Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bersih3 : A monyet's observations and intepretations

Those of you who have been following my blog would probably know that I am an avid reader. Everyday  I read all the main English newspapers and portals (The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, Nutgraph, The Star, NST, The Sun, MalayMail). I also read BBC and CNN. I read Utusan Malaysia but not regularly, perhaps once a week. Everyday, I also read about 20 different so-po blogs – roughly half of which are pro-BN, the other half pro-Pakatan.  Plus miscellaneous websites, blogs, etc – time permitting. I also follow a number of pro-Pakatan and pro-BN folks on twitter. [These are, of course, on top of the technical stuff that I have to read for my office work].

Reading a diversity of material and speaking to a variety of people is actually quite interesting. Most importantly, it gives you multiple takes on a single subject. Different people say different things about a subject. Take the Bersih3 rally yesterday. Depending who you speak to or what you read, you will get very different stories. If you speak to a hardcore BN supporter, he/she will blame Pakatan blame for everything that went wrong. If you spoke to a hardcore Pakatan supporter, the BN government is to blame for everything that went wrong.

Here is MY UNDERSTANDING (as an armchair observer) on how things went yesterday at Bersih3.0 in Kuala Lumpur. They are random observations and intepretations. Tell me whether I got it right or wrong.

1. The crowd was definitely larger than that of Bersih2.0 – both in number as well as in geographical spread. No one will ever know the actual numbers – the estimates for KL range from 25,000 to 250,000. There were a lot more Chinese protestors in Bersih3.0 compared to Bersih2.0. If Bersih 2.0 was dominated by the PAS brigade, DAP appears to have worked hard to bring its members to the 3.0 event.

2. There was carnival atmosphere at many places, Malaysians holding hands, singing and mingling. Some brought their individual banners, some had their drums, some came in fancy costumes and many had smiles on their faces. Most (not all) participants came to make their point and they did just that. [I like. This is how rallies should be.  I might even join the next rally if….].There were obviously many thugs in the crowd too.

3. There were dickheads who brought children to the rally.

4. The government’s response, both on the days leading to the rally as well on the day itself, was muted - unlike during Bersih2.0. The most senior minister who made statements was Hishamuddin. Najib, Muhyidden and others senior ministers hardly got into the debate.

5. Ambiga did the right thing yesterday afternoon. She spoke at the intended time and place, stressed the importance of free and fair elections and then, asked the people to disperse. She respected the court order and asked the protestors to respect it as well. And most (not all) did. Bersih came, spoke and left.

6. Ambiga and Bersih3.0 steering committee were completely out of depth with regards to handling huge crowds. Having roused many people to participate, she and her committee did not have the skills, experience or means to control such a large crowd. Although Bersih3.0 was better prepared compared to Bersih2.0 (medical aid, for example), they loss control of the crowd (as Ambiga herself admitted).

7. As much as Bersih3.0 was about free and fair elections, Pakatan (particularly PKR) leaders had truly hijacked the event. Despite Bersih3.0 guidelines and instructions, some PKR leaders were hell-bent on stealing the limelight. Chants for Refomasi and anti-UMNO were aplenty. All the hardwork put in by the Bersih3.0 committee was “tarnished” by several PKR leaders. [Ambiga must be pretty daft to believe that Anwar would not hijack the event]

8. Anwar and Azmin should shut the f*&k up. They have caused too much problems already.

9. Both the protestors and the police were calm and collected and the event was peaceful. Things changed when some protestors broke through the barricade at Dataran Merdeka – leading to the firing of tear-gas.

10. Malaysians are extremely guillible and take everything at face value if the messenger is someone on their side. There were many doctored photos circulating – and people, who otherwise are quite intelligent, were busy circulating photos online without checking their authenticity. This applies to both pro-Bersih and anti-Bersih online crowd.

11. Most of the blogs have chosen to highlight photos, videos and stories from their side only. All the pro-BN folks on blogs, FB and twitter show only the videos and pictures of the rampaging thugs attacking the police cars. All the pro-Pakatan folks on blogs, FB and twitter show only videos, photos and stories of the innocent faces of the protestors and the police whacking them.

12. Bersih3.0 succeeded in rallying together the converted (i.e. Pakatan supporters or rather anti-BN folks). It also perhaps helped Pakatan’s aim to embarrass the BN government. Whether it is going to hasten or help electoral reform remains to be seen. The violence that ensued later part of the evening is not going to help Bersih’s cause.

