Heroes don’t hold batons

By Praba Ganesan (The Malaysian Insider)

AUG 6 — John Lennon’s conviction that we must oppose tyranny without succumbing to the hate and violence of the oppressor was in full display in the marchers in Kuala Lumpur last weekend.

As Lennon put it, which aptly explains the events surrounding the protest which turned into an abuse frenzy by the police: “I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that.”

My uncle is with the maniacs. He used to tell me in my youth: “Don’t fight the government. Use the proper channels.” He would have been livid if he had spotted me dodging water cannons and scouring for water as my eyes burnt between confrontations last Saturday.

That is not to say I was there protesting with my countrymen, saying that would implicate me, since it is a crime in this country to protest without the permission of the very people you are protesting against.

What is protest and when is it valid?

The expression of group opinion through the assembly of people — physically, through correspondence or conduit (elected official) — to represent that opinion is the bulwark of representative government. The opinion’s validity is determined by those making it, and its limits drawn by its demonstrable harm to other people’s opinions and rights.

A democratic nation thrives on diversity, and finds itself choking on the bile of good intentions when it sets itself to silence its members. Nothing justifies the silencing of the many, especially on grounds that a group of feudal lords have historical integrity and qualifications to rule over us perpetually.

Last weekend’s march and the ensuing police treatment may not have been a whisker away from shutting down dissent in Malaysia, but it was a punch in the face for those who continue to hope for change from within the government of Malaysia.

But I tell you one thing, standing on a long, wide desolate avenue, one which is maddeningly busy on your average Saturday, is unnerving. For you and the hundreds immediately beside you. Hemmed in like rats in an elaborate experiment, triangulated by the kind men and women of Polis DiRaja Malaysia, you get nervous. Unarmed people completely circled by police and the menacing riot police, on Jalan Raja Laut.

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