Tunku Aziz Speaks About Bersih

I have no intention of being politically correct when I say that it is obvious that this undeniably Chinese funded and organised demonstration had chosen carefully the dates to flex their muscles and to show their complete and utter disdain for an event of great emotional and spiritual significance for millions of Malays.

By Tunku Abdul Aziz, Malaysiakini

I MAKE no apologies for some plain-speaking on this Merdeka Day. I write today more in sorrow than anger, fully mindful that my views will be taken amiss. I am not beholden to anyone and to me, as a citizen of this, the country that I love and cherish, Malaysia’s interests come above all other considerations.

No one can deny us the exercise of our rights as enshrined in our Constitution. These are inalienable rights enjoyed by every member of a democratic society. However, nowhere in the world are these rights absolute. For the greater good of society, they have to be regulated.

The rights that we enjoy as citizens of a country are guaranteed by law, but they come with certain obligations or responsibilities that we are expected to fulfil in return. In our society, regrettably, there has developed an attitude of mind that seems to view human rights as rights without any obligation to reciprocate on our part. That is a serious fallacy because in the enjoyment of our rights, we have an obligation not to trample on the rights, or intrude into the privacy, of others.

Organisers of Bersih 4 were well within their rights to take to the street to protest against real or imagined grievances, but for the sake of good order, they were obliged to be guided by, and to obey the legitimate orders of the police who have a duty to protect the rights of others not participating in the demonstration. The Bersih 4 demonstration was declared illegal by the police because their permission had not been obtained as required by law. Bersih had decided to take the law into its own hands. This declaration by the police that Bersih had acted illegally really had nothing to do with perceived human rights violations on their part, but merely to ensure that the demonstration routes were agreed beforehand in order to avoid causing disruption and unnecessary inconvenience to members of the community going about their normal business.

Then, there was the question of the final destination. Why the insistence on Dataran Merdeka, where preparations for the Merdeka celebrations were known to be under way? Several stadiums and other venues were offered by the authorities but were rejected. The reason for demanding that they be allowed to form up on the historic Selangor Club Padang, now renamed Dataran Merdeka, was obviously to draw maximum international media attention, and to cause acute embarrassment to the government in the week in which rehearsals for the Merdeka parade were being held daily. Al Jazeera, the cable news network, smelling blood, was back in town to broadcast to the world in its usual over the top breathless fashion that at least 80,000 demonstrators were on the streets of the Malaysian capital who were angered by the theft of huge sums of money by the prime minister, not even bothering to use the word “alleged”. The electoral process and the state of the economy were proffered as justification for people taking to the streets. That the actual number was closer to 25,000 than the figure they had been tossing about repeatedly was neither here nor there.

The world was no doubt enthralled by the prospect of Malaysia joining the ranks of dysfunctional states. If they were expecting an Arab Spring east of Suez, they were sorely disappointed. That was the main purpose of Bersih wanting to gather at Dataran Merdeka, even if it meant breaking the law. In this diabolical endeavour, Bersih had the open support of opposition, especially DAP lawmakers, who, as we have often seen, are happy not only to break the law themselves but worse, in my view, to encourage and instigate ordinary men and women to do the same, as was the case with Bersih 1.

I have no intention of being politically correct when I say that it is obvious that this undeniably Chinese funded and organised demonstration had chosen carefully the dates to flex their muscles and to show their complete and utter disdain for an event of great emotional and spiritual significance for millions of Malays. That the Chinese have never identified with Merdeka through our 58 years of independence is not in dispute. That is their right, but this provocative and racially insensitive act is arrogant by any reckoning and something which I will long remember as a deliberate challenge to Malay sentiments and sensitivities. I am not a racist: my record in fighting against any form of discrimination against non-Malays in employment and in the award of scholarships speaks for itself. I put great store by Sino-Malay unity as a basis for nation-building and I am saddened by the reckless decision to sacrifice the prospect for sustainable long-term racial accommodation for immediate political gratification. Nation-building is a long and tedious process.

Bersih, under Ambiga Sreenevasan, set out with an agenda for free and fair elections. I supported it as long as it operated within the law. Ambiga was unable to control events once the opposition’s political heavyweights muscled their way into the act. What should have been a non-partisan movement had been turned into an opposition tool. Today, Bersih 4 has completely dropped any pretence of fighting for free and fair elections. It has allowed itself to become pawns in a high-stakes political game of chess played by dark forces with deep pockets to promote a hidden agenda; using illegal street demonstrations to bring down a legally elected head of government. Maria Chin Abdullah must know what she is doing, and I hope she will be able and prepared to deal with the consequences of her actions. She is already, by all accounts, out of her depth.

Given Bersih’s vastly changed complexion, and bearing in mind the threat posed by its activities to public order and security, and inter-racial harmony, no less, the government must re-examine Bersih’s legitimacy from the standpoint of the law. While it is the duty of the government to respect human rights provisions under the law, it cannot neglect its duty to protect the country from subversion by forces using democracy as a cover for their activities against the state. Bersih has made its intentions absolutely clear — bringing down the Najib administration by resorting to illegal means in the name of democratic rights.

Bersih can do its damnedest to dishonour Merdeka, but Malays up and down the country will celebrate the 58th anniversary of Merdeka, as they have celebrated all other Merdeka days, with joy and pride: confident in the knowledge that but for the courage, sacrifice and fortitude of their people in those dangerous and trying days of Chinese-led insurgencies, when the future of Tanah Melayu hung in the balance, there would have been no Merdeka to commemorate on Aug 31 each year.

The writer is a director of the International Institute for Public Ethics and chairman of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Advisory Board


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