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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Riot? What riot?

Once again we have the government condemning the so called rioters at Pantai Batu Buruk. We hear of a need for stern action.

The government’s response is typically what it always is in situations like this. Sweeping, muddling and having a tendency towards obscuring the truth of the matter rather than accounting for it.

Could what happened on Saturday night and early Sunday morning be characterised as rioting? Is an expression of disagreement with government policies articulated through state machinery an act of rioting? More so where the laws are enforced in way which is undermining of the very freedoms the State is bound to protect.

Consider this:
  • The people gather to hear viewpoints.
  • These viewpoints are matters which they are guaranteed a right to hear. These viewpoints are matters which go to the freedom to choose so essential to democracy.
  • The people do not have access to these truths due to restrictive policies where the media is concerned and a bias against any views other than those of the government.
  • Laws are designed to restrict access to such viewpoints.
  • As a result, citizens have no real and meaningful avenues to get these viewpoints other than to attend events like the BERSIH event on Saturday night.
  • The event, and other such events, are impeded by a unconstitutional permit application processes.
Where do the people turn to? What choices do they have?

I do not countenance the use of force, any force. But I am hard-pressed to conceive of any practical alternative those who made the effort to make their way to Pantai Batu Buruk had. It would appear that all attempts to reason with the police had failed. Were it not the case, there would have been no reason for the police, who had been present from as early as 5 pm, to have engaged with water cannons and tear gas at 10.30 pm. The fact that the crowd remained until that point time clearly demonstrated their desire to have the event proceed. The fact that the police only engaged at 10.30 shows that there was no disturbance before then.

What does one do when one’s democratic rights are wrenched away through authoritarian measures? If it was an enemy of the state who had done so, those who reacted on Saturday night would have been given medals and called ‘freedom fighters’.

Further if it is true, as the Opposition claims, that there were ‘agents provocateurs’ who incited the events that took place, could the events at Pantai Batu Buruk be condemned as they have been? When it is the police force itself that engages in the use of methods designed to agitate and create unrest, can the unrest instigated in this way be properly made the basis of aggressive response of the kind that we saw over the weekend, and at a high number of peaceful civil society public gathering over the last two years?

‘Agent provocateurs’ incite crimes. They cannot be equated with undercover agents. The actions of the former more usually create the criminal intent later made the basis of action, either by response through the use of force or through prosecution. The actions of the latter however do not create the criminal intent and instead more usually allow in the uncovering of the criminal intent. Agent provocateurs are criminals themselves.

Who is to be blamed, if the accusation of the Opposition is true?

The human condition should not be put to test by the authorities when they know that there is a high probability of a response. It is like playing with fire.



amreeth said...

very interesting Senor MIS. i just recently watched an episode of Law & Order that outlined the US police inciting riots/violence as undecover-peace-loving-hippies in the 60s. and how they instilled the irrational nationwide fear of a revolution happening. why? to isolate support for the "peace" movement, effectively discouraging questioning governmental policies through free-peace gatherings...
hmmmm???! see any parallels to the reality of today here in KT, MIS?

Anonymous said...

The government defines what it is and they apply a label to it. That label is carried by all their propaganda cohorts and that label sticks till the end of days.

Just like Hitler labeled it the "final solution" and if only he had won, that would have been what we call the holocaust today! And i suppose our media would be referring to the "final solution" as a vicory for mankind and there would be heros who brought it about.