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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Thought On Rallies: The Bar, BERSIH, HINDRAF And Those To Come

"At the start of the dictatorships in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, the only public gatherings permitted were shows of military strength and football matches. In Chile, wearing slacks was enough to get you arrested if you were a woman, long hair if you were a man. "All over the Republic a thorough cleansing is under way," declared an editorial in a junta-controlled Argentine newspaper. It called for a mass scrubbing of leftist graffiti: "Soon enough of the surfaces will shine through, released from that nightmare by the action of soap and water."

In Chile, Pinochet was determined to break his people's habit of taking to the streets. The tiniest gatherings were dispersed with water cannons, Pinochet's favorite crowd control weapon. The junta had hundreds of them, small enough to drive onto sidewalks and douse cliques of school-children handing out leaflets; even funeral processions, when the mourning got too rowdy, were brutally repressed. Nicknamed guanacos, after a llama known for its habit of spitting, the ubiquitous cannons cleared away people as if they were human garbage, leaving the streets glistening, empty."

(Naomi Klein, 'The Shock Doctrine')

"In spite of fairly regular multi-party elections and some other features requiring accountability of the regime, the Malaysian state has been authoritarian since the colonial period, though analysts have charcterised the political system as semi-authoritarian, semi democratic, or quasi-democratic. Although these qualified descriptions suggest that some democratic aspects and forms remain, most of the minimal conditions necessary for the practice of democracy in the Schumpeterian sense, particularly fair elections, adequate opportunities for independent political opinion-making and political organisation, and minimal protection for the individual from arbitrary state power, hardly exist in Malaysia. Further, as Crouch points out, even the minimal civil liberties and democratic procedures that exist are allowed as long as the position of the ruling elite is not seriously threatened, let alone undermined; he observes that such rights have been 'quickly modified or abolished when elite interests were threatened'. This has been true of amendments to the Federal Constitution and other legislation, as well as to the rules and regulations governing UMNO, which has increasingly enjoyed and deployed the powers and privileges of long term incumbency since 1955 in a seemingly one-party state."

(Terrence Gomez and Jomo K.S., 'Malaysia's Political Economy: Politics, Patronage And Profits')


Anonymous said...

shock doctrine? this is gonna shock me more. police is going to charge 20 protestors for attempted murder? can you believe that? the victimisation and intimidation have begun in earnest. reckon that the regime wants to set an example and these protestors are being made the sacrificial lambs. like what the SIL said, go after one monkey and the rest will toe the line?
malik, please do something to defend these innocent protestors. and may all fair minded maalysians stand behind them regardless of race and religion.

Anonymous said...

This surge in interest for demonstrations and marches lately is due to the openness of the present PM and the ingrained disrespect of the host,the Malay . Soon to come will be the civil strife, arson, suicide bombers etc ignited by both sides but surely started by the other. The PM must take a stronger grip. Lets be realistic, race is not a dirty word. Its in everybody's selfish thought. Just think as one blogger rightly pointed out, can a Malay win in a chinese dominated constituency? So be realistic accept the difference in all human and share the cake equitably. There is no need to blindly ape the western philosophy and impose it onto others.

Anonymous said...

Dear Malik,

The chasm between the ‘apparency’ and ‘actuality’ in Malaysian politics is deep where every register has to be read between lines, even so the Prime Minister's response to the widely reported Hindraf issue which coverage Al-Jazeera in particular has been in the lead.

Consider this angle Malik. In the Hindraf issue, it is apparent the confrontation is between marginalised Hindus and the position of the Malaysian government but in a higher register, the exchange is actually between strictures of the Wahabbi doctrine and a moderate Islam Hadaari which our government is trying to promote. It is no secret that the two doctrines are at odds with each other.

That particular Wahabbi media which many unwittingly look upon as a breath of fresh air, is in the forefront of this exchange. On the pretense of fair journalism, they have been consistently embarrassing Malaysia and consequently Islam Hadaari on various issues.

I watched how you effortlessly played with an Umno man and a cabinet minister recently and pinned your senior brother-at-law on the subject of Islamisation earlier. You gave them enough rope and sat back. Everyone I know was impressed by your performance and this was made possible due to the 'fair journalism' of this particular media, but then, why is it so apparent that countries with more serious and controversial issues appear to be beyond reach of their critical discussions? The answer to this question is obvious but is subject to another discussion.

When the Prime Minister responds to Hindraf in anger, he is actually telling the Wahabbi, real adversary of Islam Hadaari, 'please stop radicalising us'. He is telling Hindraf in not so many words that Islam Hadaari is a friend and bulwark against the radicalisation of the religion and urgently needs its support. He is telling us that a pincer movement comprising the aforesaid media and two generations of wahabbi educated muslims in our midst is underway and, with ample finance pouring in, it is surreptitiously gaining foothold.

Good work Malik, cheers

Anonymous said...

