All the public relations stunts employed by the powers that be are not going to make a difference at the eleventh hour.

Walking towards a Pakatan rally at Kampung Melayu Dato Sulaiman Menteri in Johor Bahru, I could hear loud music coming from the open area where the ceramah was to be held.  Initially I thought it was pre-rally entertainment to amuse those who came earlier, but as I got closer I could see UMNO and BN flags waving from where the mega sound system was – just 40 metres from the Pakatan truck which acted as the mobile stage.

That night, around 30 of these flag-waving UMNO supporters were hurling verbal abuses and taunting the crowd of several thousands who came to hear what Anwar, Kit Siang, Guan Eng and other Pakatan leaders had to say.

Scores of police personnel had to act as human barricades to separate this small group of hostile supporters from the larger crowd who, to their credit, was peaceful and not provocative. Rock music and UMNO songs blasted non-stop for more than 4 hours for the whole duration of the ceramah.

When different speakers came on stage, abuses would come through the UMNO sound system and the Negaraku was played at least 5 times to interrupt the speech. Anwar got the worst of it, and as he attempted to speak, one could hear “Penipu, pembohong” being shouted at him.

Like many right-thinking Malaysian that night, I was disgusted, saddened and ashamed of the level some segments of our society have descended to – the gutter!

It wasn’t my first encounter with such childish attempts to sabotage an event with which the ruling government does not agree, but this was the worst case I have seen thus far. With Parliament dissolved and official campaigning about to start, I am afraid the worst is yet to come.

Something just doesn’t jive. It doesn’t make sense.

In recent weeks I have been coming across billboards of PM Najib smiling sweetly with children of different faces and the text “This is Happiness” or “This is Stability”. On TV we hear commercials using well-known personalities to “advise” voters to choose wisely – to choose peace, stability, happiness – and even Malaysia. Songs about choosing wisely were commissioned and sung by fresh faced, white attired multi-ethnic singers. It just feels so good and gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

The image portrayed by media under the Barisan Nasional government is one that is peace-loving, gracious, gentle, stable, mature, tolerant, inclusive and progressive. But these are just mere images and words conjured up by some professional public relation consultants who are no doubt paid tens of millions of ringgit.

The reality is shockingly different.

Intolerance of opposing views and values are the norm for this government and their supporters. Anyone who does not agree with the regime is fair game.  We recall the shameful butt exercises done in front of Datuk Ambiga’s house by ex-soldiers and the mock funeral at the gate of Lim Guan Eng’s residence.  Shameful and uncouth behaviour for Malaysians. We are better than these.

Political violence is almost a daily occurrence these days, with attacks on Pakatan’s ceramah events ranging from milder antics such as playing loud music, to the more serious ones such as rock-throwing, wind-screen smashing, red paint-throwing and beatings. Granted that violence is not exclusive to BN/UMNO supporters but, by far, the lion’s share of it comes from them.

When Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein predicted the increase of disruptions at ceramah events and that police presence on the ground is never enough, was he not giving the go-ahead for such thuggish conduct?  Hey, did the rakyat pay you to do predictions or to take firm action against hooligans – regardless of political affiliation? And to blame the opposition for such provocations is really a cheap shot. To top it off, all these words were said after he roused up the emotions of the Gombak BN Youth against PKR’s Tian Chua. They shouted “Potong kepala dia (chop off his head)”. Shameful.

Actions speak louder than words. The thuggish acts of BN supporters are a reflection of their leaders who rule this nation with an iron fist – through fear and intimidation.

Over 56 years of uninterrupted rule has allowed them to enact laws taking away our freedoms, while giving themselves wide-ranging powers to act against political opponents. Mahathir’s sacking of Tun Salleh Abas, the Lord President of the Federal Court in 1988, destroyed the independence of our judiciary – a citizen’s primary protection against injustice and abuse of power.

State institutions like the Police, Election Commission, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Registrar of Societies, and many more who are supposed to serve and protect the citizens, have become sided and transformed into BN/UMNO agencies to carry out their agenda of domination by the elite few.

I have never seen a more hapless bunch of police than that night in Johor Bahru. I could see that they wanted to do their jobs and stop these instigators, but their hands were tied. As I said, they have become sided. No action has been taken against these UMNO thugs even though most of their violent acts were caught on video and widely circulated on the Internet.

Without doubt, the stakes for this General Election are high, and perhaps for the first time in our nation’s history, we have an opportunity to put an end to the reign of this big bully called Barisan Nasional.

A smiling bully in white playing a Chinese drum making sweet promises that there will be peace and stability… is still a bully.  No amount of public relations exercises and doling out of public funds to buy our hearts and votes will change the fact that they are thugs – using fear and intimidation as their only weapons.

If the hallmark of this election is violence and disruption, it only serves to reveal the true colours of this government. Thank you for helping us see clearly the choice before us. We can’t wait to cast our votes. We are Malaysians and we have had enough!

Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Some 25 years ago I made a decision to be counted amongst the good men and in many small ways attempted...

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