Thursday, July 14, 2011
Eyeball to eyeball, But who blinked?
Public sentiment was leaning in favour of the Government, specifically the law enforcement.
Other than those die-hards party supporters and naive young voters, the public and business community were generally against the Bersih 2.0 march. Their reaction was visible at the two anti-Bersih demonstration in Penang and Ipoh.
Bersih's stubbornness to negotiate were seen negatively.
They were indeed adamant to proceed with the march to the Istana Negara. When they did a tactical withdrawal to concede for Stadium, they insist on the Stadium Merdeka and be allowed to march to the stadium.
It was a classic marketing case study of Coke and Pepsi. Both were going eyeball-to-eyeball, but someone blinked and Bersih got their way and reenergise it's supporters.
Bersih's basis for their illegal assembly was human and constitutional rights to assemble. Be it using the Constitution or UN Charter on Human Rights, both documents could be used to rebuff their selective interpretation.
Their justification was their call for a clean and fair election. Dato Ambiga was sneeky to offer Barisan Nasional to march together.
But their bluff was called.
EC exposed that Bersih were flip flopping from a demand of 4 for Bersih 2007 to 17 in their November 2010 meeting, slashed down to back to 5 and 3 new demand added to become 8. Out of 8, four is not in the jurisdiction of EC.
The four demands against EC were not seriously thought through and understood by Bersih.
Past speeches of Pakatan leaders in political ceramah indicated their intention to do a Tahrir like revolution. Bersih 2.0's electoral demand were mere excuse towards creating riot and possibly a Tahrir Square like seizure of power.
Mainstream media pounced on the inconvenience and past business loss during past major demonstrations. Bersih was seen as stubborn for their insistence to refuse the initial offer for use of stadium. They were not getting support from the local business and community.
Then, more begin to unfold.
The initial expose of communist paraphenalia found with the Parti Sosialis Malaysia activists held by police in Penang and Johor may not touched the nerve of the younger segment of the public.
But Ambiga's acknowledgement of funding from foreign subversive funders such as CIA-linked National Democratic Initiative (NDI), and George Soro's Open Society was alarming and was intensively highlighted by bloggers on the blogosphere.
As demonstration date draws near, Molotov cocktails, and parangs were found hidden in the vicinity of the hotspots, specifically Sogo. Although police did not accused, the public suspected it to be associated with Bersih.
On July 1st, Minister for Home Affairs, Dato Hishamuddin Hussein Onn announced Bersih's application to form an Association was rejected and they are gazetted as an illegal organisation.
That has a far reaching legal and administrative implication that many did not realised.
By Monday morning, there was another added boost.
The mainstream newspapers frontpages were splashed with a special statement issued by the Yang Dipertuan Agong on Sunday night. The English translated decree is as below:
Several parts of the special statement subtly did not condone the street demonstration.
First, Tuanku expressed confidence in the leadership and action of Dato Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak. Second, Tuanku insist that the fervour to promote democrasy must not emulate other countries and lead to destruction. Third and final, Tuanku said "street demonstration bring more bad than good".
However, the twisted and "tidak beradat dan beradab" Bersih and Pakatan politicians insisted that Agong did not express opposition to street demonstration. They were disrespectfully spinning his majesty's words.
On Tuesday July 4th, Ambiga was reported saying that they had requested to meet the Agong. It attracted quite a few reactions.
How could an organisation just declared illegal and stubbornly defying the authority and request of His Majesty's Government and public be given audience with Agong? Perkasa had written several times to seek audience to discuss issues affecting the Pribumi community had not received answer.
They - Ambiga, Dato A Samad Said and Zaid Kamaruddin - were allowed into Istana on Wednesday July 5th.
Ambiga came out saying Bersih "accept the government offer", "will cooperate with the government and accept their offer to have the event at a stadium" and "rally on the street will not take place."
That brought to light Najib's statement to offer use of Stadium. The media conveniently did not highlight the caveat in the agreement to offer to use of stadium and Najib is seen to be conceding ground.
Hishamuddin, who inadvertently said he has given the "mandate" for the police to act, was bodeking the boss by echoing the same offer.
When he said, he gave mandate to the police, he did not realised that he does not have the power to give police any mandate to do their work on security. Police are empowered by the Act of Parliament, Articles in the Constitution, and by convention to be independently responsible for the affair on security and intelligence of the state!
Najib and Hishamuddin had brought to light Clause 2(d) Section 27 of the Police Act. It clearly state that illegal organisation like Bersih cannot get permit. No way Jose.
On the other side, words were the Bersih people was willing to concede for the Stadium on the conditions that it is Stadium Merdeka and they are allowed to march towards the stadium.
Then issues of stadium capacity, crowd overflow, and security came into the picture. Someone realised this and advised Najib that like everyone else, Bersih must apply for a permit.
Bersih's response was refusal to abide the law and Anwar announced that they will march towards Stadium Merdeka.
It was a standstill.
Then words surfaced that sleepy had awoke.
