By Charles Santiago
Perhaps those were his chosen moments. The moment when tens of thousands of people turned Dataran Merdeka green.
The moment when hundreds of Indians called for the rights of the minority community to be protected.
The moment when scores more turned up at the field in Petaling Jaya to demonstrate against the National Education Blueprint.
It was a weekend of protest in Malaysia.
And interestingly they didn’t just demonstrate against core issues but also against Umno and Barisan Nasional rule. It was a strong resistance against a corrupt and morally bankrupt government which has continuously ignored the rights of the people for profits.
The people of Malaysia have changed after the 2008 general election which was a slap to the ruling parties, that have governed with impunity over decades. The rakyat are now vocally airing their demands, their rights and their aspirations.
This politically maturing society should sit well with the reform agenda of prime minister Najib Tun Razak, who parrots his People First, Performance Now slogan. But that’s not the case.
Protesters are met with bully-boy policemen who do not hesitate to employ violence against unarmed people. And their demands have gone largely unheeded.
And these demands include a clean-up of the electoral system which is ridden with irregularities, a revamp of the education system, a clean and transparent government, independent monitoring of the police force, equal distribution of wealth, the doing-away of race-based policies, a judiciary with integrity….and the list goes on.
The Umno-led coalition government has largely turned a blind eye to these demands, gone after the dissidents with a vengeance, accused the opposition of engineering peoples movements or used force to threaten and intimidate the people.
Najib, his cabinet ministers and the police, who go to the mat one too many times for the government, have repeatedly failed to realise they are insulting the people by believing opposition politicians are doing the thinking for them. And they have underestimated the power of the people.
Loud and clear message
Dataran Merdeka was cordoned off to the green marchers and the notice by KL mayor Ahmad Phesal Talib screamed “this place is closed for activities”. And apparently due to renovation works.
The cordon was not breached but the message was sent loud and clear – that the operations of Australian miner, Lynas, must stop immediately.
The government and AELB do not seem to learn from tragedies. Severe birth defects, eight cases of leukaemia in five years in a community of 11,000 people are the consequences of allowing the operations of the Asian Rare Earth factory in northern Perak.
The clean-up cost of the factory and dump site is estimated to be USD100 million, the largest in the rare earth industry. But thirty years later, the government is once again game to play with the lives of people.
The radioactive waste which will be produced by Lynas will be dangerous because it is removed from the ground and concentrated by mechanical and chemical processes. And Australia has said Lynas cannot ship back the waste material.
AELB, which initially said it is giving Lynas a temporary operating license with the view that the waste would be shipped back to Australia has kept mum.
Chinese education group Dong Zong too registered its protest against the National Education Blueprint, which is unfair to vernacular schools and focused on implementing a single stream education system that will do away with vernacular education.
Hindraf, on the other hand, protested against the continued marginalisation and discrimination of the minority Indian community.
So it was a rather unpleasant weekend for Najib. But these are real issues that the prime minister must seriously consider as the people would not tolerate any more dreck from Najib and his government.
But the question here is about how Najib would respond to his chosen moments