This protest was not passive resistance

By Zaini Mohd Said (NST)

I WAS most unhappy last Saturday afternoon getting caught in the traffic jam and inching my way on the road from Cheras towards the Olympic Council of Malaysia building near Merdeka Stadium.

During the ordeal, I could not help but think of all the unsavoury words I have for the demonstrators in the city who had precipitated the gridlock I was in.

But I badly needed to get to my destination and did not want to disappoint the organisers, parents and especially the schoolchildren at an association's annual taekwondo competition I had to officiate and give away trophies.

I arrived, eventually, one hour late, suitably embarrassed and regretful.

It was even more upsetting later on to hear particularly the originators of the demonstration explain their actions and only then saying very obligingly that they are now more than willing to cooperate with the police who have to investigate their unlawful actions.


Why they had refused to do so in the first place when the police had advised and warned them against holding the demonstrations I cannot understand, more so, after the government had already decided to review the Internal Security Act which was the issue.

They must remember that the right of free people in a democracy to protest against any unlikable matter affecting them must not be done at the expense of the rights of others not similarly offended.

I certainly would not want to be influenced or coerced in such a manner. I want to make my own rational choice calmly and also want my right to peace of mind and unfettered movement in the country.

The demonstration was clearly not an act of civil disobedience a la Gandhi. There were scuffles, swearing, insults thrown and even stampeding of police line, any one of which would disqualify it to be such.

It could be possible that some of the demonstrators may have wanted to force the government's hand towards more forceful and violent counteraction that would have exacerbated the situation.

Imagine what would have happened if the authorities had acted in such a manner and caused serious injury or even the death of a demonstrator, especially if the casualty was to be a woman or child whom some uncaring parent had brought along.

Any right-thinking person must dread such an occurrence. That it did not must surely be credited to the police.

The real worry is that a segment of the population is being led and trained towards mass disobedience, unruly conduct and violent mob action which uncontrolled can take a life of its own.

While some quarters may think that such a move may serve their own ends for now, they have obviously forgotten that the very same people can be destructive and may one day turn against them when minds and beliefs change. They are always a double-edged weapon.

The acquired negative attitude and behaviour can lead some up the path of extreme beliefs and acts, which in turn may make them to act irrationally against their nemesis, real or imagined.

It is this type of people who can easily pass into militancy that would even involve voluntary self-immolation, especially if some wayward ulama or political firebrand were to convince them that they would be rewarded with eternal heavenly bliss in the afterlife.

For the record, some of the Al-Maunah members at Bukit Jenalik, Sauk, Perak, in 2000, were with such a predisposition.

Such a scenario in the country would spell a difficult problem for the government, and especially the police, to manage and handle. The trend seems to be clear enough and thus has to be checked quickly in the interest of the country's security and the well-being of the peace-loving majority of the rakyat.

Given what we have, the country just cannnot afford to have such a problem.

More effective laws and regulations may need to be put in place to ensure this dangerous trend can be contained without sacrificing any of our freedom and democratic values.

While the police may have done admirably well a week ago, a lot of lessons must have been learned, especially in the management of unruly crowds in multiple locations.

There must surely be the realisation of the need to look at and review the current operational doctrine to handle similar situations in the future. More suitable and better equipment, logistics, administration and certainly training for all forces and personnel tasked for the preservation of public order operations must then have to be acquired or developed.

Even more important is how to secure the safety of the innocent rakyat, their property and businesses which often become targets when mobs get out of control. Such things have happened in the past here and in other parts of the globe.

And should things really spiral out of control and the security of the state and general public threatened, the military must also see how best it can get ready to provide effective and timely support to the police.

The writer is a former army field commander. He can be contacted at [email protected]