Monday, April 30, 2012

Bersih 3.0: From Afar

Like most Malaysians out there, I've been keeping myself updated with news of how Bersih 3.0 is unfolding since yesterday. After all, it's one of the biggest Malaysia related rallies in history, drawing tens of thousands of crowds in Malaysia alone (estimated 25000 in KL alone, not including those from other states like Penang and Sabah) while protests were also held in a dozen of locations around the world.

Hong Kong (picture taken from Malaysian Insider)

US (picture taken from Malaysian Insider)

Looking at the photos and stories from people joining the rally reminded me of how I felt a few years ago when I read the news about the clash between the Reds and the Yellows in Thailand. I remember thinking how different Malaysia is from Thailand, where mass anti-government protests by the people were rare and unheard of.

Well, not anymore I guess. The protests on Saturday has shown that Malaysians too, are capable of going out to the streets demanding  for their rights. And we can do it better too, with Malaysians all over the world joining in. I can't help but feel a bit sad though when I look at the amount of oversea Malaysians joining in for the Bersih rally. Seems like Malaysia's biggest export is Malaysians after all.

I guess when you push the people far enough, they would retaliate. Despite what the mainstream media and how some people would say, I don't think that the Bersih 3.0 could be simply dismissed as merely an opposition's ploy or act of desperation. Not when you have such a massive turnout for this event.

An aerial view of KL (picture taken from Malaysian Insider)
 
Still, I doubt that there would be any conclusive outcomes from this rally. Letting you gather in large numbers is one thing, actually listening to your demands is another. The government could simply let the people come, sit a while, vent their anger and that's it. I just let you guys be happy for one day just to let off some steam. Tomorrow would just return to be just another normal day.

The thing is, to make Bersih truly successful, we can't let the fire die down. Demands have to be continuously made until they are met, or there need to be something harsher to put pressure on the government. The purpose of the rally should not be forgotten. It's more than just gathering one day to voice our disappointment, the pressure must be constantly maintained on the government to let them know that the people are serious.

We are serious alright

The rally is far from perfect, that I have to admit. There were violent clashes between the protesters and the police at the end of the day, and the evidence points at the actions of a few protesters breaching the barricades despite being told not to do so thus giving the police reason to retaliate, and the Bersih dissenters are already using that to point fault at the organizers and the rally.

Still, when you have such a huge amount of people gathering, deindividualization is bound to occur. It's a psychological phenomena well documented all around the world.
 
There will definitely be unhappy and angry people and there will definitely be people looking for trouble down there. And even though the rally is somehow marred by the violent stories, there were also instances where my faith in humanity is restored. For example, despite how some claim that the rally is used by the opposition parties to instigate and to cause trouble, it was them who stood their ground the firmest when there were temptations to act otherwise.

In the highly popularized incident where a police car was over-flipped, it was PKR's Jingga 13 that prevented the mob from lashing out on the two police officers. I don't know the exact details of the incident but I feel that had Jingga 13 not shielded the cops from the angry mob, I think the outcome might have been a lot worse than just a overturned car. It really boils down to what you want to see in the rally.

When you have a rally you're bound to have angry people

No matter who's side you're on, I think that there's a lot to be learned from Bersih 3.0. For starters I think that Malaysians have grown much from the days where we just sit idly by snickering at our neighbors who are having political problems back in their country, for example Thailand or the Philipines. After more than 50 years in rule, we realize that our current government is not as clean and fair as what they claim, and our rights, peace and wealth we used to know is slowly eroding away. Some choose to leave, to search for a better alternative elsewhere, people like me for example, while others choose to fight for their rights, which is where Bersih 3.0 comes in.

It's rocky path from here onwards but one that perhaps can lead to a brighter future. I just hope that the people who are responsible for squandering our wealth away wouldn't just pack their bags and go hide in some remote countries one day.


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