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The bright side of peaceful gathering

  • It won't be a bad thing if in future such a civilized street rally culture could be perpetuated, so that radical groups in the likes of Perkasa and the Red Shirts will not get to make any headway. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Sin Chew Daily

Last Saturday saw the first major street protest after the change of federal government in May. The police estimated that 55,000 people took to the street, claiming to thank the government for not ratifying ICERD (the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) but was in reality a display of Muslim solidarity. The rally was conducted in a peaceful manner.

In the absence of police suppression and untoward incidents, the peaceful rally of such a massive scale proves that the country has indeed achieved a new milestone in democracy. Compared to the previous BN administration, without the slightest doubt the Pakatan Harapan government has done a much better job in dealing with a mammoth rally organized by the opposition.

The bigger resistance, the stronger the backlash. PH, which has had years of experience in street protests before coming into power, is well aware of this. Moreover, the latest rally involves a highly sensitive racial and religious issue, and the government has adopted a wise approach in allowing a civilized dialogue with dissidents instead of passing stern warnings and restrictions.

It is still premature to deduce that the December 8 rally will become a benchmark for future campaigns in the country given the fact that the stand of the protestors and the government over non-ratification of ICERD has been consistent, hence absence of contradiction. Nevertheless, things may not go the same way if more acute issues in future are exploited by the opposition to exert pressure on the government.

The significance of a peaceful gathering is monumental to the development of the country's democracy. It allows the public to have a peaceful and face-to-face dialogue with the government, with the street being an effective platform. It also marks the maturity of Malaysians in pursuit of a better tomorrow.

During BN's time, it was generally misperceived that street protests were counter-productive, detrimental to peace and stability and could even drive away foreign investors and jeopardize the country's economic development. Landscaping meticulously installed by the city hall is destroyed and local businesses are suffering losses.

The behaviors of PAS supporters -- who have rich experiences in staging street protests -- such as keeping things in order and picking up trash, serve as a good example for future rally-goers. A rational and civilized street demonstration should be one that is dissolved peacefully the moment the message of the campaign has been peacefully delivered.

The rally should encourage discussion and contemplation over a core issue, not acute contention and confrontation. A peaceful demonstration should also achieve the objective of relaying an important message from the grassroots to the authorities.

Umno, which joined a massive street protest for the first time in its capacity as an opposition party, appeared to be a little clumsy. It won't be a bad thing if in future such a civilized street rally culture could be perpetuated, so that radical groups in the likes of Perkasa and the Red Shirts will not get to make any headway.

 

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