Roadblocks to democracy

The mammoth street demonstrations against — as well as for — the draconian Internal Security Act that occurred in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, which resulted in some 589 protestors being arrested by the police, predictably caught the attention of most of the mainstream newspapers.

The Malay language Berita Minggu, for example, ran a banner headline that screamed, “Perhimpunan haram menyusahkan rakyat” (Illegal rally inconveniences the people). It even identified and highlighted those ‘inconveniences’: business people had to close shop; public transportation disrupted; and massive traffic jam. Other newspapers, such as the Mingguan Malaysia and Sunday Star, weaved this particular aspect of the demonstrations into their news reporting.

What many of these newspapers failed, or consciously ignored, to highlight is the fact that the massive roadblocks that were mounted by the police yesterday and the day before that had primarily contributed to the colossal traffic jams that obviously inconvenienced the general public and businesses.

The traffic jams and other forms of public inconvenience could have been greatly reduced, if not avoided, had the authorities allowed the demonstrators, both the anti- and pro-ISA groups, to walk peacefully to their desired destination, and perhaps to do so at different times. Lest we forget, in a mature democracy the police would be there to ensure that a street demonstration would be peaceful and not cause unnecessary traffic jams, among other things.

As a consequence, the blame of causing traffic jams etc. has often been deflected and heaped heavily and unjustly on the demonstrators. In turn, the very act of publicly expressing one’s view and grievance in public, which is part and parcel of human rights and democracy, has been conveniently demonised — particularly by the mainstream media — as an act of ‘troublemakers’, ‘mischief makers’, ‘wreckers of the local economy’ etc.

Such a depiction of the demonstrators has obviously a negative impact on some sections of the Malaysian public. See here for a typical example.

In other words, a peaceful street demonstration, which is (to reiterate) a legitimate activity in a thriving democracy, is often equated with everything that is evil, nasty, illegal and, to quote Prime Minister Najib Razak, ‘senseless’.

Hence, ‘senseless’ and ‘illegal’ demonstrators supposedly deserved the kind of treatment that they got from the authorities, i.e. tear-gas, water cannon and alleged ‘rough treatment’ from the law enforcement forces. To be sure, these were demonstrators who wanted to express peacefully their collective desire for a repeal (or for that matter, maintenance) of the unjust ISA, not amendment as called for by the BN government.

Indeed, yesterday’s incident in Kuala Lumpur has demonstrated that Malaysia has in many ways detoured from the original route to mature democracy.

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18 Responses to “Roadblocks to democracy”


  1. 1 anti-demo 2 August 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Is there a real need to demonstrate on the busy streets of KL? Isn’t it just a strategy by the PR leaders to create sense of urgency over the ISA issue. It is a culculated move by PR to further tarnish the image of the PDRM, which they knew very well would have to do what the police have to do to keep public order for the majority of kl citizen who do want to get involve in such useless demonstration. If we fail to forget there are over 2 million KL citizen who wish to go on with their as usual, as opposes to less about 10K insane PAS followers from outside the city. Interestingly majority non-malays choose to stay away from the demostration.

    I read ehe August demonstration as a act of desperado on the part of PR after the Manek Urai election and poor turn out at the Shah Alam stadium recentely and to keep the now dwindling wave of change ever alive. That’s why they cannot wait until PRU13. Anwar for one would understand, the chance might not be there in the PRU13. Otherwise, why demonstration. Just gover the states that PR already controlled.

    • 2 mustafakanuar 2 August 2009 at 4:30 pm

      Hi ‘anti-demo’,

      The ISA is certainly an urgent issue for many Malaysians, and they, as we saw in yesterday’s incident, involved not only PR politicians but also members of civil society groups and concerned Malaysians. Not only that, the issue attracted those who oppose the ISA as it is seen as unjust and draconian, as well as those who want to maintain the law.

      In a democracy, as we all know, one has the options of, among other things, staying at home or be involved in matters that some people consider politically important to democracy in the country. Additionally, one certainly has to be politically motivated to be involved in this matter as the ISA itself is indeed political in nature.

  2. 3 Kugan 2 August 2009 at 4:25 pm

    20,000 Malaysians took to the streets yesterday to voice out their disapproval with UMNO’s abuse of the ISA.

    Imagine how many more would have turned up, if not for all the ‘death threats’ from UMNO and their wh…s like the PDRM, FRU, etc!

    UMNO threw democracy into the drain yesterday when the people wanted a peaceful demonstration.

    Let’s throw UMNO into the drain in the 2012 GE!!!

