Who’s scaring the ‘rakyat’?

By Aliran

Prior to the Bersih 2.0 event, both the alternative and the mainstream media were abuzz with news of arrests, detention and the use of repressive laws such as the Internal Security Act and the Emergency Ordinance and police crackdowns on various groups to avert alleged chaos in the country.

There have also been reports that citizens are making police reports against the Bersih 2.0 rally on 9 July. In the run up to the event and a looming general election (the date has not yet been disclosed by the government), loud rumblings could be heard from the authorities, police, and civil society. The nation, seemingly, was on the brink of erupting into public disorder.

Arrests and raids

Most of this rumbling, however, grew louder with the sudden arrests of groups of political and social activists from 25 June. Despite this, many more apparently joined the ranks of Bersih 2.0 supporters declaring their stand by wearing and buying more of these ‘effective’ yellow T-shirts. Seeing that the arrests only served to attract more support, the authorities and police decided to out-law these yellow T-shirts ( or any yellow-coloured outfit). Not only is this laughable but certainly absurd, but what can we expect of authorities who like producing ‘sandiwaras’ to deflect public attention from the real fundamental issue of electoral reform.

When this still did not stop the Bersih rumblings, the police resorted to heavier handed methods like threatening to break into the Bersih 2.0 secretariat if they didn’t allow the police to ransack and confiscate (without a warrant) office equipment and rally paraphernalia.

Prior to that 30 members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) were arrested and detained on a serious but spurious charge of reviving the now defunct Malayan Communist Party (MCP) and waging war against the King, simply by having T-shirts bearing images of famous historical communist leaders, Bersih 2.0 pamphlets, “Udahlah…saralah” campaign leaflets, flags and banners in their possession. So, these were also considered illegal, apart from the act of being passengers on a bus involved in a roadshow. The bus driver and his seven-year-old son were also arrested for reasons unknown.

Finding that support for those arrested and detained had not ebbed, the authorities and police went on to wield the threat of using the ISA, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, ultimately ‘hitting’ the PSM with the Emergency Ordinance. It looks like the BN fears the colour yellow, a few pamphlets, banners, flags and T-shirts. Earlier, in the year, they were threatened by a cartoonist who coined the word ‘cartoonophobia’; he was also arrested for publishing a new book of political cartoons for public amusement.