparent election process.

With all due respect, the authorities could have handled this rally in a much more civil and humane way, since this was as an initiative by civil society ( a coalition of 62 NGOs) to ask for something which should by right should be provided without even having to ask.

While the old methods of repression and suppression were used, they have not been as effective as before. This is understandable, since the world today is a much different one from that of one or even two decades ago.

Perhaps the lessons from 308 that should have been learned and corrected by now were never really understood by the powers that be, and mistakes that were made prior to the run-up to the last election were again so glaringly repeated this time. Arrogance and double standards were some of the lessons that should have been learned well.

The perception of our law enforcement personnel was that they are still living in the 60s and 70s. In this 21st century, communist threats are still being used to justify some of the arrests just because  a Che Guevera T-shirt — which can be bought in many places — was worn.

There is a big difference between socialism and communism. This is no more the era of USSR or Mao Tse Tung’s China; the former has disintegrated into smaller states and the latter is now more capitalist than communist.

Who would want to revive communism, when these two giants communist states have tacitly admitted that their ideology is no longer workable, by opening their economies and adopting some capitalist practices.

Bersih’s walk  would and could  have been just like the lawyers’ walk some time back in Putrajaya, if the police as well as politicians adopted the same approach; let the walk proceed under watchful eyes.

Alas, an extremist NGO has to give advice to a certain ethnic group to stock up food or face the possibility of another May 13. The tension immediately rose 10 fold after this politician uttered his  advice, and when Umno Youth too announced that they would counter-march on that day, the collective temperature rose another few degrees.

It was not helped by the announcement by the Home Minister that the civil movemnt was illegal. With the announcement came the arrest of those  wearing yellow. This act was perhaps meant to put fear into the rakyat, but in reality, it had the opposite effect of angering many ordinary people who regard this as an infringement of basic human rights. And once again the same arrogance that drove many to voting the Opposition in 308 was on display.

Amidst the rise in temperature, one sane voice was heard. It was from  none other than the beloved King, who advised that both sides should find a solution amicably. The PM also made a sane decision by offering to allow the rally to be held in a stadium.

The King’s advice actually presented an opportunity for all sides to back down without losing face which is ever so important in Malaysian society.

Instead,  the famed arrogance and flip-flopping emerged again. Instead of   finding a solution, the authorities were seen  trying to create more problems.

The prime minister gave the impression he was reneging on his promise, and that was not good coming from the top leader. Understandably, there might be strong objections by his associates and advisors to use force but  having made the promise, the PM should have used exerted strong leadership to realise his promise, instead of passing the buck to the police to decide.

As a neutral observer, I see that the government’s action left the group no choice but lean towards the Opposition parties. If only BN parties too participated in the organisation of this rally, the whole exercise could have been turned round to BN’s favour.

But the archaic thinking and tactic of must-use-force-to-suppress did not have its intended intimidating effect. So an even “cleverer” idea of shutting down city access roads and causing inconvenience to thousands of motorists was adopted, hoping that by denying access, the rally would fail to take place.

The idea  of shutting down the city does have one effect. Shops around the city centre were closed, and even a day before the rally, some big firms and corporations let their staff home early.

But an estimated 20,000 people turned out despite shutting down bus services and roads, and closing some LRT stations. This is an estimate from foreign observers, and this is a big figure considering that all access roads to the city centre were shut down.

Contrary to what the authorities tried to portray, those who took part in the rally were multiracial; not just Christian groups as would have been the case if the allegation of Christian funding was true. In this modern era, every citizen would have noticed this fact by just following  international news channels.

In hindsight, Bersih would have been just another civil walk, had it been allowed to happen peacefully and under watch. It would not have grown so big that even my cleaning lady knows about it.

Not many, except perhaps the younger ones and the Internet savvy, would have known of its intention. But because of the mishandling, the arrogance and  the flip-flopping  displayed by the authorities, it has grown into a household name.

Datuk Ambiga, the courageous chairman of Bersih 2.0, is now a champion in the minds of many.

This debacle of mishandling, using the ideas and tactics of the last generation — mind you, this is no more the era of Mahathirism — will likely push many fence-sitters into the arms of the Opposition, and BN has only itself to blame.

Whatever advantage they have gained in the last few hard fought by-elections is now lost.

This post is also published in MalaysianInsider:


38 Comments (+add yours?)

    Jul 10, 2011 @ 15:00:45



  2. VJ
    Jul 10, 2011 @ 15:17:31

    20k vs the tiny 200 red shirts… what a shame .
    Kudos to the brave malaysians out there on 9th July. No surprise if gomen follows up with chargers against the organizers .
    The leaders ,such as Datuk Ambiga, had done their part , now it’s on the people’s hand to show the power via ballot box !!


