The show of support at the Saturday rally is yet another clear indication that the rakyat wants a change and that too for the better.
Last Saturday’s gathering dubbed “the people’s uprising” at Stadium Merdeka under the aegis of Pakatan, which saw a turnout of some 100,000 supporters, was all about demanding that the ruling Barisan Nasional government do the “right thing” which included reforming the electoral system, reviewing the Felda administration, equal treatment for Sabahans and Sarawakians and upgrading the use of the English language and preserving Bahasa Malaysia.
Yet, none of the above concerns affected the ruling government. With the 13th general election round the corner, BN continues to engage in money politics, working desperately to buy over the rakyat’s votes in all ways conceivable.
BN has lambasted Pakatan for flouting stipulations under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 which, among others, bars children from participating in rallies and demonstrations.
The rally organiser has now come under police scrutiny for breaking three conditions under the Act, that is, no child participation, breaching the maximum 30,000 crowd capacity allowed at Dataran Merdeka and displaying inciting banners.
In fact, the BN government has been very sly on this issue, using the Jan 12 rally to its advantage by giving out a false message via its tightly-controlled mainstream media that Pakatan had the police to be thankful for a peaceful gathering.
As for the massive show of support, the police obviously under “orders from the higher ups” toned down the 100,000 number to a mere 45,000.
BN’s denial syndrome not helping
Either BN is in denial or the coalition is afraid to contemplate its future in the face of the coming general election. Had the ruling government been trusting and comfortable in its own skin, there would have been no reason for it to downplay the huge turnout nor would there have been the need to give unnecessary credit to the police.
The Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat gathering was a peaceful affair. Why? Was it because the police had post-Bersih become “competent”?
Or was it because this time around Prime Minister and BN chief Najib Tun Razak had given no orders for the police to act aggressively against last Saturday rally’s protesters?
The truth is the Jan 12 rally was seen as an excellent opportunity by BN to condemn its nemesis and earn the rakyat’s much-needed empathy and support.
This time around the ruling government did not think it necessary to instigate the people through chaos and that too at the expense of the opposition because Bersih 2.0 on July 9, 2011 and Bersih 3.0 on April 28, 2012 had done the trick for BN.
The police had declared Bersih 2.0 illegal and fired tear gas and arrested thousands of protesters who defied the ban to assemble at the KL City Centre.
Likewise, the police once again clashed with protesters participating in the Bersih 3.0 sit-in protest. Journalists covering the event, too, were manhandled by the cops.
BN very cleverly used the anarchy arising from Bersih 2.0 and Bersih 3.0 to emerge as hero, for months on end drilling it into the rakyat that only BN could save the nation from further destruction.
Rakyat has spoken
The show of support at the rally is yet another clear indication that the rakyat wants change and that too for the better. The gathering was not about Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim or a plot to overthrow the BN government, as claimed by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The gathering in all earnest was to urge BN to bring about the much-needed changes for the benefit of both the people and the country.
The Jan 12 congregation came with the hope that the federal government would listen to their grouses and act accordingly.
Unfortunately, BN was only too concerned about politicising the rally by turning the tables against the organiser and arch rival Pakatan.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.