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This article was first published in The Star iPad application. The tweets have been edited for basic grammar and punctuation.
Prominent human rights activist Edmund Bon of popular ‘website blawg’ LoyarBurok is well known for the many causes he champions for a better Malaysia. Among them are UndiMsia!, a non-partisan lawyer-run education movement aimed at promoting and enhancing greater participation by young citizens in the nation’s democratic process.
So when the 38-year-old lawyer — whose handle is @edmundbon — joined us for our On The Spot live tweet session on May 13, Twitterjaya joined in the fun and provided a large pool of #AskEB questions.
Playing moderator was fellow advocate and solicitor Faisal Moideen (@macfaisal), who tweeted “Keep them questions coming for @StariPad‘s #AskEB with @edmundbon on 13/5. Make them tough too. I will choose top 30 toughest questions. :)” a week prior to the event.
Here are a few of the questions asked and answered during the session.
@baronhawk: Thailand reportedly have an elite female police squad to coax protestors to disperse. Should PDRM follow suit?
@edmundbon: Haha. Sunday morning and we are talking about women! Really, so long as trained police officers of whatever gender do their job — go ahead! I think what’s important to note is that the right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in our laws, and dispersal persuasions should not be necessary. I think Malaysian police, whether male or female or of the third gender, are capable of much more; much better policing, and being more lovable.
@reflywonder: Can we trust the new generation to improve Malaysia?
@edmundbon: Of course I trust the new generation of Malaysians. I love all these new youths who keep inspiring us oldies to fight on. I have seen many progressive youths coming to join movements like @MyConsti @LoyarBurok and @UndiMsia, and I say to myself: “I wish I was like that”. So to the young: Let’s do this together! We will help guide and give the platform, and all of you will lead us to a better Malaysia.
@vangeyzel What are limits to freedom of assembly? Shouldn’t the authorities be allowed to restrict and police to some extent?
@edmundbon: Yes, reasonable restrictions are accepted. We have said it all along. The question is — what is reasonable? Do you fire tear gas as people are dispersing? And for lawyers, “reasonable” must meet accepted criteria of necessity and proportionality. Is it proportional to fire tear gas at a small group of people? Is it even necessary to fire tear gas and water cannons when the organisers are dispersing, or can other non-violent methods be used? It should noted that it is the police and United Nations’ standard operating procedure that the use of non-lethal firearms is the second-last resort. The last resort is lethal firearms. So, what gives? Malaysians are generally peace-loving, and we should not continue this culture of use of arms, which we have seen being used even during Reformasi.
@mimjamil: Is it true when “Melayu bergaduh bangsa lain tepuk tangan” (When Malays fight, others clap hands)? Or do we need Mythbusters?
@edmundbon: “Melayu gaduh bangsa lain tepuk tangan“? I don’t see it, and I don’t do it. To me, many youths are blind to ethnicity. There is nothing to race but racism. Race is a social construct to hegemonise our conduct and minds for the elite class. Don’t be fooled.
@alexahly: If there’s only one movie to recommend as a must-watch for the masses today, what would it be? Why?
@edmundbon: For this period, Hunger Games. 3 fingers for love, respect, and in service. Revolution! The movie also shows what we may one day become if we are totalitarian, and there are many signs in Malaysia that we are going that way. Hunger Games also demonstrates real people power, and that it is necessary not to rely on politicians — we fight on our own. Take lessons in bow and arrow, and fight others. We must rely on and build up ourselves, and make politicians extinct.
@RaungSingosari: Betulkah Masyarakat Kota Besar yang akan membuat perubahan di Malaysia? Atau Masyarakat Kampung yang bilangannya sangat besar? (Is it true that people from the big townships are the ones who will make a change in Malaysia? Or will it be the people from the villages, who are large in number?
@edmundbon: Kota Besar menjadi katalyst bagi perubahan minda. Selalu macam tu. #moyermodel Reformer dan intellektual biasanya datang dari situ. Tapi kita mesti memberi maklumat kepada masyarakat kampung bahawa kita boleh menjadi lebih hebat dan lebih bagus! Mereka penting. (The big townships are usually the catalysts to a change in mindset. That’s usually the case. #MoyerModel Reformers and intellectuals usually come from big townships. But we must provide information to the village-folk that collectively we can be greater and better! They are important.)