Tun Abdullah Badawi had arranged for Ambiga's audience with the Agong via a palace official. The name of the palace officials that kept cropping up is Dato Zuki Ali, Senior Private Secretary to the Agong.
Ambiga disclosed to the press that she met Abdullah on Tuesday.
All it takes is to recall that Ambiga was the Bar Council President that colluded with Abdullah, when he was Prime Minister and and Dato Zaid Ibrahim was briefly Minister in charge of judiciary, to hold that grand dinner bash at rakyat's expense to announce compensation for the judges expelled in the 1986 judicial crisis without any review.
Back to Bersih, Abdullah later denied arranging Ambiga's audience with Agong and claiming he advised Ambiga to not proceed. (See below.)
To be more believable, Abdullah slams Bersih and defend police action. (See in Free Malaysia Today here). Yeah ... sure.
From sources of those who had private late night meeting with the Prime Minister at his Jalan Duta home, he was not pleased with Abdullah's meddling. One of the sources understands it as Najib was not in the know.
Najib later clarified and elaborated his statement to offer the stadium is subject to conditions of police permit, stadiums other than in Kuala Lumpur city and Stadium Merdeka, etc.
From there on, the subsequent events unfolds.
Najib or whoever said Bersih can be held in Shah Alam stadium still erred. The law just cannot allow for Bersih to be held, even on instruction by PM or Minister for Home Affairs or decree by Agong. No one is above the law.
Abdullah is a reknown compulsive liar. His public denial or statement cannot be trusted, especially when he realised he made grave mistake and matters involving personal and family interest. So does his denial in arranging Ambiga's meeting.
Since there was no statement from Agong on the meeting with Ambiga and company and also it is improper for Agong to issue such statement, there have been several theories floating on the meeting.
One theory and it is a likely scenario said Abdullah bulldozed the appointment with the Agong's Private Secretary, arranged it but was not present in Ambiga's meeting.
A twist to it says Abdullah was around the Istana but was not in the meeting. He left through a back entrance or something?
Another theory said Najib knew of the meeting and met Agong earlier to advise him accordingly. Ambiga met later in the afternoon after Najib.
This is also plausible because the Prime Minister would traditionally have audience with the Agong on Wednesday morning, before going to his weekly cabinet meeting.
There is one theory being spread by Pak Lah's diehards that Najib was the one arranging the meeting. The basis is all Agong's appointment is arranged in concurrence between Agong, his Private Secretary and the Prime Minister's Department.
The story goes that Agong was reluctant to meet Ambiga because his majesty had issued a special decree and the knowledge that Bersih is an illegal organisation. Najib was insistent on Agong to meet them to cool thinsg down.
He spread rumours that it was Abdullah who arranged it through his good past relationship with Agong's Private Secretary, Dato Zuki .
The most intriguing theory must be that Abdullah through his relationship with Zuki and Tengku Razaleigh in his relationship with Agong got Ambiga the audience with Agong.
According to this theory, Ku Li and Abdullah were invisible hands behind Bersih. Anwar is on his way to Sungai Buloh till the end of his life. Pakatan is void of a leader to replace Anwar and have found and offered it in Ku Li.
Ku Li will head a coalition of Pakatan Rakyat and certain faction in UMNO for a coup d'etat or participate in the General Election. Perhaps, Zaid Ibrahim's KITA has a role somewhere.
The problem with this theory is Ku Li has expressed he will not leave and remain loyal with UMNO. At his age and as a statesman-like politican, he is not likely to stoop to such political play to go back on his words. He is not about to do something not in accordance to the Constitution.
For politicians, there is always a ceveat. For Ku Li, the only possible caveat would be if something drastic happen to the country. The question now is it drastic enough for Ku Li to come forward to the call of duty?
Bersih is now over.
Some say, they did achieve what they set out to do. Their message was lost. No political ground was gained.
It is how they exploit post Bersih that matters. Thus for the campaign to sell neckties, which is most likely to clear stock.
As it is, they are campaigning to rubbish the police institution for brutality. Such message appeal abroad but not locally.
The locals would just say, "Dah tahu perhimpunan haram, kenapa pergi?" (You know it is an illegal assembly, why go?)
"Nak lawan FRU, tak akan mengharapkan perkhidmatan lima bintang hotel? Mesti ada kekasaran. Begitulah mana-mana dalam dunia." (To take on riot police, do not expect 5-star hotel service. There must be some aggression. That is the way around the world.)
Bersih refused to continue from their November 2010 discussion and said all doors are closed to EC's offer for discussion.
Anti-Bersih campaigners will pick on every inconsistencies between what was said by everyone involved in Bersih and what happened on July 9th to counter.
There are lots of it.
But the question that remains is who blinked and spoilt everything advantage to give Bersih supporters the courage to defy police?
If the leadership keeps blinking, flip flopping and indecisive in crucial moments, respect and support from it's diehards and Government machinery will waver.
Bersih exposed UMNO and Barisan Nasional is in dire need for leadership and the party urgently need to be resolute to want to hold onto power. It just can't afford a single blink anymore against a feisty Pakatan Rakyat.
* Edited 10:15 PM
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