Yes, Prime Minister, we need answers!

2 days after Bersih 3.0, and after viewing many videos and photos in the internet, I would like to pose a few questions to the authority, specifically the Prime Minister, who missed a golden chance to walk his talk (and claim to be a reformist)

1.  When was the decision to fire tear gas made? was it a spur of the moment decision or was it made much earlier?

2. Why was the phone scrambler being used at about 2pm ( around which time, all of us at Masjid Jamek area were unable to send out messages and make calls) when the whole rally was still peaceful and look more like a carnival?

Did the authority already know by then that there would be violence and  the use of phone scrambler was to prevent any pictures and videos being sent out?

Was the failure for part of the crowd to disperse due to the fact that Datuk Ambiga’s call to disperse failed to reach those who were in other parts of the rally and who could not receive messages/calls on their phones?

3. Who were those who break through the barrier? I was at the barrier area earlier and saw many lines of police standing right in front of the barrier. How could people break through the barrier if that is so? Many accounts told of the police suddenly leaving the barrier, and that led to some from the crowd (provocateurs?) breaking through the barrier. Was that what led to the firing of tear gas ?

4. Why the need to fire deep into the crowd when just some of them went over the barrier? Wouldn’t it be possible for the police to arrest those few that went over instead of firing tear gas and beating up many innocent people , including the media who were there to perform their duty?

5. Who ordered the closure of the LRT stations in those areas where the people assembled? I left the Masjid Jamek area after Ambiga’s speech, and I still managed to catch a LRT back. However, later these stations were closed leading to many people unable to leave. If the police crackdown was to ask the people to disperse, then why the illogical  decision to close the stations ?

Isn’t it contradictory that on the one hand, the authority wanted people to leave but on the other, the means to leave the area was denied to the same people? Or was  the crackdown meant to punish the people, 99.9% of them were peaceful and harmless ?

6. Did the authority not remember that under the Peaceful Assembly Act, the people have a right to assembly and  police’s  function should be to facilitate and protect those who assembled peacefully and arrest the few that made trouble, and not by shooting tear gas indiscriminately ?

7. If the rakyat can assemble for the annual New Year countdown in Dataran, why can’t a peace movement be allowed to assemble ? Isn’t asking for a fair and clean election something more important than counting down to  a new year?

I support Bersih Chairperson Ambiga’s call for a complete, thorough and open investigation, but as a Malaysian, I feel that I deserve the right to the answers to the above questions.

*This article is also availbale in my column in TheMalaysianInsider here.

We stood up for Bersih

Bersih 3.0 was a roaring success.

I was at the masjid Jamek area from 12 noon till about 2.50pm. I left  after Anwar and Ambiga gave speeches on top of a makeshift truck. I missed out the action in the later half when tear gas was fired around 3.15pm.

It was a massive crowd. A crowd that is made up of the of the middle age, the old, the young , men and women, boys and girls. A  crowd that is made up of Malay, Chinese, Indians. A crowd that is made up of people wearing yellow, green and other assorted colours.

It doesn’t matter that people do not know the person around them. All came with the same purpose and all came with the same mind — That is to ask for a free and fair election.

It was supposed to be a sit in. But except for those in the side roads where there were space to sit or squat, around most of Jalan Tun perak there is only standing space, so much so many find it impossible to sit down.

So we all stood. We all stood up for Bersih – a clean and fair election in mind.

The crowd was peaceful. People greet each other even though they do not know the person.

In that instant  and in that sea of yellow and green, all are brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters with different skin colour , with different background, but with one purpose in mind.

This is people’s power. This is democracy. (more pictures and video later)

The crowd at Masjid Jamek Station around 12.30pm

 At around 1 pm.

This blogger went from his clinic in Pudu to Masjid Jamek area. Still in working shirt.  It was hot – both the weather and the people. Taken around 12.45pm

Crowd building up.This is taken Around 1.30pm.

The massive crowd at round 2.45pm

This morning at 8.am  Road block in the Federal Highway near MidValley. Why is the need to do so and inconvenience so many motorists??

