Maria unjustly punished for Bersih’s moral victory

Maria unjustly punished for Bersih’s moral victory

COMMENT Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Md Yunos lied when he said the electoral reform movement Bersih planned to “take over” several strategic locations, such as the Prime Minister’s Office and the KL International Airport (KLIA), during its Bersih 5 rally.

The rally took place last Saturday, but what he alleged did not happen. In fact, only an idiot would have believed that Bersih would even dream of doing a thing like that.

Now we know for sure that Jamal is nothing but a loudmouth full of hot air. And he can be dismissed as nothing more than a troublemaker without a cause, plain and simple.

Three weeks prior to the event, he pledged he would bring out 300,000 red-shirts to confront Bersih on Nov 19, but last Saturday, one could hardly spot a red shirt at the rally.

There was a news report of 4,000 of them, armed with wooden and bamboo poles, gathered outside Pertama Complex and that they later marched to Padang Merbok after their poles were confiscated by the police. But that was about all the excitement they caused.

This fizzling-out of the red-shirts counter-rally reminds me of the similar fiasco staged by Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and his red-shirted group during the Bersih 2 rally in 2011. That time, too, Malay right-wing NGO Perkasa, led by another loudmouth, Ibrahim Ali, threatened to confront Bersih in a counter-rally way before the event but on the eve of the big day, it cried off.

The poor showing by the red-shirts last Saturday was what I had expected. And I don’t think that Jamal’s arrest the night before was the cause of that. If it had been properly organised and, more importantly, if they knew what the cause was and believed in it, many more red-shirts would have come out.

Contrast them with Bersih’s supporters. Their leader, Maria Chin Abdullah, was also arrested the night before, but they still came out in tens of thousands. Because they knew what they were rallying for, and they passionately believed in it. And that was enough for Bersih’s supporters to score a moral victory – not just over the red-shirts, who don’t count for doodly-squat anyway, but, more strikingly, victory over the government’s attempts to intimidate them and derail them from their purpose.

Looking at the significant multi-racial turnout and considering the huge number of Malays who demonstrated their anger at him as they carried banners calling for an end to kleptocracy and yelling “Undur, undur! Undur, Najib!” (Step down, step down! Step down, Najib!), Prime Minister Najib Razak might have felt his bowels run loose as he stood in his Armani suit.

Protesters clearly of all races

The turning point may have now been reached as more and more Malaysians have finally come to believe that despite the attempts to cover up the scandal, ‘Malaysian Official 1’ (MO1), who is none other than Najib, did receive money from 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd). The placards reading ‘Tangkap MO1’ (Arrest MO1) and variations to that effect were held high and accusingly by protesters at Bersih 5 – and they were clearly of all races.

What remains for the government to do now is to intensify its campaign to demonise Bersih in order to further hoodwink the ill-informed into believing that Bersih has an ulterior agenda – that of toppling a democratically elected government.

Maria was arrested last Friday night to be investigated for attempts to carry out activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy. But as Bersih 5 gained traction on the streets on Saturday, the government responded harshly in the afternoon – Maria would now be detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), which meant she could be held by the police for up to 28 days.

This is shocking. When the government tabled Sosma in Parliament to replace the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), it promised that Sosma would not target political opponents or dissidents. It was meant to be aimed at terrorists.

Maria is not a terrorist. Far from it. She is someone who loves her country and evidently cares so much for it that she works tirelessly to try and make Malaysia better. She should not have Sosma thrown at her.

It looks like the government is desperate in wanting ill-informed and easily-scared Malaysians to believe that Bersih is terrorising Malaysians by subverting the security of the country.

But the government is undeniably wrong. It is committing gross injustice. Look at Bersih’s demands. Are they for the good or ill of the country?

I think it was a mistake for the government to have arrested Maria in the first place. I had people tell me at the rally the next day that they were initially undecided about attending it, but when they heard of her arrest, they got so angry that they chose to go.

Now the government could be compounding its earlier mistake with the Sosma move. Seen against the affirmation last Saturday of Bersih’s true intent, the persecution of Maria will make people wonder why the government is so weak that it needs to employ such a strong weapon to silence an activist who only wants reform. This is harkening back to the dark days of the dreadful ISA.

Najib has lied. In 2012, when he repealed the ISA and three emergency proclamations and got Sosma and the Peaceful Assembly Act passed, he hailed what he did as an act of reform. He promised that the new laws would no longer limit individuals’ freedom but instead ensure that their basic constitutional rights were protected.

But look at Maria now. Her freedom as a citizen is limited. Her basic constitutional rights are not protected. In fact, they are taken away from her. What wrong has she committed?

Maria unjustly punished for Bersih’s moral victory
21 Nov 2016 – malaysiakini


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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

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fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

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