Nearly 1,000 Malaysians braved the scorching heat today to joined the #TangkapMO1 rally at the heart of the city.
Despite not getting approval from Kuala Lumpur City Hall, the student-led rally saw crowds from all walks of life gathering in numbers at Masjid Negara and the Sogo shopping complex before marching to Dataran Merdeka.
The #TangkapMO1 rally was aimed at pressuring authorities to take action against the so-called “Malaysian Official 1”, an unnamed high-ranking government official with authority over 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
The protest went on peacefully despite a few minor scuffles that broke out here and there, including one bizarre incident of supporters trying to block a public bus.
To the end, there was no crackdown by the police and the crowd dispersed at 4.30pm after almost two hours of rallying.
For a relatively uneventful protest, here are three things we learnt from the #TangkapMO1 rally:
1. Anis Syafiqah proves no big name necessary to mobilise people
Anis Syafiqah Mohd Yusof was a name most Malaysians barely knew several weeks ago. The moment she was announced as the face of #TangkapMO1, the 24-year old varsity student from Sungai Besar instantly made the headlines with her gumption.
For a rookie rally organiser, Anis and her colleagues managed to mobilise support from not just university students, but Malaysians of all ages and opposition lawmaers as well.
In a speech at the climax of the rally, Anis insisted that the students took to the streets for the future generation, but her words were less than convincing. Maybe it was stage fright, it was her first time headlining a rally, after all.
But did it really matter? The NGOs backing the rally had planned meticulously on behalf of Anis, from the security detail right up to the design of posters. Undeniably, serious thoughts and resources have been pooled for the rally, and Anis made a perfect figurehead.
2) The presence of arts brought colour to an otherwise dull affair
Malaysians are a creative bunch, this has been proven time and time again at rallies. Clever posters and caricatures have always been a colourful part of protests and today’s rally was nothing short of that.
The march was accompanied by live-sized caricatures, banners and placards with witty slogans, some of them specially designed by protest art collective Grupa.
The rally was also planned with a closing gimmick, complete with a replica of a jail cell that rebel designer Fahmi Reza could not resist playing with during the rally ― locking himself up in it, complete with his clown mask.
3. Ultimately, the rally achieves nothing
The rally today might have been intended to send a message to Putrajaya, but were the authorities even listening?
Despite #TangkapMO1’s offer to help the government solve the 1MDB scandal, there was no concrete plan on how to achieve that ― no memorandum, no list of demands, not even discussion with any government officials.
Some participants believed #TangkapMO1 was just an event to kickstart the planned Bersih 5 mammoth rally, and the appearance of watchdog Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah further fuelled the rumours and allegations started by among others “redshirt” leader Datuk Jamal Yunos.
With the expected turnout much lower than the expected 5,000, chances are Malaysians have grown lukewarm towards street protests.
Will Malaysians swarm the streets with yellow again? Only time will tell, if Bersih 5 ever materialises.