13. If Pakatan was hoping to win votes through their rhetoric yesterday, they are going to be disappointed. Most people who marched yesterday are already pro-Pakatan folks – so no new votes there. The pro-BN folks would have hardened their stand in response. And as for the middle ground, especially in the rural areas, the images of protestors attacking the police are going to severely harm Pakatan's prospects.

 14. Pakatan has successfully and completely alienated the police force and their families as well as all our men and women in the army, navy, airforce, FRU and other security force who would sympathise with their police brethren. Yesterday attack on the police was probably the final straw following the series of (verbal) attacks on the police over the past two years. [yet, Pakatan folks will wonder why postal votes go the other way].

15. Bersih3.0 had given an opportunity and courage for many Malaysians to march, rally, protest and speak up. Many of the marches were genuinely passionate about the cause. Many of them were also my friends. If the government can overcome its fear of rallies and the organizers can discipline their participants better, there is no reasons why we can't have a lot more peaceful rallies.

Monyet King also says
Malaysians are getting more matured politically. Those in the urban areas understand their rights better and are not afraid of speaking up or joining protests. Rallies will become increasingly common in the years to come. I hope all parties will learn from yesterday’s events and plan and prepare accordingly. DBKL, in particular, should seriously start planning, how to handle future rallies. I have already written about this earlier (read here) – we should facilitate rallies.

NGOs like Bersih and others should also seriously consider building their skills on how to handle, communicate with and control large crowds. It would be irresponsible if you can only attract large crowds without being able to control them. So start planning and learning. Most importantly, civil society should not allow politicians to hijack their events.

Most of you folks who follow my blog generally read the English language media. I suggest that you, from time to time, also read what other language media are saying. Several million Malaysians follow the Bahasa Malaysia newpapers and newsportals. Their views could be very different from yours. Similarly for the Chinese media. I admit that what I read is not very representative of newspapers in the country. Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese language have large circulations. In fact, Metro Ahad has the largest paid circulation (over 400,000 copies).


CK said...

Fair observation. Not bad for an armchair monkey

helang said...

This is to open more political gangster in the street. This time we see pr but who know barisan will be next. I am quite disappointed to see people doing like hell yesterday. No offence on protesting things but can we do it like malaysian manners? Without copy from out jungle kingkong?

Anonymous said...

MK,Your point No. 8 sums up everything. LOL

bruno said...

Monyet King,the Bersih 3.0 rally was already a success,with Malaysians and their supporters in 30 countries taking part.The carnival like atmosphere with the people mingling with the policemen on duty,taking pictures on the way.

From Friday night,the crowd was slowly building up.Everything was going on fine,and after Ambiga had spoken and thank them and asked them to disperse and go home.

Then the stupid herd of PKR morons,consisting of Anwar,Azmin and Tian Chua have to show their asslike faces.After Anwar and Azmin spoke and getting the crowd riled up and instigated them to breach the police baricades.

Then all hell broke lose.After some of their rowdy supporters charged at the police,it provoked an reaction from them.Tear gas and water cannons started to go off.Then the police went out chasing the trouble makers.Some of the protesters were plumetted.

That was what the politicians wanted.Pictures of the people getting bashed by the police going on the internet and the 8 o'clock news.

This Anwar and Azmin better go and suck batangs in the coconut plantations,and leave politics to the politicians.And Tian Chua can have a career change to a circus clown.He always want to get arrested for all the wrong reasons.

Minyak Man said...

1. I blame anwar and azmin. Malaysiakini even reported that anwar told the crowd to "merdekakan" dataran.
watch the first minute, anwar signalling azmin to open the barricade with a smile on his face. They knew what they were getting themselves but did it anyway.

This was before they tried to remove the barricade and the police started to deploy the teargas

2. I think your point number 10 contradicts with your conclusion that malaysians are more matured

And here i thought only UMNO and perkasa were a bunch of racist hooligans

3. I Blame ambiga as well, for trying to organize an event that she has no capability to control. the govt said dataran was a no no long before the 28th, a good organizer wouldve looked for another venue. But no, lets just put this responsibility on the govt to propose a venue for THEIR EVENT. And wait until the eleventh hour even though its THEIR EVENT TO ORGANIZE. And then claim that the govt venue proposal was late and they couldnt change the venue.

Not to mention giving the space and time for the opposition to give their speeches. She keeps on claiming that bersih is not part of PR, but its hard to believe otherwise.

4. You dont't need a rigged election to tell you that democracy is dead in Malaysia, these BERSIH folks are a shiny example of it.

Johnnie Lim said...

