Friday, May 24, 2013

Can Street Protests Overthrow Malaysian Government ?

Over the past few years since 2007 there have been a number of public rallies held mainly within the Klang Valley protesting against the government over racial discrimination and demanding electoral reforms in anticipation of the upcoming general elections held by the Hindu Rights Action Force or HINDRAF and Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or BERSIH (meaning 'clean' in Malay). These protests and rallies were not met by friendly police forces but by riot squad armed with water canons and tear gas canisters to disperse the participants who had gathered for a peaceful demonstration of what they felt was unjust treatment and handling by the government. Upon harassment by the police forces the participants had to run for cover and eventually disperse incident free. Some minor injuries were bound to happen but by and large police brutality against unarmed and ordinary citizens become international news. Questions were asked if there is any need to over react to peaceful rallies? Aren't there better ways to deal with the issues or was the government arrogant towards dissenting views other than their own? In other words we are dealing with an intolerant regime that is self serving.

Rallies are a way to demonstrate to the authorities they have sizable public support to demand resolution to their grouses. They were not organized for any other motive such as overthrowing the government.

After the May 5 general election the government retained a fresh 5 years mandate but with reduced majority AND for the first time in history, loss of popular votes. The latter gave the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, the argument that they had won the election because of popular support. But the electoral system gave victory to the Barisan government which won more seats through gerrymandering the constituency boundaries in their favor. The PR went on a nationwide rally to drum up support that the Barisan government has no mandate to rule. In each of these rallies, dubbed the Blackout rallies, hundreds of thousands of supporters turned up to listen and cheer the speakers. Majority are younger Malaysians who demanded an account from the Barisan government accused of rigging the polling processes in cahoot with the Election Commission. The government took such rallies as instigation to create an uprising to overthrow it and began to take offensive actions to stop such rallies and arrest leaders for making seditious remarks.

On the side non governmental bodies interested in the democratic future of the country took their own agendas to the public. University activist Adam Adli called for public demonstration to bring down the government and was arrested under the Sedition Act. Two PR politicians have also been arrested. More arrests are expected. ABU (Anything But UMNO) founder Haris Ibrahim was arrested for a similar call to overthrow the government now and not wait till the next election in 2018. Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) founder Badrul Hisham Shaharin who is organizing a People's Gathering 505 on May 25 against the fraudulent election was also arrested but vow the rally will take place as planned. Since the election no less than 8 rallies have taken place which the government take as a concerted effort to discredit and shame its right to rule. Under its new Home minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the police have been instructed to haul up anti-BN leaders who broke the law.

The big question is are these rallies really fronts to overthrow the BN government ? If they are can they succeed with the security forces all behind the government ? Or is it just an excuse to nip the opposition before it becomes unmanageable ? Like Operation Lalang (meaning 'weed' in Malay) on October 27, 1987 by the police to prevent the occurrence of racial riots due to the provocation by the ruling government towards DAP (Democratic Action Party). The operation saw the arrest of 106 persons under the now defunct Internal Security Act and the revoking of the publishing licenses of four newspapers.

Situation now is very different from 1987. It is a people uprising for want of a better word. Throughout the world when a sizable population decide to confront the government no amount of force, pressure or threats is going to push back the wave. In many cases uprising have led to overthrow if not well managed. It is very unwise to take a confrontational stance against public reaction towards a standing government.


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,Initially I too thought the post GE rally will not achieve much, least of all - change the govt. But the more I thought about it, I realise that the rallies served 2 important purpose. 1st of all, I think a lot of people were dis-appointed that PR could not take over the govt. They needed a boost to lift their spirits to continue the struggle. 2ndly, the Chinese were singled out as being "ungrateful", and for causing BN to lose. The post GE rallies showed that PR support were across all races. And the speakers kept reminding the crowd - and the public that. Seeing the multiracial crowd, I believe more national unity was achieved than the multibillion RM 1Malaysia program. Andrew.

Peter Yew said...

Agreed absolutely. The government is very afraid of the massive public support PR has been able to garner. It confirms the PR did receive more popular support than the BN even in conservative areas like Kedah where the crowd response was unbelievable. They kept referring to these rallies as attempts to overthrow them when the truth is the opposite. The people actually want the government to serious reform. But look at recent events and warnings issued. They simply confirm the government refuses to face the reality and is themselves to be blamed if indeed they fall apart even through internal squabbles and collapse. They cannot deny the issues raised don't exist. They simply refuse to deal with them openly.


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