Dataran Merdeka. FRU. Police. Razor wire. Heartbreaking. | Photo by Marcus van Geyzel

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 post is actually an email from Fahri Azzat to the LoyarBurok egroup (which you can join if you write for us!) as part of an email thread on whether “breaking the barrier” was right or wrong. Lord Bobo mind-controlled the MastHead minions to reproduce this because (1) it’s a good read; and (2) it will hopefully remind Fahri (the most awesome blawg’s most awesomely prolific writer by the way) that he has not written anything for the blawg in a long time. A very long time.

I feel compelled to respond to this comment because of many who have taken a position over whether breaking the barrier was right or wrong, or whether they had a right to do so or not, and I feel that misses the point entirely.

Just because it is ‘right’ doesn’t mean it should be done and the same applies to what we may think is ‘wrong’.

For myself, the better approach on the question of breaching the barrier was to ask whether it was appropriate or not — given the circumstances and our prevailing political and police culture.

I was there to support the call for fair and free elections and implicitly supporting our human right to gather and protest. Whether or not it was right for the police to put the barriers where they did or to use barbed wire is irrelevant.

I was content to attend, show my support and stay behind the barriers and not cross it. I felt there were many like me that day and I can vouch for MVG on this too.

I felt there was no need to occupy that piece of grass because by so many of us being there and behaving outside the barriers we had more than made our point.

I think it was inappropriate to breach the barriers because —

  1. I felt that if we did the police would act they way they did — as the many SUHAKAM reports, etc. have documented. It would be naive for any of us to think otherwise. They were waiting for an excuse to launch into brutality;
  2. I felt if that did happen, the opposition would take advantage of it to cast themselves as the victims and call on civil society to pity them and use it as another political issue against the ruling party;
  3. if 1 and 2 happened, the fact that civil society (not the political parties) showed up that day would end up lost in the political spin and posturing that would happen in the aftermath as has happened. Civil societies voice and initiative would be drowned and citizens would be come jaded and cynical as I fervently hope would not happen. Because if it did, we would well and truly be fucked.

Sometimes I think we are too obsessed with the rightness and wrongness of something or an issue because it deals with absolutes when really there are none; it tries to shove the squareness of certainty into the circle of ambiguity. We leave many considerations out in our drive to prove we are right and the other wrong.

Sometimes to do the right thing at the wrong time is appropriate and vice versa. And it an unhelpful question to ask.

Was breaching the barrier right or wrong? I couldn’t care less to be honest.

Was it inappropriate under the circumstances? To me, yes.

But what happened happened. There’s little point in arguing about it.

I would very much like to hear and direct discussion on what we learned from that day — what were the positives we got out of that day. What was it about that day that we could do to avoid that occurring again.

Because to go on and on about who was right, who was wrong is ultimately divisive.

It does little to bring us together and everything to tear us apart and that is something I feel we could do less with.

Fahri Azzat practices the dark arts of the law. Although he enjoys writing and reading, he doesn't enjoy writing his own little biographies of himself. Like this one. He wished somebody else would do it...

6 replies on “On Breaching the Barrier”

  1. Of all the places, Merdeka Square….. at the end of the day, the law IS still the law and just be prepared to face the consequences. Those days, foreign governments barked at us for hanging their citizens bringing illegal drugs into the country – they were warned..werent they? Do you hear the same western governments barking at our capital punishment for drug related offences imposed onto their nationals?
    Remember this word..DBS..Dah Bodoh Sombong…its what Id personally describe those breaking the law.
    Maybe next time Bersih makes the same DBS demos @ the Bukit Bintang shopping areas …. where there are rich shoppers and retailers….

  2. The clarity of thought displayed by the writer is intuitive and does cut to the chase. The message of that day is indeed being muddied as both sides lobby for their angles…

    1. Kris,
      What "clarity of thought", please? All the writer did was state his reasons for his disapproval. That could have been achieved in 2 sentences. The rest of it is just a verbose attempt at replacing the assumed ambiguity of "rightness and wrongness", with even more ambiguous words like "appropriate", "unhelpful", "positives" etc. He belongs to that herd that concerns themselves only about their personal "positives" according to their own formula, because they "couldn’t care less" about seeking out right and wrong . Don't forget, BN & EC (and petty traders) also have made it clear about what they consider as "appropriate" and "unhelpful", and had appealed against the gathering. So why did you gather? Wouldn't KL have been "positively" peaceful without a quarter million people who "couldn’t care less about right and wrong", jamming the road?
      You can't have your "relativism" cake and eat it for real too can you?

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