Referring to the recent opposition-led protest rallies against fuel price and electricity tariffs increase, the PM said such activities were counterproductive to the nation’s and thus the people’s benefit, as those would disrupt business and adversely affect the economy.
He criticized in his inscrutable Fu Mountain style – basically low key a la ‘mailed fist in a velvet glove’ – the threat by PAS president Hadi Awang that he (the latter) would not stop party members from demonstrating, including throwing stones at the police.
Abdullah Badawi said: "This is bad advice. This should not have come from a party leader who should be advocating peace and security in the country. Why throw stones at the police?"
Earlier, Hadi Awang told a news conference after the PAS Muktamar (conference) in Alor Setar that street protests were the best way for the party to show its dissatisfaction with the government.
He said that if the police used batons, the demonstrators could retaliate by throwing stones found by the roadside.
PAS vice-president Mohamad Sabu wanted to escalate any confrontation with the police, by having ulamak to lead the crowd during street demonstrations. He reckoned there’ll be hell to pay if the police bashed any ulamak (Islamic leaders and religious teachers).
Hell to pay? Maybe not in the literal but political-social sense, but then, with most pronouncements from PAS, who knows?
Guess where he obtained his idea from? Yes, from the Middle East.
He said: “This is how the Hamas (Palestine) and Hisbollah (Lebanon) movements gain massive public support.”
“The public is not bothered when unknown youths get beaten up during the demonstrations. If Mat Sabu or (PAS youth chief) Salehuddin Ayub are harmed, people will say depa to memang lok lak (they are looney).”
I am not sure who he has referred to as looney? The police for bashing up the ulamak, or the PAS leaders for putting themselves in a situation where they get bashed up?
Maybe Tian Chua of PKR, who’s always getting bashed up by the police (except for the last rally) can provide some advice.
Then Mohamad Sabu raised the stakes by playing on the anak-jantan-ness (male pride) of any ulamak who may still be hesitant. He declared that if the men were afraid to take matters to the streets, then the Muslimat (Muslim women) in PAS would be ready for jihad (holy war).
He pre-emptively insulted the ulamak: “If you (the men) are afraid, you might as well wear sarong and stay home. Let the women fight your battle. We talk about struggle, but we are not willing to make the sacrifice.”
Nice tactic in a macho society - he sure knew which button to press. He added more spice to his call by ruling that women needn't seek their husband’s permission to be involved in jihad.
Maybe stirred by Mohamad Sabu's taunting, and to show he is an anak jantan, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang hopped in to say: “I myself go down to the ground to hold demonstrations.”
But he spoilt his grandstanding somewhat by revealing why he’s not afraid: “Some of us even had tear gas in our eyes. But the police do not arrest us (the ulamak). The police tend to arrest the young ones. The police are considerate towards us (elderly ulamak).”
In that case, I believe the best solution for PAS would be to have only elderly ulamak rather than any young supporters in the rallies. That way, the rallies will be religiously Teflon coated. Mind you, having only all of PAS elderly ulamak may be a wee too tempting for the authorities - you know, all eggs in one basket?
Well, dear politicians, two wrongs don’t make one right!
Firstly, peaceful protest rallies are part and parcel of the democratic process. They shouldn’t even need a police permit so long as responsible organisers informed police well in advance so that traffic control management can be in place to avoid any public traffic disruption. The two parties could even discuss the optimum time for the protest so as to avoid peak hour traffic upheavals. The protest should never inconvenience the general public for that would be counter-productive to the political cause.
Malaysians protesting peacefully in public should be an accepted norm of our democratic society. There is no more communist threat to our nation, with the Last Communist existing only on celluloid. The PM who is also Internal Security Minister must restore full or at least maximum possible democratic rights and practices to Malaysians. Peaceful protest rallies, and not the UMNO type that aggressively disrupted Aptet II, have be one of these inalienable rights.
Restricting or prohibiting peaceful rallies by opposition parties through the illegal private use of public funded police force is not only undemocratic and UMNO-kiasu but engenders a police state, where the guards themselves may seize power from their masters (or political stooges). We have just witnessed the incipient stage of this dreaded possibility.
As for Hadi Awang, what he has threatened is terrible. Even if the police employed barbaric samseng (gangster) tactics to disperse and intimidate the rallies, he should advise his supporters to maintain the high moral ground as befitting sensible guidance by a leader of a political party, which aspires to be the alternative government.
By encouraging PAS supporters to throw stones, he would actually be falling into the police trap, where the oppressors would then seize the high moral ground and, worse, gain the legitimacy to physically restrain protestors, which may involve ‘very robust and extremely forceful’ means.
Hadi Awang, please do not try to imitate desperate Palestinians. What Arabs do are not necessarily the best solution for Malaysians, for the reason Malaysians are not Palestinians, and Malaysia not Palestine.
What we have is not a situation of foreign occupation and brutal oppression of our society, where we don’t have the necessary weaponry to battle foreign soldiers with guns, tanks and gunships. What we actually have here is a privileged class of Malaysians attempting to silence the rest of Malaysian society from criticising their bad policies and management. It is our nation’s internal problem and must be dealt with in a different manner, preferably through the ballot boxes.
While the Malaysian electoral process had suffered from gerrymandering, official bias from virtually every public department, misuse of public property for the ruling party’s advantage, etc, the fact that our society has continued to elect candidates from the opposition parties, and significantly in 1969 and 1999, presents hope for us.
And one last word to Mohamad Sabu – it’s better for Malaysian men to wear Malaysian sarongs rather than Arab garb. Apart from pride in our national costumes, it’s a more practical form of dressing for our hot and very humid environment. We aren’t in the very dry dusty dehydrating hot day-cold night climate of the deserts.
Please keep our affairs within a Malaysian context, and don't Arab-ise our society, culture and politics in a mindless fashion. You may even get some votes from the non-Muslims if you demonstrate your inclusive Malaysian-ness.