Hornbill Unleashed

November 23, 2016

Ignominious ‘Victory’ for Government

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:02 AM

As expected, the combined forces of Umno and some BN leaders adept at political spinning are crowing that they have won a famous victory by their ‘success’ at containing the Bersih protest rally on 19 November.

And some ‘independent’ officially linked media commentators and analysts are playing ball to this fiction by claiming that the peaceful nature of the assembly was because of “the steps taken by the authorities” to ensure that there would be no untoward happening.

On which planet are these people living?

Every possible provocation and trick was tried by Umno and the authorities beholden to their political master to prevent Bersih protestors from converging and exercising their right of peaceful assembly and lawful dissent. The preferred weapon of de-legitimization and demonization of Bersih was the Malay media and JAKIM-controlled mosques. This propaganda artillery was principally targeted at the Malay community.

Closely following the blatant attempt at compelling the Malay community to view the rally through racial lenses was the high level strategy aimed at undermining the larger public’s confidence and participation.

This strategy included the initial demands, which rapidly escalated to harsh warnings, by the Inspector General of Police; admonitions and ultimatums from Umno’s leaders; threats of punishment directed against civil servants and university students who may have contemplated participating; instigation of Umno-friendly traders to use the court of law to stop the Bersih rally; and a myriad of other dirty tricks, including the resort to over the top scare mongering implying the possibility of violence and bloodshed should the rally proceed.

Jamal Yunos and his Red Shirts were supposed to be Umno’s trump card in ensuring that the Bersih rally would not take place.

Hence the turning of the official blind eye and refusal to act against him and his supporters, despite his numerous hate speeches, calls for the shedding of innocent blood, and various intimidatory actions directed at the Bersih convoy during its seven-week roadshow to promote the Bersih 5 rally.

When it became clear with each passing day closer to the rally that Bersih organizers and supporters would not be cowed into surrendering their right to dissent, a change in the Umno game plan was needed.

Umno members were given the go-ahead to join Jamal’s band of political rempit. Surely a force of 300,000 troopers – promised by Jamal on the eve of the rally – confronting Bersih’s supporters and the promise of violence and ‘flying parang’ would impress on Bersih’s supporters to stay at home.

And wouldn’t a crowd of 300,000 in their red shirts marching in counter protest also be the most potent image of Umno’s hold over the Malay masses?

So when the rally finally took place was it such a clear victory for Najib, Zahid and the status quo; and a defeat for Bersih and others seeking reform and change?

Unofficial media accounts estimate the number of Bersih participants at more than 50,000 with thousands more unable to reach the main convergence areas due to police road closures and barricades put up.

The thinly-veiled plot to label it as a Chinese-orchestrated and Chinese-dominated rally also fell flat. Malays made their way to the rally in large numbers from different parts of the country and some of the most fiercely anti-Government rhetoric and arguments for a change of government were by Malay participants.

The contrast between Malay participation in the Red Shirts and Bersih rallies could not have been more striking. Red Shirts participants – even with Umno’s blessing and strong support – probably did not exceed 8,000. It was certainly a smaller number compared with their yellow shirted counterparts.

It is not from size alone that one can draw deductions. Many among what appears to have been a participant-for-rent grouping lacked the stamina and fortitude to press their demands on the Bersih participants and made their way home quickly when they were not allowed to bully or pick up fights.

Bersih participants on the other hand were a much more determined and clearly not-for-sale group, committed to their cause and staying on until the end.

The presence of so many young Malays concerned for their own future as well as that of their community’s and challenging Umno will be the main reason for the nightmares and sleepless nights that Umno’s leadership must now be experiencing after Bersih 5.

What this group of young Malays has experienced will be widely shared in social media and the Malay heartland.

No amount of counter propaganda from Umno can take away their sense of accomplishment at passing this test of moral courage or detract from the brave way in which they stood up for clean government and clean elections while rejecting the crude racist and religiously-bigoted accusations hurled at Bersih’s leaders.

What do foreigners really think of Government and Bersih?

Besides the national constituency, there was one other audience that Najib and Zahid wanted to impress – that of foreign governments and businesses whose continued support the BN Government is increasingly reliant for survival.

Some years from now when the foreign despatches sent from Kuala Lumpur are revealed over Wikileaks or some other whistle-blowing outfit, I wonder what the ambassadors and envoys to this country will have written to their governments about the state of democratic freedoms in Malaysia under these two leaders and this particular episode.

Among other questions, I am sure that they must be puzzled – as with many Malaysians – why it was not possible for our Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to direct the Police to ensure that the Red Shirts movement hold their counter rally at a different time or a different location to prevent them from clashing with Bersih supporters. Would this no-brainer instruction be seen as interfering with the freedom of assembly of Jamal and his men?  Or perhaps the Home Ministry could not issue this directive since the Police are an ‘independent force’ acting without any interference whatsoever from their political master?

Or could it be that our two top leaders did not have the national interest, or even BN’s, at heart – only Umno’s – when they engineered this ignominious victory.

Source : Lim Teck Ghee@The Heat Malaysia Online



  1. Sosma is the new ISA to nap opposition?
    BN has just tested it on Maria Chin.

    Comment by syakila — November 23, 2016 @ 12:20 PM | Reply

    • IGP must clarify the allegation by Umno information chief Annuar Musa that Maria Chin has links with CIA. If it is not true then he should arrest (if he dares) Annuar Musa for spreading rumor causing public concern. Isn’t this spreading lies be under attempting activities that are detrimental to parliamentary democracy?