  3. saya
    Jul 10, 2011 @ 16:00:36

    dr hsu…20,000? ya-kah?

    Neutral observer? what is that?


  4. Kenny
    Jul 10, 2011 @ 17:55:03

    The world has changed but BN still clings to the same old tactics of threats, fear and intimidation, creating racial and religious issues, demonizing in the mainstream press and brute force. They do not work anymore because people have alternative sources of information and they are more networked thane ever before. The Arab Spring should give BN some lessons if they can lift up their heads from their arrogance. Small wonder that BN depends heavily on cheating to win elections.


  5. Li Li Fa
    Jul 10, 2011 @ 19:47:01

    I would like to believe that civility still prevails in this nation.
    But the words and actions of BN do not jive into a complete whole that gives assurance to the people that all will be well.

    The YDP Agong rose to the occasion and spoke with wisdom.
    However, the authorities paid no attention to his advice and renegraded on a promise given to Bersih regarding the use of the stadium.

    Weak as he had shown, the PM deliberately passed the buck to those ‘little napoleons’ and so called guardians of the law and his relative who did help to appease the situation but rather aggravated it into a ‘defiantwalk’ for a just and fair election. Thousands in the country and abroad could follow the breaking news of the events that unfolded. Many braved the heavy downpour to join in the walk. Even the heavens sent rain to water down the effects of the teargas.

    I am still thankful that democracy is alive , walking and kicking in this nation.
    Its full effect will only be known in the coming 13GE.

    I believe the YDP Agong will speak up again for the entire nation come what may.


  6. Dr Hsu
    Jul 10, 2011 @ 22:27:32

    I quoted from Alzazeera news channel..if I am wrong i apologise.


  7. aawilliam
    Jul 10, 2011 @ 23:26:10

    Singapore just loose I minister seat,the gov.start to change.Malaysia loose 5 states,still they behave like this.If I still vote BN..I ‘ll change my surname …… DR!


  8. monsterball
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 01:21:31

    “saya”..maybe 5000-6000 and police arrested 1401….correct?
    That’s what idiots from UMNO B reported.
    Doc…no need to apologize to “saya”
    There were few huge groups combined together is MORE than 20000 and Alzazeera news are reliable.


  9. Jong
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 02:43:26

    LOL!!! The sandiwara has begun and this ‘Father of All Rhetorics’ goes KL city walkabout! Where was he on 9 July? – glued to “live” for latest on Bersih? He should have been more civil to join in the Bersih Walk, take heed of Agong’s advice for face-saving and things would have been different.

    Now he has lost everything – trust, credibility and integrity when he reneged on his words, and as if not enough further enraged civil society with threats to engage Silat thugs to ‘kow tim’ Bersih Rallyers coming together for transparency, clean and fair election! It makes one wonder where did he learn that from, …his father?


  10. monsterball
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 04:19:48

    hi.. ‘saya” neutral observer means an observer…observing with an open mind.
    He must be sharp and intelligent.
    And Doc have come to the conclusion…our government is unfair.. unjust…corrupt to the core and applying double standards…which are being observed b y millions …including me..being true.
    Shall we discuss and debate on these issues?
    Any blockhead what is neutral means.
    What is that….you say?
    It is standing on a equally divided ground and then..decide to lean to one side….as Doc found the other side is full of shit…including you.
    He is so humble to apologize.
    Learn that…and OBSERVE how many UMNO B Ministers ever make any mistakes.
    Except Abdullah Badawai apologizing…none ever being robbers and thieves and murderer s too.
    You trust all those crooks?
    Wait for you to respond.
    If dare not….shut the Fk up!!


  11. Phua Kai Lit
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 08:18:08

    Dear Dr Hsu

    Even Marina Mahathir joined the Bersih 2.0 popular democracy events.

    There is hope for our beloved Malaysia yet!


  12. Kenny
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 09:36:00

    This opinion piece from malaysiakini is worth reading:

    Bersih’s legacy – the eradication of fear

    Malaysiakini is free to read for now as it is under DDOS attack.