Very observant oh wise one. Thanks for your honest view. This year rally also include some protesting on Lynas, could this be one of the reason for the extra huge crowd? Some of the things I was not happy with
was the barb wires. Really are we at war? One joker even have a poster saying welcome to Tel Aviv, and why must every thing be about or compare to Israel.?

zewt said...

Fair observation.

One point about the rally being hikacked though...

If PR politicians failed to show up in such rallies... they will be branded as NATO. When they pour in their support, they are seen as hijacking the event. I think the line is very blur. It's a case of damn if you do, damn if you don't. And in the overall context, it's slightly geared towards damn if you don't.

I will not go into the argument of whether it is a success or a failure or whether it should happen or ambiga lost control, etc etc.... but one fact remains...

the electorate is dirty, and a lot of people want it fixed. that's the right the people are looking for, the rest are blur, and realistically so.

Anonymous said...

Monyet King, you point No. 7 is rubbish. All Bersih steering committee members are also hardcore Pakatan supporters.

Andre said...

You made quite a good analysis, IMHO. The one remark I don't entirely agree with is at point 2 that "There were obviously many thugs in the crowd too". What you mean with 'many'? Perhaps you're right when you mean that in absolute numbers. After all, it was a huge crowd, so even if only 0.2% were thugs, you end up with 100 thugs in a crowd of 50,000 (my personal lower bound estimate). However, I think 0.2% thugs is very little.

Johnnie Lim, you complain about the reference to Tel Aviv. Although in most cases I agree about always pointing to Israel, in this particular case I think it was valid. I understood it to be a reference to the wall Israel is building. 30 years ago the note on the razor wire might have read "Welcome to Berlin, you are leaving the American sector". That wall is gone now, but a new one has taken its place.

Which brings me to my final point, one that's missing in Monyet's analysis. By declaring Dataran Merdeka off limits for no good reasons at all, it was the government who made the first provocation. On top of that, the police neglected it's job to manage the rally, and focused instead on defending an empty square from intruders.

Anonymous said...

Are you aware that govt jammed mobile telecommunication line where access to social media esp. twitter (most of our means communication) even txt msg wasnt working. I was at Masjid Jamek gate sealed out of touch frm th outside. Definitely would not know of Ambiga's appeal for us to disperse.

So from the compound we stayed peacefully and yet police shot teargas from the other side of the river into the mosque courtyard. Also we could get glimpsed of FRU getting into KL streets charging at people that mostly are about leaving but cornered all around. Isnt Dataran Merdeka the only off limit court ordered. So much of Najib's democracy campaign for I dont see any of that despite of me totally against the unruly angry mobs.

The next time shall there be anymore of this I, wouldnt hesitate to again join and you are recommended to account the ordeal first hand. You wil be surprise to meet nice friendly common people from all walk of life and they shared reasons why have they come and join the rally when asked.

SSS said...

HRH Monyet King, will you marry me? I am tired of all the chronically partisan reports. Your blog is refreshing. Please, say you will marry me.

Andre said...

To Anonymous: I heard many stories (and experienced myself) the lack of call phone connectivity at the demonstration. It's seems irresistible to see the government's hand in this. However, in the spirit of Occam's Razor, I prefer to stick to the simpler explanation unless proven otherwise. Which is that there were simply too many phone to service by the cells available. One GSM transmitter can only deal with a certain number of calls and data connections. A few will be lucky, most will be shut out. SMS-es will take a long time, depending on how often your phone will retry.

Occam's razor, google it.

elizabeth said...

I think we cannot say the rally was hijacked, that would be calling those of us who took time and effort to be there fools and idiots. BN politicians are free to attend, after all, Lee Hwa Beng was also spotted. Bersih is about ordinary Malaysians overcoming fear to stand up for what is right. As Ambiga said, those of her generation (and mine) have kept silent all those years as our liberties are being stripped bit by bit. Did not the externmination of 6 million jews happened because good men kept silent?

eddy said...

I think it is Ambiga and Bersih's fault that events turned to the worse:

1. She knew that the the Gomen would never allow a rally in Dataran Merdeka that would be hijacked by Pakatan, but she did it anyway, why?
2. Ambiga should have publicly told ALL political leaders that they are not welcome to the Bersih rally. It can only be effective if it can be seen to be really apolitical. We all know that her problem is, if its apolitical she would not get the numbers that she wanted as Bersih would need support from PAS,DAP and PKR leaders to muster their supporters. Furthermore Rallies are not cheap, transport, food, T-Shirts etc.
3. When the Politicians from Oppo publicly say that they will join the rally, what does Ambiga think? That she can control them on what to say or not to say.
4. She should have accepted the other more safer venues offered by the DBKL but she cited lack of time to accept the offer. I think that is Bersih horseshit Bro in this internet age.
5. Ambiga would be naive if she does not know that she couldn't control the "political" crowd and should have taken heed about what Tunku Aziz of the DAP had to say.