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This is from reuters:

(A protester throws back a tear gas canister at riot police during clashes in Kuala Lumpur April 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stringer Malaysia)
 
The image below is from  facebook:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Is that a phone jammer? 

The hawks have landed

Updated:

The hardliners in the Big Brother have apparently prevailed in the handling of tomorrow Bersih 3.0 gathering.

It shows that despite the enactments of certain laws to replace the old draconian ones, the hardliners are not willing to concede the power of control. While conceding to the rakyat the right to assembly in principle, the refusal of letting Bersih to gather at Dataran Merdeka is a signal that these people are not willing to let people gather in practice.

However, having learned the lesson from Bersih 2.0 the hard way, DBKL is being used as the front to oppose the gathering at the Merdeka Square.

So it will again be a stand off .

I hope sober minds will prevail and that no untoward incident happen tomorrow. If tear gas and water cannot are used again, it will certainly be doing the reformists in the government a disservice and BN would never get the votes of the middle ground again, in spite of the attempts to rush through laws that are more liberal than before.

Please read also:

PM should attend Bersih 3.o

The debacle of mishandling

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Insofar as to the differences between the hawks and the liberals, it reminds me of the Tiananmeng gathering in 1989 in Beijing. Then initially the liberals were gaining grounds , but eventually the hawks had the say and tanks were used to crush the gathering.

I have always of the opinion that one day, China’s leadership is going to revisit  the June 4 incident, as it is popularly known, and the liberals’ role will be recognised and rectified. .

The world is much different from that era, and Malaysia is not China. CHina then was under totalitarian rule and Malaysia,  despite many imperfection and anomalies in voting, is still outwardly a democracy.Even for China, if  June 4 happens in this modern era, the same approach would have very different result

The Hawks perhaps have forgotten about the Arab Spring where harsh suppression of the people led to the downfall of not one but many dictators in the Arab world.  In this era of the internet, news cannot be suppressed and  people have access to real time happenings.

Has violence been outsourced too ?

This is the latest from Malaysiakini:

Thugs attack students at Dataran Merdeka

According to the report, about 50-70 thugs attacked  and roughed up the students camping there around 2.45am. According to the report, there were about ” a dozen police officers in the area but they did not intervene until the students’ leaders pleaded for their help.”

(courtesy of Malaysiakini)

I hope the authority will investigate this incident with full transparency. While we may or may not agree to the reasons of the students camping there, we should respect their freedom to do so, especially when amendments have been made to allow freedom of gatherings.

(from Malaysiakini)

I have written about the outsourced organisation from the Big Brother, utering all sort of racist remarks that the Big Brother would rather not say for fear of further alienating the moderates.

Is this beating up of university students also a part of the outsourcing? To prove that this is not, the authority must take action and investigate fully this despicable act.

A battle for personal survival

PM has adopted a ‘populist’ approach and the latest is the apparent abolition of the ISA, replacing it with a seemingly less harsh,  but in reality,  an  essentially  similar law with power to detain without trial albeit for a shorter period.

He is being projected to be a more open, liberal leader willing to listen and bend to the wishes of the people.

This is part of the make-over to win votes since the next election is crucial to his own survival. The general feeling is that if he does not do better than last round, even if BN continues to win a simple majority, vultures will be after him and in the name of party interest, he will be done a  “Badawi”.

The consensus now is that BN has a higher chance to win, so the survival of the party is not in immediate danger. This cannot be said about PM’s own survival, which will depend on a  much better performance than the last election. No one now knows for sure whether such a feat will be possible and hence the delay in calling for a fresh poll.

Human nature will be , if you are one of the ‘vultures’ that are within sight of ascending to PM’s throne, you will certainly hope that PM will not do so well and thus, your chances of ascending to the ultimate  will be might brighter. In which case, leg pulling and subtle sabotage cannot totally be ruled out.

The problem with PM is that many of his populist moves are in fact half-measures that are neither here nor there.  The electoral reforms , the introduction of a new law replacing ISA are just some of the examples.

