Why protest?


Izack Chin

In the last eight years or so, there has been an unprecedented increase in the incidence of political protests. The current trend in gathering at Dataran Merdeka for the minutest reason pales in comparison to the strong justification of what was probably the first protest in the peninsular.

In the 1940’s, following Sir Harold MacMicheal’s manner in which he obtained the Sultans’ signatures, Malays organised peaceful demonstrations in large towns such as Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Alor Setar, Kedah and Johor Bahru to protest this development and to reject the Malayan Union proposal.

The Hansard (http://tinyurl.com/nnoovvq) shows how there were formal negotiations and engagement between all parties concerned. When the Malay population expressed their discontent, the other parties involved actively considered objections to the Malayan Union and realised their shortcomings in pushing through their plans, which were subsequently tweaked to accommodate the issues brought up.

That should be the way.

Where the current scenario is concerned, organisers of protests never forwarded their concerns and that of the populace to the status quo. Instead, they used social media and news portals to actively persuade the masses to take to the streets for what is perceived as a legitimate cause of concern to Malaysians.

These organisers, who sometimes moonlight as spin-doctors, failed to inform the masses that there are alternative avenues to communicate to the status quo, and how these should be executed formally.

Misled, it is no surprise the ordinary layman willingly takes the risk of breaking the law, sacrificing their freedom in the event they are detained/arrested or worse still sentenced just for a popular cause.

Do protestors or even the masses at large understand the political realm in which we exist?

Have they been persuaded to believe the political construct as spun by the organizers equate it to their reality?

Recently, Malaysiakini (http://tinyurl.com/n9b7j7a) reported on how the Court of Appeal today struck out a prosecution appeal and upheld the acquittal of 21 people over a candlelight vigil six years ago.

One can argue there was no necessity for the police to arrest them but it was an unlawful assembly. The 21 persons arrested had taken part in a candlelight vigil to mark the anniversary of a Bersih rally in front of the Petaling Jaya City Council building between 9.50pm and 10.10pm on Nov 9, 2008.

Can one blame the police for taking action on citizens who knowingly break the law? No. These 21 persons and others who have been arrested and charged for similar offenses have taken up much of the court’s time and resources. Had they chosen to be law-abiding citizens, the 6-year old journey, which probably inconvenienced their everyday routine, would not have occurred.

It is the same for recent arrests of parliamentarians and state assemblymen. Lawmakers should know the law, not break the law. Yet, when they do the latter, they are garlanded like war heroes.

If the police fold their arms and not arrest them, it is akin to the police force condoning or even endorsing law-breaking behaviour in the name of civil society.

Does that make sense to you?

Whilst there is freedom of expression, Malaysians must bear in mind there must be social order, conformity, and communication via the right channels in the right manner.

Everyone has a choice in how we express our concerns. We can take action or remain in passivity. Yet, there can be actions that comply with the law and conform to social order such as signing a petition and lobbying through lawmakers.

No matter how aggrieved, frustrated, or deprived in any way, there is no legitimate reason to engage in law-breaking behaviour, especially those that are encouraged by lawmakers elected to serve the rakyat.

What sort of society do we have now whereby parliamentarians encourage citizens to break the law?

Are they upholding the pledge to serve the rakyat or their own interests?

Are they moving in the direction of harmony and unity or are they sowing the seeds of anarchy and dysfunction in Malaysia?

Malaysians cannot continue to be deceived by such irresponsible leaders from political parties of NGOs.

Put an end to protests — it is not in our culture and has had negative effects on day-today activities, businesses and our repute internationally.