Those who have seen the movie “Gandhi” may remember the scene where Gandhi and his peaceful protesters are marching on a mine in South Africa protesting illegal arrests of workers, deplorable working conditions, etc. The group is charged by a troop of armed policemen on horseback and one of the protesters shouts “Lie down! lie down! They won’t step on us if we lie down”. Everybody lies down; the horses scream and suddenly stop in their tracks, refusing to trample the protesters.
Whether this is true in real life I do not know, but there is a lesson for the Bersih groups to learn from this in the face of confrontation by the Red Shirts that has seen shoving (according to the police, not punching) incidents in Teluk Intan, and which may be repeated elsewhere.
The head of Umno, like the head of a family, is not disciplining a rogue bully of a child (in this case a rogue Umno chief from Sungai Besar). In fact, the Umno family is goading him on by statements such as that by the Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor (Ku Nan).
He was reported to have warned groups like Bersih and the Red Shirts not to go down to the streets on the same day as it could lead to a riot. If Ku Nan is sincere, as secretary general of Umno, he should firmly tell the Sungai Besar Umno chief not to create trouble on the streets, but organise even bigger rallies than Bersih’s, on separate days, to put his message across if he has one.
Ku Nan is pre-empting such incidents and should “riots” really happen, will then be able to say “look, I did warn the people, but nobody listened”.
The weapon to deal with such “riots” is already in place – the National Security Council Act – which is not so much to tackle “national” security issues, but Umno’s security issues: the threat at the ballot box to its continued political grip on the country.
Remember, at the 61st Umno general assembly in October 2010, its president had said “Even if we are broken or divorced from the life of the body, brothers and sisters, we must defend Putrajaya at all costs!”
Such statements by the Umno president and other top Umno leaders only goad the rabble-rousers on, and make it difficult for the police to act against them.
And what can one make of it when a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Shahidan Kassim) brings an entourage, or escort, of about 40 Red Shirts to meet the Bersih convoy in Perlis and tell them “Once you all get out of here, please don’t come back”. He should be telling this to the criminals and other law-breakers.
What law did the Bersih group break? So he wants to shelter the people of Perlis under Umno’s “tempurung”.
Bersih should consider taking a leaf from “Gandhi” in meeting the rabble rouser Red Shirts. When confronted, they could, if I may suggest, sit on the ground quietly with folded arms until the police move the Red Shirts away.
Ravinder Singh@FMT Reporters Online