A good article i just read on the issue

Tough Talk, Tough Love, Tough Change

“Man’s freedom, is the effect of the great mass of physical, intellectual and moral influences to which this man is subjected by the people surrounding him and the environment in which he was born and in which he passed his whole life” – Mikhail Bakunin.

Malaysians intuitively are uncomfortable with the kind of in-your-face aggressiveness one saw from both sides in Hindraf’s demonstrations. But those people out in the streets on both sides, were us. They affect us all as we all affect them.

Street demonstrations notwithstanding, our dispossessed are no where near any critical mass. But that doesn’t make denial smart strategy.

To know what happens when people have nothing to lose, read Mikhail Bakunin. Conversely, to better understand the importance of stability, read through Mikhail Bakunin. Anarchist literature is great schooling on how best to maintain the proverbial fine line.

In the interest of perspective, the poorest of our Indian community still have basic health care, electricity and running water. In a very stark contrast the same can’t be said for their ethnic brethren in Tamil Nadu. Middle class families in Chennai queue up for water on a daily basis in conditions unacceptable to Malaysians from any economic strata one cares to pick.

While that allow us to advise the inimitable Mr. Karunanidhi about glass house and stones, it behooves Malaysia to not use that as and excuse and deny its own Indian solid opportunities to bootstrap out of a fate decided by rubber plantation pasts. These long gone plantations have morphed into the invisible elephant in our room.

According to The Economist Indians constitute 8% of the Malaysia population but make up 14% of its juvenile delinquents, 20% of its wife and child beaters and 41% of its beggars. This disproportion is not too dissimilar to the one afflicting America’s African-American community or ironically, India’s Muslims.

Statistics suggest on an average the African immigrant to America does better for himself than the native African American. Same ethnicity, different results. Similarly and this may hurt, non-resident Indians including Indians working in Malaysia do better than the ones burdened by a plantation past. The past prevails over their current situations. It’s wise to accept that because once we know where to look, we’ll learn what to do.

The Indians travails in our post-Independence history began when plantation induced ignorance resulted in many Indians not applying for their citizenships when it was offered in 1957. Subsequent whammies include closure of rubber plantations, competition from illegal labor and a lack of quality educational facilities available for the community. Something that amazingly is prevalent even today. All of this results in sad statistics. The fact that the government could possibly have done more doesn’t help ameliorate an unhappy situation.

As a nation we have to accept the above. As a community, the Indians have to accept a portion of the responsibility. It beggars belief why the quota set for the community in tertiary institutions for example, invariably remains unutilized. This is in sharp contrast to the fanatical importance our Chinese community accord education.

If Hindraf demonstrations were a one-time wake up call, well, why not. Some good may come from a collective awakening to the situation. It may induce proactive change which if surgically applied lends itself to buttressing stability. Any more disturbances however render the tool meaningless and will surely rent a social fabric being held together with considerable effort and intent.

The very people who marched, are the first potential casualties of an unstable social and civic environment. They have more vested in stability than those in gated communities. The rich rarely suffer.

If I were asked for a solution, it would have to be education, education and lastly, education. Our Indian community needs to take and be allowed to take a 5 year sabbatical. It needs to participate in an ethnic renaissance sponsored by their hard work and by a Government that sees their success as its own.

Hj Rais Hussin Hj Mohamed Ariff

Sarnan said...

Hmm anonymous pointed it out well. It's true, the fact that humans are selfish when it comes to factors like race, religion and ethnicity. They would want their ehtnicity/culture to be the best among the rest. But, the government is supposed to be a medium where even the smallest of all people should be able to convay their ideas. Well the fact pointed out in the article is pretty true isn't it. The malaysian government is somewhat authoritarian, and one way or another it is ruling the minorities within the community with an iron fist, which only allows(mostly), the major race to come up. That's a sad but true fact.s

Unknown said...

Assalamualaikum Mr Malik,

I find that most sites have condemned Hindraf on their actions. I personally think that they just wanted to voice out their predicaments. But unfortunately, their protest was given the hard treatment by the authorities, just like the Bersih rally. Perhaps we can all look into what they have been going through all these years and start to understand rather than judge. I just can't help feeling sorry for them because I know what I read in the newspapers may not be the actual case.

Anonymous said...

Dear Malik

Your performance on Al-jazeera TV was simply first class - cool, collected and calm.

Even the Oxbridge graduate failed so miserably which clearly confirmed what he had said before that he needed the "protection" of his father-in-law. The other minister, words such as imbecile and nincompoop cannot described him adequately.

Well done. May our good Lord watch over you and bless our country Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

Salaam Sdr Malik.

I cannot believe you support demonstrations. The Malay culture is a very peaceful culture and demonstrations is against our way of life. Let us not blindly follow Western culture!

Anonymous said...

Anon 937 the make-up of the Malays are not just from the Malay Archipelago but has been infiltrated by those from other continents. But do not despair the second generation will have been fully assimilated into the Malay culture.