Tuesday 4 September 2012

Spectre of campaign violence grows - TERENCE NETTO

COMMENT With just under eight months to the automatic dissolution of Parliament, violent incidents have become a threat in the prelude to the 13th general election.

Unless the perpetrators and groups that sponsor them are stopped in their tracks, they are likely to become more brazen and something more deadly than smashed windscreens and disrupted religious talks will likely occur.

pkr election poll bus attacked in kelantan storyTwo incidents over the weekend - first, the stoning of the PKR campaign busand its daubing with red paint in Kota Baru early Saturday morning; and second, the disruption of a homily delivered by Anwar Ibrahim at a mosque in Alor Setar at dusk on Sunday evening - have brought matters to a point that's fraught with decision.

Either the police have to abandon their seeming nonchalance towards acts of violence that are targeted at PKR campaign personnel and paraphernalia, or Pakatan Rakyat, especially its principal leaders, have from now on to electioneer under the watchful eyes of a security phalanx serving as buffer between provocateurs and their targets.

It's absolutely necessary the security cordon must be composed of people of stern discipline, no less than admirable fortitude, because it appears the provocateurs, from reports of their behaviour at the mosque in the Kedah capital on Sunday night, are professional agitators intent on causing disruption and clever at faulting their targets for the disturbance.

Violence has been raising its ugly head in the long run-up to GE13.

Earlier this year, violent incidents occurred at PKR-organised gatherings in or near Felda communities in Johor and Pahang, and also at Malay-dominant settlements in urban areas, like Kampong Kerinchi in Kuala Lumpur.

The police have been ineffectual in the invigilation of these gatherings and in the subsequent investigations after reports were lodged by people who suffered from the consequences of thuggish behaviour by hoodlums and louts.

Najib's 'crushed bodies' speech

The suspicion is that these undeterred thugs are steadily raising the spectre of violence such that - should an Umno-BN defeat in the polls appear inevitable - they will initiate a cycle of attacks and reprisals that would furnish cause for the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak to take exigent measures, including suspension of the polls.

NONEThis speculation underlies the theory based on no less the words of the PM, given vent at an Umno-BN gathering a year ago, that theymust defend Putrajaya with their "crushed bodies" if need be.

Since that circling-the-wagons speech, violent affrays have marred some rallies organised by PKR, initially affecting gatherings over the issue of the corporatisation of Felda.

These violent incidents then escalated to include gatherings organised by Solidarity Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM), an initiative of Badrul Hisham Shaharin (of ‘Chegubard' fame), a PKR youth activist.

In all these incidents, the police were either lackadaisical about preventive measures or indifferent in investigation.

The upshot: provocateurs pick and choose the time and place for their impositions of the law of the jungle.

They are a modern version of the communist guerrillas of the 1960s who used to emerge from the shadows to strike at Malaysian security forces in their encampments while using their agents to plant the occasional explosive device in sensitive urban centres.

These hit-and-run tactics supplied the government with the justification to promulgate and impose restrictive ordinances, several of which lingered on the statute books long after the communists evanesced with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Law enforcement goes AWOL 

A repressive legacy is difficult to jettison even after the basis for its promulgation in the first place has withered and waned.

Right now, it appears that getting rid of that legacy is of less urgency than preventing the use of communist guerrilla tactics by their modern-day imitators.

NONEThe tactics of these guerrillas are calculated to nourish the paranoia of urban denizens, already living in fear of random violence caused by rising crime and mounting evidence of dissembling by the police when it comes to the real situation with regard to crime and their ability to cope.

Thus a climate of insidious doubt is fostered among the general population wherein guerrillas enjoy a licence to disport as they will, while law enforcement goes AWOL as genuine competitors for influence in the public square are selectively targeted and accused of being the not-so-subtle perpetuators of the enveloping malaise.

It's an Orwellian scenario with no end in sight until the deadly virus that gnaws at the nation's innards is drawn out lock-stock-and-barrel.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for close on four decades. He likes the occupation because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them. It is the ideal occupation for a temperament that finds power fascinating and its exercise abhorrent.

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