  13. chanjoe1
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 10:06:45

    I was teargassed, shot with chemical laced water but came back very happy with tears that Malaysians have really come together as 1 with all races helping each other and the most wonderful of all is there is no fear of being caught by the Police except for the fear of being BRUTUALLY beaten by the Police. I v=give my salute to Aunty Annie for her most courageous act.
    I puked when I read what IGP and Pm had said in the newspaper……come on….man…..I was there and witnessed how Police provoked the people and then beat up anyone they can get theuir hands on. The people did not even retaliate
    We have come of age and from the net, you can see with your own eyes how brutal the Police was.
    All Najib could have done was just allow Merdeka Statium and the whole thing would fizzle out in 2-3 hours and everyone leave peacefully for home without any incidents as proven by all marches last Sat.
    PM, pls come to yoru senses and not listen to the senseless cousin of yours….the Hisap Mudin


  14. Kenny
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 10:43:20

    Yes, the govt really bungled. If they had allowed Merdeka Stadium to be used, it would be a tame affair, over in a few hours. The pathetic attempts to stop the rally by brute force only made things worse for BN which has sustained great political damage. The old ways do not work anymore but those goons are slow to learn.


  15. Nick
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 12:37:23

    The tide has surely turned. I have not met a single person inside my group of family, friends and colleagues who thinks the Police and BN has acted in the correct way. Bersih is on the side of “Right” (as what Ambiga said in her press conference) and I am sure most of us were brought up to side with “Right” as in truth, just, fair, clean, transparent……. we should all condemned in the harshest way possible that the Police and this government has acted in a mala fide way towards its citizens. It is time to exercize our citizens rights in GE13. Long Live BERSIH !!! Do watch this video (only 10 minutes long):


  16. Dr Hsu
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 12:42:53

    The videos and photos showed clearly that there were water sprayed into the compound of a hospital ….

    Under international law, even in a war, hospital should be left alone.. This is not a war, just rakyat going for a walk.

    If a wrong has been done, just apologise. Sometimes it is more courageous to admit a mistake than trying to cover up.

    By trying to deny in the face of irrefutable evidence is again arrogance…


  17. petestop
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 18:36:06

    A Chinese friend who attended the Bersih rally says that he has never feel so proud to be Malaysian before and the sense of solidarity with the other races as during the rally. Something 1Malaysia failed, but Bersih succeeded in truly uniting all Malaysians.

    Down with BN, let’s kick them out in PR-13 !! Send them the broom award to “Bersih”kan their backyard.


  18. song song
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 18:56:16

    surely more than 20,000 in the crowd, so scare of even at a call for clean election??


  19. Kenny
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 19:04:19

    Malaysiakini reports that Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai has claimed that the police did not shoot tear gas and water cannon into the Tung Shin Hospital compound, in the crackdown on last Saturday’s Bersih 2.0 rally.

    Asked to comment on video footage and photos posted by netizens that appear to contradict the claim, Liow told reporters not to show photos or videos to counter his claims.

    “The board of the hospital also confirmed this, (so) don’t cite whatever pictures or videos again,” he said.

    “The most important thing is that the person in charge of the hospital has confirmed that the police did not shoot the tear gas or water cannon into the hospital (compound).”

    Asked to comment on differing accounts by some journalists on the ground who had also witnessed the incident, Liow reacted angrily and said, “The board chairman has clarified this, but you still want to ask this question.”

    note: partial extract. Read the full report in malaysiakini


  20. Jong
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 19:33:32

    Liow Tiong Lai? – blatant arrogance! So you can bully the hospital i/c into denying because you are Health Minister? Pictures and videos tell no lies, idiot!

    Let’s see how you perform come GE-13!


  21. Kenny
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 20:18:00

    Liow Tiong Lai’s arrogance will cost him dearly. He is obviously a novice politician. No seasoned politician would dare to lie so blatantly in the face of overwhelming evidence.


  22. CYC
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 20:21:35

    LTL claimed the smoke was blown over to the hospital by wind. Perhaps the voters were also blown over to PR during 308 by wind. Those who were at the scene confirmed the police did fire teargas into hospital compound. A liar cannot be covered by angry voice, monster!


  23. klm
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 20:43:03

    Liow Tiong Lai? Niamah! He is still alive and lying.


  24. A true Malaysian
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 20:54:20

    Prof Phua,

    Somehow I couldn’t help but always feel something is missing when reading her writings….though I may agree with most of her thoughts.

    You get what I meant?


  25. CYC
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 21:32:06

    LTL, he leapfrogged to his present position by default. He has no idea of his own.
    He is just there to warm his seat. Lets whack him gao-gao come GE13.

