Side Views

Their own worst enemy — Maha Balakrishnan

April 27, 2012

APRIL 27 — Just when you think the government and police force in this country can’t possibly do anything more ridiculous than the last thing they did, they top it.

Apparently, the police have now allowed Bersih 3.0 to assemble on the perimeter of Dataran Merdeka, but just not ON Dataran Merdeka. Let us take a step back and consider this: The perimeter of Dataran Merdeka comprises public roads.

What the police are saying is that it’s OK for Malaysians, who will probably number in the thousands, to assemble on public roads on a Saturday afternoon, but NOT on a closed-off square away from traffic and built for such assemblies of people.

What was the rationale for banning Bersih’s use of Dataran Merdeka, again? Something about Bersih 3.0 now suddenly becoming a security threat? How is Bersih 3.0 a security threat on a public square but not on public roads?

I step on the square, I’m a security threat; I step off the square, I’m not. Genius.

From the beginning, this was clearly a game of Top Trumps. This last salvo from the government of the day “allowing” people to gather on the streets around Dataran Merdeka shows that its insistence that Bersih 3.0 cannot use Dataran Merdeka was sheer stubbornness, with no real belief in the rally being a security threat or that it would tarnish the “image” of Dataran Merdeka.

How can it be that despite the bitter experience of Bersih 2.0, they have learned nothing? In case you still can’t see it, prime minister, deputy prime minister, home minister and the rest of the boys in the back rooms of Putrajaya — the woman won the pissing contest.

But over and above all the gaffes today, there is another one that was committed on July 10, 2011 and will come back to haunt the government on April 29, 2012. The government insisted that only 5,000 or so people turned out in support of Bersih 2.0.

What will they say the figures are for Bersih 3.0, I wonder? If they name any figure more than 5,000, then Bersih has gathered more supporters than a year before, and support for their cause has increased. If they name the same figure of 5,000, then Bersih has not lost any support from a year ago.

Will they name a figure less than 5,000? They wouldn’t dare, when Bersih Global itself is likely to gather almost that much.

Any way the government turns, it loses.

* Maha Balakrishnan reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.