Zainul Ariffin: Was It Worth Wrecking the Weekend?

The pedestrian mall adjacent to Central Market...

Central Market KL Image via Wikipedia

(Excerpt from an article “Was it worth wrecking the weekend” by Zainul Ariffin, NST, 10 july 2011)

I BELIEVE it is quite amazing that the organisers of the rally that resulted in the lockdown of Kuala Lumpur and the ensuing chaos would declare Bersih 2.0 to
be a success.

The rally paralysed the city, it caused numerous inconveniences, attracted a counter-rally that could have been explosive, resulted in perhaps millions of ringgit in losses, as well as money unnecessarily spent on security. We may soon see if there were injuries as a result.

A success? Is it not unlike kids gleefully sharing notes of their pranks, in spite of the inconvenience they might have caused? Many have suggested that the authorities could have done us all a favour by allowing them to walk.

But the authorities did not.

Whether one agreed with the decision or not, defying it meant breaking the law.

Thus, the decision to pursue the rallies was clearly a sign of arrogance and disrespect for the law and law enforcers. It is often said, the law may be an ass, but unless changed, it remains the law.

Bersih 2.0 was attracting counter-rallies that suggested security would be an issue. The police must react in anticipation of trouble, and not after the fact.

If Bersih 2.0 chairman S. Ambiga claimed that it was her constitutional right to assemble, then it must also be that of Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin and Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali, too. Now, the three would have been a volatile mix. Should the police not have acted? Selfishness can never be a virtue because it makes a person forget that he is among others. It makes a person believe that the world is required to revolve around him? Obviously, it was wishful thinking, or an attempt to delude the public into thinking that the rallies yesterday were going to be peaceful.

When we have tens of thousands of people with energy pent up in the past few days, spurred on by their unbridled mob swagger, they would be anything but peaceful.

Some of the marchers, rabble rousers that they were, appeared to be spoiling for a fight.

How could anyone guarantee things to be peaceful when Bersih 2.0 was inviting all comers to join? This is like claiming one can control a boat going down the rapids — one could probably survive it, but it would not be the smoothest, or the safest, of rides.

Yesterday ’s rallies were also significant for another reason. They happened despite repeated pleas from the king, sultans and the majority of the citizens. It suggested arrogance. No one else mattered.

Neither king nor kin could change their minds, it seemed.

If the organisers were complaining that the government is not listening, they were also guilty of drowning themselves in their own rhetoric and righteousness.

Scores of tear gas canisters later, what have we achieved? What is the sum total of all that was gained or lost? If yesterday was a success, I dread to think how failure would look like.

All suggestions that Bersih 2.0 was apolitical were generally dismissed by the make-up of its committee and yesterday, it was smashed to smithereens by the antics of the crowd who wore their political affiliation proudly on their sleeves.

Political affiliation is not wrong, but please don’t try to pass off imitations as masterpieces.

“What have we gained?” is a good question to be asked by each of the rally organisers.

Maybe it was a pressure release valve that allowed us to ease the tension in the system, so that we be less tense and combative. If that was so, then it was good.

Maybe, it was indeed fuel to the fire, and there were those whose modus operandi was to create chaos. Firebrand speakers who easily charm audiences with entertainment — enter the showman and exit substance? There is a strong sense being bandied about that one must be dense or politically naïve or a government apologist for not supporting Bersih. This is clearly political posturing at its most annoying.

Nevertheless, the same could be said of those supporting Bersih 2.0 — that they are politically naïve or an apologist for the opposition or dense, too.

No one else knows the value of democracy? No one else cares about what happens in the country? This is surely an elitist weknow- what-is-good-for-you attitude.

Just shut up, endure the discomfort and we will make things better.

I have always argued that the right to assemble does not mean making a mess of other people’s lives. And taking to the streets is a great way to inconvenience people.

If the idea of the rallies was to test the will of the police, they have done so. If the idea was to embarrass the government, they may have succeeded. If the idea was to mess with our weekend, they have also succeeded beyond belief.

I understand political dissent is a fundamental right, but I always believe that our rights should take a back seat if they impinge upon other s.

There are many who said that they should have been allowed to march peacefully, and then be over with it. This is if we want to be a developed democracy, they said. But what if the authorities had suspected things could go awry? Undoubtedly, the organisers of Bersih 2.0, purportedly calling for free and fair elections, were in fact setting the marker for the next general election.

It was surely the start of the opposition coalition’s campaign for the 13th general election. Don’t we know it?

One Response “Zainul Ariffin: Was It Worth Wrecking the Weekend?” →
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