    Folks, please volunteer yourself at your hometown to help PR to whack Bn gao-gao in next GE. I will be going back to Sg. Siput to lend my little help to Dr Jeyakumar of PSM – a genuine fighter for the poor.


  26. CYC
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 21:34:49

    I just learned a “word of the year ” in BM. from National Laureate Pak Samad Said.

    CARMA = Cari makan.

    So, all those who lie to earn a living are called CAMAR. Our country is full of Carmas.


  27. CYC
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 21:37:07

    Perhaps we can address LTL as Datuk Seri Carma Liow as a gesture of utmost respect. Hidup Carma Liow, hidup Carma Liow, hidup Carma Liow……..


  28. A true Malaysian
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 21:55:17

    Niahmah and Carma, both are suitable for ‘them’. Just pick one or both.

    These people are just too much, hopeless.


  29. Dr Hsu
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 22:09:30

    brutus brutus brutus….


  30. A true Malaysian
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 22:47:18

    Brutus – one betrayed his wife, the other one cheated his President….the lady bluffed her Raub people….the MB sold Gebeng to Lynas.

    The Big one promised BERSIH a stadium to rally, shout and scream from morning till night but…..

    Brutuses all over…..cukup, sudah cukup banyak….


  31. Jong
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 23:06:47

    Carma Liow Tiong Lie should watch this video on Youtube and stop flexing his muscle on Tung Shin hospital i/c.

    People, you be the judge, was Tung Shin Hospital hit by tear-gas and chemical-laced water cannon?


  32. Jong
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 23:47:44

    Well, Carma Liar Tiong Lie? Why weren’t ambulances on standby to take the injured to hospital knowing very well that as many as 7000 police personnel were deployed to whack the hell out of civil society participating in Bersih 2.0 calling for Electoral Reforms – Clean and Fair election?

    My deepfelt sympathy and condolences to the family of Baharuddin Ahmad.


  33. klm
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:39:13

    People in Hong Kong have a curse. Roughly translated from Cantonese – going to toilet without the posterior orifice. May this Hong Kong curse go to Liow Tiong Lai.


  34. petestop
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 18:35:45

    The way I look at it, BN will never regain the non-Malay support and half of the Malay support. So, MCA and Gerakan is as good as consigned to history.

    Almost every person I met condemns BN on the Bersih handling.
    Now further with Liow Tiong Lai lying about hospital being hit, despite
    all the video evidence to the contrary.
    You dare to have such liar in charge of our national health facilities.

    Does it wonder why very few people trust the govt hospitals anymore,
    unless they totally have no other means. This in turn causes a thriving
    medical insurance and private hospital business, at the expense of
    increasing our average household debts further. Not only we are burden
    with the shitty national car policies that see us paying upto 3x more for
    a car compared to developed countries, we continue to pay through our
    nose because of the BN govt policies.

    Therefore, only way for BN to hold on to power is to increasingly rattle the Racial
    and Religious chain, two items that somehow will turn people irrational and hopefully for BN, will cause them to line up behind Racial and Religious line and they maintain their power, since from their reasoning, Malay is the majority, and they just need the Malay to fall in line.

    Expect to see even more Racial and Religious toxic politics coming our way.

    Also expect more forked tongue lying by our BN politicians,
    sekejap can demo in Stadium, sekejap cannot.

    Totally no credibility for BeEnd

    Let’s make sure they ENDed soon


  35. monsterball
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 01:41:19

    You can’t beat them…join them.
    Marina Mahathir is far sighted and smart.
    She knows her father days are numbered and UMNO B will be voted out soon.
    She is now a born again Malaysian.
    It seems so..looks like so…but will it be so?
    I hope so……hahahhahahahahaha


  36. Li Li Fa
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 16:39:58


    The feeling is like walking out of the end of the tunnel with hope.
    But I guess even if we reach the end, it will be still be a long walk out of the ‘marshy’ situation we are now in. One walk is unable to set right 54 years of regime.

    The good thing is, many have opened their eyes and want a clean and fair election, which is ‘around the corner’. So, let the ballot box do the walking and talking.

    For this, the rakyat and the authorities should bear in mind.


  37. Phua Kai Lit
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 10:20:21

    YB Liow Tiong Lai is a nutritionist by training (not a doctor) and so did not take the
    Hippocratic Oath. Even so, as Health Minister, he should at least order an investigation into the alleged firing of tear gas into Tung Shin Hospital first.

    Now what about the MCA leader who is a doctor (psychiatrist) by training and who has taken the Hippocratic Oath? Again, denial without ascertaining the facts first.


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