Contrary to what BN leaders are saying, they are very much a part of the Malaysian tradition of opposing oppression.
Malaysia’s ruling politicians are certainly not among those few. Otherwise, how would one explain their audacity to claim that street demonstrations are not part of Malaysia’s political culture?
“This is not the way of Malaysia. Ours is a democracy and this is not acceptable,” a politician was quoted to have said.
Another remarked: “I hope the people will understand that this wayside democracy is not the way to effect change and [Malaysians] will not accept it. People are willing to change in a peaceful way. Not this way.”
These recent remarks were particularly targeted at the marches for electoral reform organised by Bersih.
Some go further, accusing the organisers of attempting to overthrow the government by violent means – with plastic bottles and bags of salt as weapons. Others jump to the perverse conclusion that street protests would scare off foreign investors. And then there are unscrupulous opportunists who claim monetary losses and seek legal compensation.
Perhaps these politicians and their sycophants should go back to their history textbooks and revise their knowledge of how Malaysians rallied their way to freedom from British rule.
They will probably argue that times have changed. Indeed, the times have changed Malaysian politicians, but not the people’s love of freedom and hatred of corruption and oppression.
History enthusiast Fahmi Reza has reproduced on his blog plenty of old news reports documenting our forefathers’ struggle in the streets against British colonialism – or at least enough to prove that BN politicians are spewing rubbish when they say civil disobedience is alien to Malaysian democracy.
One of the articles in Fahmi’s archives is a clipping from a report that appeared in the newspaper Majlis on Feb 9, 1946. It is about a demonstration against the Malayan Union staged by some 36,000 Kelantan Malays.
Double standard now
Another publication, Seruan Ra’akyat, reporting on the same demonstration, gave the number of participants as 65,000.
Our forefathers carried banners with messages in English and Malay. Among them: “British Government betrays trust”, “Can we trust the British Government again?”, “Allow Malays to exist in this world”, “Give us justice”, “We want justice” and “We want peace but not at the expense of our rights”.
Across the length and breadth of Peninsular Malaya, the people were gripped by the fever of nationalism and expressed their sickness with the oppressors through street demonstrations.
Are BN leaders denying that activism on the streets played a crucial part in the struggle for Malaysian independence?
The truth is that there is a double standard in political judgment. When a demonstration is organised by Umno or one of its proxy organisations, it is an acceptable part of democratic culture, but when it is associated with the opposition, it is not only illegal but an unforgivable slur on our national character.
Indeed, self-deception has become one of the most serious maladies afflicting those who walk in the corridors of power.
That is why Malaysians must remain alert and continue to question the veracity of statements concocted by their sick brains and issued through their lying mouths.
Stanley Koh is a former head of MCA’s research unit. He is also FMT columnist.