In May Day rally, a palpable boredom with political posturing


Zurairi AR, Malay Mail Online

Seeing the thousands of protesters thronging the historic Dataran Merdeka on May Day, you would have thought that Malaysians had come in force to speak up against the goods and services tax (GST) due next year.

But if you had asked some PKR supporters, they would probably have said that the protesters were speaking up against injustices allegedly perpetrated by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government and against the persecution of the party’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

And if you asked some PAS supporters, they would have said this is proof that thousands of Malaysians support the controversial hudud law that the party is trying to implement in Kelantan.

And then there are some who took to the street purely to demonstrate the power of the people, that it is not us who should be afraid of the government, but rather the government which should be afraid of us.

I think it is only natural for parties with vested interests to take the opportunity to coax a massive crowd to converge in one spot. There is symbolism in the ability to command the people and have them respond unconditionally.

I covered the May Day rally starting from Masjid Negara where PAS leaders such as Dr Hatta Ramli and Suhaizan Kaiat addressed the crowd, reminding how un-Islamic the current government is.

When I arrived in front of Dataran Merdeka, I was boxed in near the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, listening to PKR deputy president Azmin Ali warning Putrajaya against laying a hand on Anwar.

I finally broke free when I reached the northern part of Jalan Raja where Socialist Party of Malaysia secretary-general S. Arutchelvan urged the poor to stand up against the rich.

All in all, it was a fairly uneventful rally, up until a scuffle broke out between a group of youths and PAS’ Unit Amal volunteers. “We can listen to speeches some other time, bro!” one of them shouted, as they tried to breach the historic square, which was cordoned off to rally-goers.

The scuffle was quickly broken up, and you might have read later in the day that the volunteers were praised by even Umno supporters for standing up to the “troublemakers.”

You might have read that the scuffle was between the PAS unit and PKR-linked Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) youth movement. Were they really SAMM members? Maybe, but there were also members of the anarchist Antifa waving the ubiquitous red and black flag found at May Day rallies worldwide.

For me though, it was not a tussle between PKR and PAS groups. It was a tussle between those who do  what their political masters ask them to, and those who just — frankly — do not give a toss.

Their desire for unadulterated chaos might not sit well with me, but I can certainly sympathise with them. How much longer must the youths listen to political speeches, anyway?

The May Day rally was a stark contrast with the Turun protest on New Year’s Eve which was largely organised by student groups. There were no political speeches. No politicians took any stage, even if they did walk together with the youths.


There were no party workers riding lorries and trucks telling protesters that they must fall in line behind them, and party leaders who ride in front, basking in their glory.

There was no campaign telling supporters to choose between GST and hudud, so that when you topple BN, you would not only stop GST, but also be rewarded with the implementation of hudud.

Turun did not need a charismatic leader to rally them on. It was literally a flashmob, and I was impressed by it. And by flashmob, I mean it in its original sense —  a surprise gathering of like-minded random people, not party workers holding placards at the side of a road.

After Turun proved that you do not necessarily need politicians to make a real change, May Day must have been such a letdown for the anarchists.

I would like to compare this with the frustration felt by some, especially student activists, when President Barack Obama was not grilled by participants during a townhall event with “young leaders” at University of Malaya on Sunday.

These activists then took matters into their own hands, five of them held up posters saying “No to TPPA” — the multi-national trade agreement seen as detrimental to Malaysia — and one of them had the R4BIA sign, in protest of the violence in Egypt.

I think so many of those present that day were disappointed because they felt that the townhall would provide an avenue for people to ask Obama the hard questions. They were also disappointed because they felt that the Young

South-east Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) which organised it reflects our future leaders.

Once you understand how the townhall was nothing more than a ploy for Obama to project a positive image, and at the same time win the support of his adoring young fans, you would not have the same expectations. After all, was the crowd not pre-selected?

Once you realise that our future leaders do not have to be YSEALI members, then you would find that the future is not so bleak, and our youths are not really the unquestioning non-critical types as painted by those who were disappointed.

The future is ours to shape, and sometimes we can do a better job than the select few we elect as leaders.