Ambiga and Bersih is fully responsible for the mob violence and yes she has been played by both Pakatan and the BN who came out the winners in their quest for votes. Ambiga get all the blame of course.

Ambiga and Bersih champions a cause that many of us think is good but there are other bread and butter issues for the not so well to do, such as the spiralling out of control house prices in the Klang Valley, Penang, JB that is making first time would be house owners difficult to buy a house to call home. Many more Bro and anyway election reforms are on the way and they take time, some of the reforms asked by Ambiga and Bersih are the stupid indelible ink requirement which I am still vehemently opposed which was accepted by the PSC and the SPR.

That Bersih is trying to portray the Malaysian electoral system as really bad is too much for many of us, if its that all bad then why did Penang,Selangor,Perak (for a while), Kedah and Kelantan and WP Kl fall into the hands of the Pakatan.

Now I hear Ambiga and Besih wants the head and deputy head of the SPR to roll because thay are/were UMNO members. My question is if they were sympathisers of DAP,PAS and PKR would she ask the same.

Ambiga and bersih has no credibility nor integrity to pressure for election reforms when Ambiga gave speeches in PKR held events as invited guest.

Monyet King said...

I agree with Andre 10:28 AM response to Anon 9:57 AM. There was simply too many people in a small area all trying to access the phone lines at the same.

This sort of thing happens in very crowded areas, stadiums, etc. Nothing sinister about it.

Monyet King said...

SSS 10:13 AM. Please take a number.

Andre said...

In response to eddy:
1) Because she (and all others concerned about clean and fair elections) choose to exercise their constitutional freedom of expression & assembly.

2) It's not up to Ambiga to judge which citizens can and cannot attend the demonstration. And why ask politicians to stay away? Any non-commercial organisation, political or not, should be welcomed if they support the cause.

3) Ambiga need not be able to control the participants of the demonstration. They are not puppets.

4) Accepting other venues means accepting the unfounded decision of DBKL that Dataran Merdeka could not be used. It was basically a power struggle to show who's on top, the people or the powers that be. The latter refuses to accept that they are elected to serve the people.

5) Perhaps Ambiga is naive. So what?

How can the organizers of the demonstration be responsible for the actions of individuals attending? Before the trespassing of the barricades started, Ambiga called for ending the demonstration and for the people to disperse. Some chose to do otherwise, and enter the square. There are pictures of those who did so first (remarkably not wearing any Bersih signs). I take it the police will arrest these people in the days to come. And I expect the government to investigate the true reasons for DBKL to deny permission to use the square. Same goes for the infamous police car incident. Why did it start driving into the crowd in the first place? These questions have to be addressed. As far as I can see, Ambiga doesn't bear responsibility for these events.

There are always other issues to address. But having a fair system of representation and fair elections is the foundation for all other issues. You should solve things in the right order.

Why exactly is indelible ink stupid? In my view, it guarantees that a person can only vote once. Given the state of the electoral roll, not a luxury provision.

The fact that in some states the opposition won in the last elections is no valid argument. Nobody says Malaysia is a dictatorship. It's not that the elections are totally fake. So yes, if the support for the opposition is overwhelming, they can win. But the playing field is far from even. And that's what Bersih is all about.

semuanya OK kot said...

Do Bersih supporters bother to stay informed and discuss issues outside their immediate circle? Is that "not cool"? Is it because their own behaviour obviously lacks fairness, and it is easier to hide in a crowd? Perhaps they waiting for a gizmo or app for good news.

However, on reading official propaganda, I prefer to practice censorship - the same censorhip the gomen practices. There is only so much pollution a mind can take.

There is nothing sophisticated behind gomen efforts to silence demos. It is simple, primitive "lu siapa" arrogance. It is no different in "democratic" countries - anyone who missed the violent crackdowns when it came to serious issues must have been in a coma.

The reason 2 PKR leaders could not play second fiddle as participants was also arrogance.

semuanya OK kot said...

Further proof that you should not pollute your mind through over-exposure to propaganda pollution but should instead practise censorship of your own whenever you can:‘i-was-scared-for-my-life’/
It says:
"The Home Minister has said the seizure of memory cards and cameras from newsmen was part of the police’s standard operating procedure."