By Jeswan Kaur
Being ‘neutral’ is not an easy job. And when it comes to commenting on the antics of ruling government Barisan Nasional, rest assured there is more ‘in the red’ to discuss about than a day’s decent work done by it.
Take for instance BN’s reaction post-Bersih 3.0. Like a typical wrongdoer, the prime minister Najib Tun Razak-led the government has instead gone on the defensive, portraying the electoral reform watchdog as a trouble maker.
The government-owned television station, Radio Televisyen Malaysia is faithfully blasting the April 28 rally as a cause for the ‘destruction’ that took place on that day. It is also accusing Bersih 3.0 of having a hidden agenda and of threatening the nation’s peace and harmony.
RTM is lamenting that the April 28 rally has nothing to do with democracy. Instead, it was all about uprooting democracy and creating havoc.
The station also refuted claims by Bersih that hundreds of thousands of protesters had particiated in the rally. Minister of Information, Communications and Culture Rais Yatim begged to differ, saying a mere 22, 270 people had turned up for the April 28 rally.
“The idea of glamourising it to be in the hundreds of thousands is not only mischievous but also a big misrepresentation to Malaysians and to the rest of the world,” was Rais’ take.
As for the 22,270 number, it was obtained from the National News Agency (Bernama)-based on aerial shots. To Rais, this number was reliable because it was closer to foreign news agency BBC’s crowd estimation.
But then, Politweet.org, a research organisation no stranger to mapping crowd sizes, does not agree with the figure made official by Rais. Instead, founder Ahmed Kamal Nava puts the number may be closer to 70,000.
What has Rais to say to this revelation coming from Politweet.org?
Does Rais really think the rakyat will fall for his words of demonising Bersih 3.0? Such propaganda by Rais and RTM to hoodwink the rakyat into believing that Bersih 3. 0 is indeed ‘evil’ is not working. Honestly, who is the ‘devil in disguise’ here?
Spin as many a yarn as BN may, its lies are never going to bring back the ruling coalition’s long lost respect as far as the truth-seeking rakyat goes.
Authorities playing ‘devil’s advocate’
Then it was the local council Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) which decided to ‘punish’ not only Bersih 3.0 but also its key player, former Malaysian Bar president S Ambiga.
On May 10, a group of burger sellers staged a protest in front of Ambiga’s house by distributing 200 burgers. Malaysia Small and Medium Entrepreneurs Alliance (Ikhlas), the NGO which organised the protest, said that it was doing so because burger stall owners had suffered losses amounting to RM200,000 as a result of the rally.
Five days later, a group of 15 army veterans carried out butt flexing exercises facing her house.
Despite news of the burger protest making headlines across news pages and websites, the City Hall shamelessly denied a burger stall was ever set up in front of Ambiga’s residence. This denial came from its enforcement division spokesperson Abdul Syatar Abdul Halim.
Does City Hall feel ‘powerful’ by refusing to take action despite the nuisance created by the burger stall operators? Was playing hapless and helpless a new strategy devised by City Hall to teach Ambiga a ‘lesson’?
It seems so until May 22 when it was the Kuala Lumpur Petty Traders Association pushing its luck to set up a “pasar malam” or night market outside her house. It was only then that City Hall dropped its spineless act, refusing these traders a permit.
Where’s your thinking cap, Mayor Ahmad Fuad? It is “interesting” to note the grounds on which City Hall objected to the “pasar malam”.
Mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail rationalised it as such:
“If this goes on, we will never hear the end of it. To gather in a peaceful assembly in front of her (Ambiga’s) house, it’s all right… But to erect stalls, DBKL will not allow it in accordance with the Streets, Drainage and Buildings Act 1974.
“This is because Ambiga’s house is not the only house there. So my advice is that if they want to continue, (they) should look for a more suitable spot, one that is approved.” Ahmad had said.
A disastrous justification coming from a mayor. Obviously the mayor is missing his thinking cap. Had he been wearing one, he would have known the ludicrity behind the words he uttered.
To the mayor, it is alright for a Tom, Dick or Harry to make life miserable for Ambiga by stalking outside her house. It is also not a problem for Ahmad if the night market was set up given that Ambiga’s house was the only one located on the street.
It is precisely because of such inept local authorities that the “bullies”, i.e. Ikhlas and the Kuala Lumpur Petty Traders Association got away scot-free. The association had the cheek to write the words “Bersih 4″ in yellow paint on the road opposite Ambiga’s house in an symbolic attempted to sell that space as a “lot” for their night market.
The authorities cannot care less that their playing the “devil’s advocate” has only worsened matters, not to mention the shame it has brought to this country.
In this regard, when Najib lambasted Bersih 3.0 of being a “dirty” affair claiming it had a political agenda, how different then is BN or to be exact Umno, the “right arm” of the ruling government, for masterminding an act so tasteless and for hitting the electoral reform activists “below the belt” vis-a-vis the multitudes of harassment now plaguing Ambiga post-Bersih 3.0?
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.