      Comment by aizat — November 24, 2016 @ 3:22 PM | Reply

  2. Bersih 5 isn’t over till Maria Chin Abdullah is freed. Held in a windowless cell with no bed or mattress, sleep deprived and subjected to lights being kept switched on 24 hours a day Maria is being wrongly detained.

    Please sign the petition to demand her release
    Sign at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mansuhsosma

    Comment by almaz — November 23, 2016 @ 10:05 AM | Reply

  3. Many Bersih 5 flyers have reached the kampung malays during the covoy trips.
    The rural people are now better informed as they get information from WhatsApps on theit smartphones.
    Umno can only continue to deceive those uneducated elderly folks via its daily 8pm TV3 propaganda.

    Comment by munah — November 23, 2016 @ 9:00 AM | Reply

    • Good article by Dr. Khoo Ying Hooi, Senior Lecturer at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya:

      While the latest rally went off peacefully, that should not overshadow an ongoing crackdown.

      The much-anticipated Bersih 5 rally in Malaysia has finally concluded in a relatively peaceful manner, despite some minor incidents in the evening of November 19 amidst a downpour. Bersih 5 is intended to pressure the government toward a new, reformed Malaysia through institutional changes to the country’s flawed governance system ahead of the 14th General Election, due by 2018. The rally highlighted five demands: clean elections, clean government, strengthened parliamentary democracy, the right to dissent, and empowerment for Sabah and Sarawak under the tagline “Satukan Tenaga – Malaysia Baru” (“Stand United – New Malaysia”).

      As investigations on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal continue, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s administration has become increasingly repressive and authoritarian. While Saturday’s rally was overall considered as peaceful – due to the heavy police presence in cordoned-off Kuala Lumpur to prevent a potential clash between the Bersih yellow shirts and Red Shirts – it is not an indication that state repression has decreased.

      A day before Bersih 5, there was a series of heavy-handed attempts to intimidate activists and opposition leaders. Fears of clashes between Bersih and Red Shirts were real after the latter threatened to target Bersih supporters. It was a dramatic Bersih eve, with more than a dozen from the Red Shirts and the Bersih group arrested. The pre-rally arrests had the result of causing more fear for potential protesters that intended to participate in the Bersih 5 rally the next day. Many are also angry that Bersih co-chair Maria Chin Abdullah is being held under the country’s anti-terror law, Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012, which allows preemptive detention for up to 28 days.

      There were also social attempts to dissuade protesters. Religious authorities told Muslims ahead of the Bersih 5 rally that staging demonstrations would invite foreign intervention and run contrary to Islamic laws. In the Friday sermon prepared for mosques nationwide, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) highlighted the Islamic way of changing leaders’ faults through advice, prayers, and assisting leaders in virtuous matters.

      A day after the rally, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that more individuals would be arrested. Arguing that the law must be respected, he is reported as saying that a list of individuals involved in the Bersih 5 and Red Shirt rallies have been identified, but the names will not be disclosed.

      On the rally day itself, there was a strong police presence on standby, with Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) trucks and lots of barricades. Approximately 7,000 policemen were on duty to ensure security and public order. Water cannon trucks were also deployed. Traffic at 58 roads in seven areas in the city was diverted starting at 7 am on the morning of the rally itself to keep the two rival groups from meeting. he rally organizers’ original plans to convene in Dataran Merdeka for the finale was halted by police as various barricades were erected along main roads leading to the square. Eventually, the organizers made eleventh hour plans to convene the crowd in Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC), and the rally was allowed to proceed as planned with no interruption from the police. Former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad turned up unannounced just after 2 pm in Bangsar; this marked his second time participating in a Bersih rally.

      According to estimates from the police, there were about 15,000 protesters from Bersih group and 2,500 from the Red Shirts. The online portal Malaysiakini estimated that more than 40,000 protesters marched in the rally organized by Bersih. Malaysiakini estimated the number of Red Shirts who also took to the streets at around 4,000. As the protesters were not allowed to converge at meeting points before they decided to gather at KLCC later in the day, it is difficult to estimate the exact number who turned out.

      However, turnout figures are no longer a direct reflection of the support received by Bersih in view of the repressive situation, which does not encourage people to come out and protest without feeling fearful. While some have suggested that political fatigue is setting in among Malaysians, dimming enthusiasm for political rallies, it is equally important to understand that Malaysia does not have an enabling environment for peaceful citizen action.

      What could explain the pre-Bersih crackdown this time around is the real fear the government itself has toward citizen action. The much-predicted clash between the red and yellow shirts did not happen, due to the heavy road closures by the police. The police managed to prevent the two groups from clashing; however, in blocking off roads they also impinged on the right of protesters to march peacefully. Although the police were even-handed in their treatment of both groups, the heavy road closures were unnecessary.

      While some argue that repression is hinders popular mobilization, due to the added costs associated with mobilizing, others insist that repression potentially increases grievances – which could lead to more united collective action.

      This is Bersih’s fifth rally and this year marks the movement’s 10th anniversary. While many have argued Bersih has achieved little in demanding the government make meaningful reforms, one interesting trend that has emerged is that how state repression influences Malaysians’ ability to challenge the government. Although state repression limits protests, over time it has also facilitated the continuing growth of civil society in the country, which then led to the crippling of the government’s political legitimacy.

      Najib argued that it is unlawful for any party to try to unseat a democratically elected government via street protests, saying that the people should wait until the next election to choose their government via ballot box. But the crucial issue remains: toppling a democratically elected government and reforming the election process are interlinked issues.

      Comment by almaz — November 23, 2016 @ 10:16 AM | Reply

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