By Dr John Brian Anthony
The Chairman of MoCS Francis Siah has confirmed that the “walk” is on. The Sarawak Government has been very vocal in opposing such walk as the “RED Rally”. The objections are many and many Sarawakian has voiced their negative opinion on the RED Rally walk. The most interesting excuse is that it is not Sarawak culture to create havoc or inconvenience others. Why is a democratic right to assemble associated with “culture” in Sarawak? There is no relevance at all or no link to one another at all. The Cabinet members in Sarawak might not have been brief properly. But if Sarawak practice democracy as window dressing but in fact employ dictatorship in reality then of course the cabinet members can say that the rally is “illegal”.
Please understand democracy better. Do not associate rally with violence, unrest, lost of business, bad reputation etc because rally is a standard democratic process as it gets more matured as in Malaysia today.
High level of democratic practices
I am of the view that a country that subscribe to democratic principles and processes has to accept that “right to assemble” is an important ingredient of the democratic rights of the citizen of a democratic country. The police are to ensure orderly and peaceful protest and not to break up protest by spraying chemical laced water, shooting tear gas and charge the crowd with baton. The fact is if the protesters really want to “fight” the police numbers are few and people will die on the street because it has become a civil war. But no, the BERSIH protest was orderly and peaceful and the police can help the protesters to ensure that the process of protesting is peaceful.
Why do the enforcement agency want to fight the protestor hiding behind the term “crowd control” but using high handed tactics.. Was any building burnt, car overturn etc during BERSIH protest. It goes to show that the protestor only want to express their displeasure or unhappiness with the 8 points raised.
It shows that the citizen of Malaysia knows their responsibilities when organising a rally. The enforcement agencies seemed nervous and quick to execute knee jerk reaction. If the police operate using “principle” of keeping the peace throughout a protest rally than there is no problem. But if the police top brass is interested to win favor from the Home Minister or the political parties that run the government then the tendency is for the police to go overboard to impress their political masters. If that happen that would be bad for the country. Meaning, the police must maintain and manage their duties with clear objective to maintain and keep peace and not to be influence by politics.
Rally has a place in democratic process
So the RED Rally in Kuching it seems is a rally expressing the people dissatisfaction over Taib as a person. Winning a State General election does not mean the people accepted Taib as Chief Minister. Taib won because he has the “money” to oil his election machinery and buy the votes of people. Taib’s strong supporter from UMNO that include powerful people gave “promises” of development which convince the voters to vote for Taib. So the result of the General Election must not be associated with happiness of the people with Taib. Taib was voted only in Balingian. If it has been the whole Sarawak that were involved in voting for type similar to the USA Presidency then that would be a big difference.
Rally play an important role in democracy unless the government is saying that we have a very limited democratic process and ideals.
Taib need to know that the people DO NOT want him any more as their leader
Thus BERSIH was to highlight the people’s of Malaysia displeasure with Election Commission and the government over the election process overall. The RED Rally wanted to send a message to Taib that the sarawak people wanted a change in leadership. The educated people of Sarawak perceived Taib as corrupt, abused his power for personal gain, for his immediate family benefits and also for his political cronies. The dissatisfaction is over the poor management of natural used in Sarawak, the poor road system, the lack of clean water and absence of electricity in most rural areas, the high incidence of hardcore poverty, the land grab and most of all the people are tired of a leader who has been in that position for almost 30 years.
Taib should have the decency to let younger leaders take over the State leadership instead of holding to power through winning his election in Balingian and throughout Sarawak employing dubious election tactics.
The beauty of democracy is that the people really have a voice. The people will voice it in many ways. it is when they failed to get the leaders to listen or ignore thier voices will they need to use their right to assemble to express themselves.
To the Sarawak Government and Cabinet Ministers why demonize a rally when it is part of a democratic process. The DUN is the real platform but many Opposition representatives has been ” red carded” for inconsequential reason but only the fact that the government took advantage of their 2/3 majority to execute their wishes.
Do you think making LCDA JV partners earning an automatic “native status” is well accepted? The DUN with BN majority felt that it is now solved but the ordinary people will still have the say as a counter check and balance for the government action. Time when the people do not a choice of action is over. The reality is IT Technology has high impact on the educated. those educated people will speak on behalf of those who knows not what is going on.