While these half measures are looked on with alarm by the more conservative section of the party, they do not win the hearts of the liberals that make up the bulk of the civil society and NGOs out there.

While he preaches moderation, there was nothing being done to curtail the racist views of certain organisation  that is now being perceived to be just the outsourced partner of the Big Brother.

While he hands out cash to the poorer section of the nation, his compatriots have been perceived to be involved in million-dollar scandal typified by the Cowgate affairs, which many perceived  to be just the tip of the iceberg.

PM’s own survival cannot be guaranteed through the adoption of these half measures.

Talk to anyone in the street, the problem of rising cost of living  causing belts to be tightened  would be much more bearable if the whole country is in an austerity drive. Not so when the elites are spending lavishly and when corruptions are seen to be quite rampant; not so when billion dollar projects are being dispensed to those with connections, and millions worth of middle man commission are being paid ; not so when Auditor general’s report came out with startling tales of goods being bought at astronomically jacked-up prices year in and year out.

While people are suffering, the ruling elites are seen to be abusing the money entrusted to them; money that ultimately comes from the rakyat.

On top of that,  people are worried that after the General Election, these populist half measures will give way to harsh “I-couldn’t-care-less-now” moves including GST, higher petrol prices, higher electricity tariff, higher transportation costs and generally another round of belt-tightening.

Given these scenario, wouldn’t it better if PM goes all the way of a reformer? Reform fully the electoral processes, more liberty and human right for the rakyat, no more detention without trial, more resolve in tackling abuses and corruption at the top level thereby saving billions which can be put to better use, be more environmentally friendly and ban the Lynas project, so on and so forth.

There is still about a year for  PM to become a real reformer. Otherwise, while his party may still win the next round, his own political survival will be more precarious.

This article is also published in TMI here.

ISA repeal – an article

An article from the Straits Times of Singapore today on abolition of ISA:

(Please also read my brief comment after this article below)

Najib scores on repeal of ISA

Teo Cheng Wee

The Straits Times

Publication Date : 12-04-2012

With the unveiling of a new law to replace the Internal Security Act (ISA), Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has finally – on his most closely-watched political reform – backed up words with action.

When he pledged to remove the ISA last September, some quarters dismissed it as an election ploy. Even if Datuk Seri Najib was sincere, they figured, hardliners in his government would kill the plan. As the targeted month of March went by and the current Parliament sitting entered its last two weeks, it seemed the sceptics were right.

But on Tuesday, Najib finally delivered, with a Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill that stripped the authorities of the power to indefinitely detain people. The ISA will be repealed when this Bill is passed, possibly next week.

In a speech at the installation of Malaysia’s new King yesterday, Najib said: “The government believes that after more than half a century since Independence and practising democracy, Malaysians have reached a high level of maturity.

“In view of this, we are now ready to enter a new era where the function of government is no longer seen as limiting freedom of the individual, but instead, ensures that basic rights protected by the Constitution for each individual is assured.”

The government has in recent months repealed or amended a slew of outdated and unpopular laws, such as the University and University Colleges Act and the Restricted Residence Act. It has also rescinded three Emergency proclamations and is letting all the ordinances under them – which like the ISA allow detention without trial – lapse in June.

This leaves only the Printing Presses and Publications Act, which Najib had also promised to review – to do away with the need for media companies to renew their publication licences annually.

The replacement of the ISA, which is targeted to win liberal-leaning fence sitters over to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), is predictably fuelling talk that Malaysia’s 13th General Election is near.

There are of course many issues that will sway voter opinion, including the rising cost of living, corruption and crime. But political and legal reforms will pique the interest of this influential demographic, noted political observer Hsu Dar Ren, a former leader in BN component party Gerakan.

“The silent majority that makes up the bulk of the middle ground will acknowledge that abolishing the ISA is good… but they will want to wait and see how the new law is implemented,” he said.

