Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I was away in Singapore during the recent anti-ISA street protests in KL. But I managed to catch some footage of it on Channel 5. It’s certainly not the kind of image you want to see of your country on the telly.

I remember back in the late 60s taking part in student protests against police brutality and against the ISA detention of Hamid Tuah. I was an undergraduate at University of Malaya then. We went on a peaceful march with our placards to show how we felt about these issues. Midway during the march, the police fired tear gas at us to disperse us. Their action was totally uncalled for.

Now, 40 years down the road, things have not changed much as far as police action is concerned. Whenever there is news of an imminent street protest or rally, road blocks are set up to prevent people from amassing. The police are out in force, armed with riot gear, tear gas canisters and backed by water cannon vehicles and helicopters. They are in readiness to battle the protesters.

And what do these protesters have on them? Guns? Parangs? NO. Just placards, banners, masks, and colour-coded T-shirts. Paper and cloth against metal and chemical weaponry. Is there a need for such show of might against unarmed, defenceless men and women? Is there a need to instil fear in the people?

Clenched fists and raised voices for a universal cause (read justice, transparency, corruption, human rights) do not constitute potential danger if left to run its course. Malaysians are mature enough to know that violent street protests do more harm than good, and do not serve their cause. Let the people shout their slogans. Let them release their pent-up frustrations and grievances. Let them be seen and heard in the streets, in the media and on the world stage. This is the people’s right. Shut them up, suppress them, stifle them, and they will explode.

Governments are supposed to listen to the people. Find out if they have a real cause to complain. If they do, work out a solution together. This is an integral part of public service that seems to have been conveniently forgotten.

Remove the road blocks. Get rid of the riot armoury. The police should be there only to protect, not to attack. Learn from the mistakes of oppressive regimes. Do not let the country descend into the Dark Ages.

Give peaceful protests and rallies a chance.

1 comment:

Starmandala said...

Hear, hear, my dear! xox