In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here.

This article is by Francis C. Nantha and was published in the Malay Mail. Francis emailed this piece to us, possibly under the influence of some mind-control thingamabob.

Why did Bersih 3.0 organisers not have a dispersal strategy similar to their rallying call?

The Bersih 3.0 rally — which began as a care-free outing and ended up with violence, physical damage and injuries — is once again another example as to why I hate crowds.

It really doesn’t matter why so many people had gathered together in the first place — from super discounted sales events to pious religious pilgrimages — there’s always a chance of something going horribly wrong simply because someone panics and triggers off mass hysteria.

In a matter of seconds, all hell breaks loose — resulting in all kinds of physical damage and painful injuries. And by the time some form of order is restored, it is really too late to say who was at fault in the first place — mob mentality isn’t rational.

Stupid as it may sound, a panic trigger can sometimes be something as innocuous as someone stumbling and falling against another person. While this may seem completely ridiculous as a spark for a riot, remember how stuffy and cramped you get in crowds that you’re all ready to freak out at the slightest provocation.

Which is why I don’t like being in crowds at all costs. If I see an LRT train carriage is full, I’d rather wait than force myself to be part of the squished sardines.

When I need to visit malls, I avoid weekends and instead try to go on weekday evenings — thus avoiding peak hour traffic and retaining some sense of sanity at the same time.

Rushing to be part of the crowd just doesn’t make any sense to me, especially when it is clear that there are likely to be hooligans taking advantage of the squeeze for nefarious activities like pickpocketing or physical sexual harassment.

So, when some Bersih 3.0 leaders insisted on defying the court ordered restraint obtained by the police force and egged on their supporters to continue the march to Dataran Merdeka, what did they really think was likely to happen?

Did they really think nothing untoward would occur, especially since there wasn’t any form of crowd guidance in the first place?

Heck, even devout pilgrims on the Haj have been known to stampede despite being strictly guided as to where they should go. When you ask an disorganised crowd of people to walk to Dataran Merdeka and further, disregard barriers set in their way, can you really think NOTHING would go wrong?

Sad to say, the weekend chaos has only reinforced my belief that the police should be allowed to act as an independent enforcement authority they are and not be dragged into irrational politics.

Look at how they have kept order at other crowded events like highly-charged football matches, despite fervent opposing supporters sometimes even frothing at their mouths.

Did the Bersih 3.0 organisers really let the police do their part in maintaining order or at least cooperate to ensure the rally participants followed the rules?

Is blaming the police after chaos had erupted really right when all the evidence had shown in advance just how wrong things could go?

And sadly, how could the Bersih 3.0 organisers dare to say the rally had finished by 3pm when they had no organised dispersal of crowd — in the same way they had mobilised the people’s arrival in the first place?

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4 replies on “Bersih: I Hate Crowds”

  1. I gather from what you have written that you were NOT THERE.
    By making the choice of not going, it shows that you think what the Govt is doing is right and good.
    I respect your opinion though I choose to differ from you.
    If I may add, you missed another opportunity to know what real 1 Malaysia kindred spirit is like.
    I first experienced it at Bersih 2.0 and again in Bersih 3.0 – and it is a wonderful feeling that there is still HOPE for Malaysia. Much as we prefer not to have it, there is nothing that bonds us together as having been tear gassed through no fault on our part – crying together, helping one another, sharing water and salt together … that is an experience I will greatly treasure.

    For those of us who walked for the sake of a better Malaysia,
    It was clearly the police who were the instigators and bullies
    No matter what the IGP says about fair investigation, for those of us who were at the Rally, we can already tell you the outcome of their investigation and their conclusion – NFA.
    Seen it far too often already.

    Pray that GE13 will make a difference – but it can only do so if the electoral roll is clean.
    That our future as a nation will not be decided by "instant mee malaysians" from Indonesia, Phillipines, Bangladesh or Pakistan.

    God help Malaysia

    1. I have to say that it would be a myopic view to say that anyone who was not there at BERSIH is by default "think what the Govt is doing is right and good". Taking a cause to the streets is an oversimplification and superficial course of action to achieve a goal. That being said, I am among the citizens quite disillusioned and jaded with how BERSIH has evolved.

      I was at the first BERSIH, when the opposition politician's hijacking of the whole cause was less obvious than it was last weekend. I was also there at BERSIH 3.0, but really after seeing how it went down, I left disgusted at how much of a farce it's all become. Apart from the rally and complaining, what else are we doing to ensure free and fair elections? What would constitute as "fair and free elections", anyway? If Pakatan Rakyat wins GE13 wholesale, then would that mean that the GE was "fair and free"? If that's the case, then the entire agenda for BERSIH would be woefully inadequate and childish.

      1. In general, I agree with the opinion of the article. Hopefully, should there be a BERSIH 4.0, that it would be itself "fair and free" from any political elements. I truly hope that people who engage in BERSIH take responsibility of any and all outcome of the event, rather than delegating the blame to the PDRM or FRU or agent provocateurs or the Government as we tend to do now.

        More than anything else, I hope that the Malaysian people develop into a mature and thinking society. A society that realises that in order to affect change, it takes more than just venting out petty and childish frustrations out on the streets.

        1. Apparently after saying so much you miss the point on Bersih. To put it bluntly, yes the activity of bersih now is helping us to change this government, we know of the atrocities behind present government and it is leading us to disaster in foreseeable future. If the spirit of bersih can do it for us, it speaks volumes to future politicians that the Rakyat is their master.

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