by Yushaimi Yahaya
Thursday, May 03, YOU know what, we got seriously lucky this time, didn’t we? It’s a decapitating personal thought, and not one, I am adamant, that should be dismissed as nothing.
Think about it.
Bersih 3.0 could have been the nation’s worst nightmare: scores were seriously or fatally injured in that madness that we are all still trying to comprehend.
I stand firmly by my remarks in this column last week that most Malaysians do not have a problem with the spirit of having the rally but it should have taken place in a controlled environment. A day after my column appeared last Thursday (I was in favour of Merdeka Stadium instead of Dataran Merdeka), DAP’s vice-chairman Tunku Aziz Ibrahim echoed the same sentiment. He was worried things could get out of hand.
We both asked the same question: the point is to deliver home the message, and the turn-out would have been good enough to achieve this. So, why fuss over the venue? Who would even want to argue about asking for reforms.
Bersih was working on a fool-proof platform in as far as whipping up public support for its cause. Going against the eight demands would have been plain silly. In the game politicians play, attempting to go against such a noble cause was just being plain ignorant or stupid.
There were those brawns who tried, and got clobbered.
Yes, it seems the organisers had everything thought out well. This was supposed to have been a peaceful assembly. The sheer number of people turning up would have driven the message home fast and hard.
A portion of the population is calling for these changes. Fair. Let the government take us seriously by showing up in support. But Datuk S. Ambiga and Co lost crowd control, didn’t they? The doomsayers were right, weren’t they? Tunku Aziz was right, wasn’t he?
It’s a downright shame, if you ask me, that template excuses such as the acts of defiance and violence on the part of the supporters being the handiwork of “agent provocateurs”, were spewed in trying to face critics post-Bersih.
Many have turned their attention to those deemed to have wronged the rakyat. Ambiga has not been spared. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his right hand man, Azmin Ali, bore the brunt of a united media two days ago when even portals deemed Oppositionfriendly questioned them on allegations that they had instigated the supporters to occupy Dataran Merdeka.
Anwar, for all his years of experience, was temperamental. Azmin, perhaps, showed more restraint. Still, they were quick to try and “bulldoze over” the media representatives, accusing them of being Umno-controlled media.
Perhaps, it was just reflex.
All those years of experience in dealing with the media when they were part of the government must have instinctively kicked in, says a friend. Umno-controlled media? Again? Strange that they turn to that same old story when they were being grilled by their “friends” as well.
I will not touch on the fact that some of these portals did not report on the outburst. It’s their prerogative to report whatever they see fit. At the very least, their presence fulfills one of the demands to equal access to the media.
Back to the issue at hand, we have ascertained these facts:
• A group of supporters had gone against the organisers’ pledge to not occupy Dataran;
• It was not the authorities who started it but the police did not show restraint in handling certain segments, including the media;
• Some supporters were violent. The country has not seen that kind of defiance for a long time after the Reformasi period; and
• Large gatherings pose security and crowd control risks.
It should have been done in a controlled environment.
Merdeka Stadium or Bukit Jalil Stadium should have been chosen by the organisers. There are other issues and amidst all the finger-pointing and attempts to clarify, verify or to further vilify, think of what could have happened on Saturday.
Imagine if the police had opened fire, and many on the ground would know that there were instances when they could have. Being chased, pelted at, and in one incident, a “man” was reportedly trampling on top of a police car, and being assaulted, it is not difficult to imagine the worst. Someone could have easily discharged his firearm. It could be out of sheer fear, or a moment of madness or even in self-defence.
Vice-versa, one could have imagined one or two members of the men in blue and the media succumbing to injuries inflicted by the raging mob. Certainly, I think we got lucky this time? Question is will our luck hold out the next time things get out of hand?