@eemay: If you weren’t a lawyer or an activist, what would you be?
@edmundbon: I love this question, Ee May! I try to be a lawyer during the day. “Activist” is a convenient label that people give. Actually, we’re all activists. I would definitely be a fashion designer #LoyarButik — shirts, beads, bands, shoes, trousers, jeans, underwear, jackets, flip-flops, t-shirts.
@chowpong: If you had to join one local political party, which? Why? What post?
@edmundbon: I hate all political parties in Malaysia. Real people power is for people to do it themselves, not political rhetoric. So I would not joint any that I see. But if pushed to a corner, I’d join Parti Sosialis Malaysia, or Gerakan. I see and agree with much of their manifestos and constitution. But Gerakan has strayed a lot from their original ideas. PSM is not branding itself mainstream enough to attract more.
Midway through #AskEB, Bon hit a Twitter-imposed limit for the many replies he was sending out, and tweeted from @PusatRakyatLB for the remainder of the session.
@tulunsokit: Does the activism in Klang Valley translate to the rest of the country?
@PusatRakyatLB: There are many activist groups out there, but the media don’t pick up on them because the issues that they champion are not seen as “newsworthy”. We need to do more. But if we understand the 4 roles of activists #MoyerModel we start to clearly see what we do, and can do better. #IdolaDemokrasi
@woonkingchai: Aha! Question for #AskEB — Do you agree with Idris Jala, that the balance between freedom and the rule of law is of managing two different polarities?
@PusatRakyatLB: I’m not as articulate as Idris Jala, so I’m trying to understand polarities and management. Freedom and the rule of law go hand in hand. I cannot see what management is needed, and the polarities at opposite ends. The basis of the consent to govern and rule is the rule of law, not by law, and to rule for freedom to have a higher life, not to rule to stifle it.
@rahulsk1947: How would you determine the success of your #IdolaDemokrasi, your much-loved gameshop?
@PusatRakyatLB: Yeay! Final question on #IdolaDemokrasi. Yesssssssssssss!!! It is a simple answer, Rahul, you have seen it so you know my answer. My yardstick: KPIs for movers and for YAGs (Youth Action Groups) to talk about activating their own work in their community. Success is seeing them grow. And there are many youths, post-IdolaDemokrasi, who have gone out to do their own things, and we have seen impact. We don’t want to claim credit for their work, and some have hit the media big-time, so I will leave it as that. Move with us! @UndiMsia
After the session, Bon tweeted: “Thanks again @StariPad @macfaisal @eemay & everyone who made #AskEB interesting and happen. Wrecked my brain but good to do that! Laters!”.
He found The Star iPad’s On The Spot sessions “extremely interesting, informative and useful because it allows people using social media to spread information and discuss issues of concern in a concerted way.”
“But remember: that’s the first step, it cannot be the end all and be all. People need to keep questioning and challenging, and decide what they want to do to better our country in different ways. And it should continue with different people and different groups,” he added.
Bon also enjoyed answering the very wide range of questions received, which also touched upon rarely discussed topics.”The challenge was really about answering those very wide ranging questions from philosophy to law to human rights to love and life, and compressing your thoughts into something which is done in a short space of time,” he laughed.
“We need more thinkers in the field, rather than just people talking about politics, and whether you’re for one party or another. So I think the diversity showed that those who did #AskEB this time were also from that mindset.”
And though he found the many questions “sufficiently difficult but fun”, his favourite was the one that requested a movie recommendation.
“The movie I thought relevant for this period was Hunger Games. You can see what happens when you have a totalitarian state, where people have to rely on themselves and not on those with power,” he said, adding that those with power will abuse it when there’s no check and balance.
When asked which personalities Star iPad feature in future live tweet sessions, Bon was not short of suggestions.
“I would suggest some of our community members, like Marcus van Geyzel. There’s Foong Cheng Leong, Fahri Azzat of @LBMinion1, Shanmuga K, and Syahredzan Johan,’ said Bon, adding that tweetups with organisations and community movements should also be considered.