    • 4 Eric 3 August 2009 at 10:28 am

      I was there on Saturday and last time at Bersih, whose turnout was estimated to be 30,000 to 50,000.
      The antiISA turnout was even higher than Bersih. Probably 50,000 to 60,000. The FRU simply did not have enough hands and were given the go-around. Charge in Masjid Jamek and the crowd regrouped at Sogo. Run to Sogo and the crowds in Masjid Jamek and Raja Laut built up again. In Masjid Jamek and Raja Laut, protesters kept regrouping for four hours. It was the first time, I saw riot police exhausted and frustrated by so much determination from the protesters.
      PRDM would know about it, thanks to the 2 helicopters we, taxpayers, offered them to refill their gas and chemical canisters. Look at Najib and Hisham’s distraught faces on the TV news after the protest and you’ll know they’ve cowed by the actual numbers.

      1 Black Malaysia. Democracy First. Elections Now.

  3. 5 francis ngu 2 August 2009 at 5:21 pm

    It is a sign of rising political consciousness among Malaysians which is beyond control by UMNO and their apologists, that Malaysians feel a sense of urgency in saving this nation from further degradation.

    That urgency spans an entire spectrum from protection for fundamental freedoms and civil rights, repressive legislation and institutional brutality against a peace-loving people, the restoration of the constitutional checks and balances to rectify
    widespread institutional and civil service abuse for partisan ends, end to corruption and cronyism, et cetera !

    Half a century of misgovernment, don’t be slow-footed anymore.
    Malaysians, vote URGENCY !

    FN from SARAWAK

  4. 6 Pro ISA man 2 August 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Isn’t it amazing what one single pro ISA man could do something which 20,000 anti ISA people could not do?

    Isn’t it amazing too that all the police and road blocks and tear gas and water cannon could stop 20,000 anti ISA people but could not stop one single pro ISA man from reaching the palace.

    My wife told me what is so amazing about that. All that is needed is to be pro Barisan Nasional and ISA. If you are pro BN and ISA, even a donkey could beat all the road blocks, tear gases, water cannon and police.

  5. 7 nordin 2 August 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Saya ingin mencadangkan kita buat pengistiharaan umum mana-mana peniaga yang menyalahkan para demonstran kononnya di atas kerugian mereka,maka rakyat mengistiharkan boikot kedai dan syarikat mereka sehingga mereka memohon maaf secara terbuka kepada rakyat.

  6. 8 CTLee 2 August 2009 at 10:14 pm

    I like to refer to the spinning by Berita Minggu, “Perhimpunan haram menyusahkan Rakyat”. I was there with my wife near Sogo. Whenever the FRU were firing water canons or teargas the supporters rushed into the nearest shops to seek refuge. All the while the shop keepers were very cooperative. At one coffee shop the owners even offer the supporters salt to neutralise the chemicals from the teargas. I think it is rather “Polis yang menyusahkan rakyat”.

    Another point about non-Malays staying away from the rally. I think there was the fear that it might be turned into a racial issue. Being a non-Malay in the rally, I was not fearful of any ethnic clashes. Rather it was the presence of the FRU which created a war-zone environment.I met a few Malay compatriots (both young and old)who were ever so helpful. It was a wonderful moment to stand together as true Malaysians.

  7. 9 Antares 3 August 2009 at 2:09 am

    We cannot wait till GE13…. there will be no GE13 if Najib opts to rule the country at gunpoint, which is already pretty much the case. We want to see the children of corporate tycoons disowning their parents for propping up a corrupt and evil regime.

  8. 10 Ghifari X 3 August 2009 at 8:15 am

    Well ain’t that sweet; you mean the demo was that effective it managed to bring out more than the need to abolish the ISA, it also brought Transparency and accountability to the fore. Gomen should give the idea of repression and police brutality after all every method every scheme every tactic have backfired. Gomen PR agencies really aren’t gaining points for the Gomen rather exposes issues Rakyat might have overlooked. Incompetent morons.

  9. 11 atanco 3 August 2009 at 8:16 am

    We fall into injustice, corruption, deception, wickedness when we don’t stand against the roadblocks to democracy.

  10. 12 Rahman 3 August 2009 at 2:56 pm

    I totally agreed with Eric on the protesters regrouping at the 3 locations. I have reported something similar. While I cant vouch for the numbers, but I can tell that this was much better organized, minus the rains of course during Bersih.

  11. 14 siew eng 4 August 2009 at 8:48 am

    yeah, and the kedai minuman were doing great; every time we pass by one, there’d be people buying drinks to tapau – it was so hot! and if we had been allowed to disperse peacefully, there would have been a roaring business at the kedai makan for tired feet and hungry stomachs.

    there’s an attempt to spin this as a malay rally and ‘melayu diperbodohkan cina’. on bersih, there was even insinuations that indonesians were ‘hired’ for the demo (typical umno projection).

    while the majority were malays and hardcore supporters of pas, there were participants from other ethnic groups, caught in pix and videos. check the people’s parliament blog, for one. just do your googling homework-lah.


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