The key concern is abuse and unfortunately for Najib, the public’s trust is limited by the generally low opinion of the police, one of the institutions charged with carrying out these reforms.”As long as the police force is not reformed, his measures will not have the impact they could otherwise have,” said political analyst Ooi Kee Beng.

Activists have already started questioning the new law. While the period of detaining a suspect has been reduced to 28 days – and can no longer be extended indefinitely – some have asked why it takes that long for a person to be brought to court.

Others pointed to the broad definition of ‘security offences’, saying it could lead to abuse by the police, essentially turning it into another ISA.

But the authorities have proved doubters wrong before. The Peaceful Assembly Act passed a few months ago, for instance, was rubbished by civil society groups for imposing more restrictions on gatherings. But the peaceful rallies during the anti-Lynas protest and the last day of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s trial have largely vindicated the authorities.

All eyes will now turn to how the police handle the rally later this month by electoral reform group Bersih, a coalition of non-governmental organisations campaigning for free and fair elections in Malaysia. Regardless, the ISA’s repeal is likely to take some wind out of the opposition’s sails.

Even Datuk Seri Anwar – a former ISA detainee himself – commended the government yesterday for the move. He said it was the opposition’s persistence that forced the government’s hand.

‘The ISA was one of the hottest issues the opposition attacked in the past,’ said Dr Hsu. “I don’t think you’ll hear much of it at the next election.”

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The new Bill, if enacted, will still give the authority the power to detain without trial for 28 days.

While this is a much improved version of 60 days, detention without trial is basically wrong, and 28 days can be hell if the detention is abused.

I have been vocal to do away detention without trial. All cases should and must be tried in open court in oder to present abuses of power, as it is a basic right to defend oneself against any allegations of wrong doing. If this basic right is not respected, then there will be an infringement of human rights.

PM should attend Bersih 3.0

Bersih 3.0 and Anti Lynas movement are joining hands to organise a big gathering to protest against slow electoral reforms as well as the Lynas Issue.

It will be held on 28th April 2012.

Many who missed the forst 2 Bersih marches are expected to come out and join in this rally, which the organisers intend to hold in Dataran Merdaka.

So far, police has not given any indications whether they would allow this peaceful gathering to proceed.

After Bersih 2.0, with the election so near, it would be foolish on the part of the authority to suppress the rally. I have written an article, the debacle of mishandling , on Bersih 2. Similarly, if there is use of force, Bersih 3.0 may become the downfall of BN.

In my opinion, Bersih 3.0 should not only be allowed, but PM should do something out of the box.

What should PM do? He should learn from Zhao ZIyang and how he handled the peaceful gathering in TianAnMen Square  during what is known as “June 4 incident”.

Zhao went to the square a few times and talked to the students gathered there. He actually sympathised with them and he vehemently opposed the use of force during the Politburo Meetings. Unfortunate for him, the time was not ripe for his type of engagement politics and those who were eyeing for his positions joined hands and convinced Deng Xiao Peng to act against Zhao, resulting in the downfall of Zhao and the house arrest until he died many years later.

Zhao has however remained one of the most beloved figures in the heart of the people. I am sure in later years, his position would be reviewed and that he would regain his rightful place in the history of CHina.

PM should not fear he would end up like Zhao. The world is very different now. Had there be a gatherings like June 4 incident now anywhere in the world,  I am quite sure that Zhao’s way would be the best to blunt the initiative of the gathering and gain the support of the people.

PM should not only allow April 28 gathering to proceed, he should in my humble opinion go to the Dataran Merdeka and engage those who are protesting there. He can bring his bodygurads, he can have truckloads of police to stand by.

His mere presence and promise to personally take charge of the electoral reform, and promise to stop the Lynas project in Malaysia during such engagement would gain him the initiative over the opposition.

He would have endeared himself to the civil society, and at the same time gain the upper hand in intra-party struggle.

If I were him, I  do so, since there is really nothing much to lose ( taking account  his present weak position in his party)  and everything to gain by doing so.

This is the best time for him to walk his talk. But will he?

Also published in TMI here.

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