From the Selangor Times 18 January 2013. Ask Lord Bobo is a weekly column by LoyarBurok where all your profound, abstruse, erudite, hermetic, recondite, sagacious, and other thesaurus-described queries are answered!
I have been reading a lot of praise for PDRM after #KL112. What did they do that was so fantastic? (Bangkit, via email)
In order to appreciate the reaction to PDRM’s handling of #KL112, one must be aware of what happened in the previous rallies in recent years.
Compared to those – which involved major crackdowns, traffic blockades, unreasonable and arbitrary arrests, tear gas and chemically-laced water, assaults and violence by the police – #KL112 was heaven on earth. As some say, “if we compare ourselves to Zimbabwe and Somalia, we would be considered a world class country.”
As His Supreme Eminenceness mentioned in this column last week, the difference between #KL112 and other past rallies (Bersih 3.0 for example), was this: The police did not riot. There was no indiscriminate and excessive firing of tear gas to trap people who were exercising their right to freely assemble. There was no hours-long crazed hunting down of people who were going home, having dinner, or just hanging around. There was no assaulting of journalists and smashing of cameras. And there was certainly no group beatings of unarmed and passive civilians.
At #KL112, people came and went in a carnival-like fashion. PDRM did what it was supposed to do as a non-partisan law enforcement institution – it kept a low profile, left the FRU trucks at its barracks, deployed a minimal presence on the streets, directed traffic, closed certain roads to facilitate the processions to the stadium and kept the peace.
Well, it was in fact so peaceful – from Lord Bobo’s all-seeing eye – that there was little peace that needed to be kept.
There were many scenes of love, community and national pride – as Lord Bobo and our LoyarBurokkers have always said, rallies are really quite romantic. In one incident, a police officer accidentally fell, and protesters stopped him from injury and helped him up.
Police officers were given flowers and pamphlets. Many were chatting with the protesters, and some of the less shy officers posed for photographs.
To be completely honest, #KL112 was historic, and a minor miracle. Malaysia has never witnessed such an atmosphere before – it is worth bearing in mind that #KL112 brought together no less than eight politically charged causes, ranging from free and fair elections, environmental issues, free tertiary education, oil royalties, to Felda.
The effusive “praise” for PDRM was probably not so much that the police force is “great” – but more a sigh of appreciation and relief that our men and women in blue “could do it”.
For once, Malaysians could be proud of, instead of angry at and ashamed of, their police force.
Most importantly, Malaysians now have hope. Hope that this crucial institution has turned a corner, and turned its back on its dark days in clamping down on peaceful assemblies.
So now we know it can be done – human rights activists have been saying this for years now, that it could be done. And it was done. Peaceful assemblies – expressive, loud and noisy as they may be – conducted securely and safely. You see, in essence, and we all know this, Malaysians are not naturally-inclined to violence or rioting.
The message brought to bear on the anti-protest camp of citizens and the Government, even the “fence-sitters”, is that no untoward incidents, no traffic jams and no loss of small traders’ businesses will occur if those in power work towards facilitating demonstrations, instead of opposing them. No bodily offences were reported to have been made. Traffic was free and easy on the Saturday. Brisk sales of food, drinks and various paraphernalia were done along the roads leading to the stadium. It was romantic.
The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 prohibits assemblies 50 metres from a place of worship or school. #KL112, at Stadium Merdeka, which is right next to Victoria Institution, should therefore have been a non-starter. No power is given to the police to exempt organisers or participants from the prohibition. It is a violation of the law. Yet, the police proceeded to say yes. Why?
Taken at the very highest, it may mean that PDRM sees that the said law is ridiculous. At the lowest, PDRM may have got the consent of the Government to waive the provision.
Either way, Lord Bobo is pleased that history has been made.
Cynics of course say that the only difference this time is that the Government did not instruct the police to violently and unreasonably crack down, and that they made this decision not because of freedom of assembly – but because they couldn’t afford such bad publicity so close to the upcoming general elections.
The response to Bersih 3.0 was so negative, despite the best efforts of the toadies masquerading as journalists in the mainstream media to paint a picture that was not representative of the truth of what happened on the ground.
The cynics may well have a point. But Lord Bobo thinks we should look on the positive side of things. #KL112 has shown that peaceful rallies are possible.
Let’s hope that this truly was historic, and that we will see many, many more peaceful rallies in the future.
Well done, PDRM.
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