By TAY TIAN YAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
Azman: If you were the prime minister, how would you respond to Bersih's anti-Lynas assembly?
Prof U: I will get my aides to prepare a report on the recent rallies, and then review on our past mistakes.
Wah: Haha! Do you think the government would admit its shortcomings?
Prof U: Najib has said the government will shed its self-righteous past.
Umar: But then what will happen after the mistakes are identified?
Prof U: Very simple! If we can identify the problems and admit our mistakes. We can turn our weaknesses into strengths.
Azman: Prof, you still have not told us where the government's problems lie.
Prof U: First, it has to understand that assemblies are the civil rights of all citizens, and the government has to accept this and look at it the positive way.
Wah: Prof, this is old talk!
Prof U: Indeed. So we have to say it and then put it into practice. During last time's Bersih 2.0 rally, the government adopted a hardline stance. It later softened its stand but was indecisive. Actually, the government had to state clearly in the very beginning that it supported the rally so as to impress the public.
Wah: It is highly impractical to imagine Malaysia as a sophisticated democratic country. So did you mean the government could also co-organise rallies?
Prof U: Stop making fun of me, Wah! Why can't the government co-organise rallies? Since there is no way we can stop the rallies, why not help to make sure the rallies are carried out smoothly? For example, if the organisers want to hold a rally in Merdeka Sqaure, approve it immediately and get the police to coordinate fully in terms of traffic dispersal and taking care of public safety. Besides, LRT and bus services must also be extended, preferably with tents and beverage sale for the comfort of rally participants.
Umar: You are not joking right, Prof?
Prof U: We must understand that the age of all-powerful government is over. The government's role today is to manage and communicate.
Azman: I don't think this is useful! The public won't change their minds because of this. Those who want to take to the streets will continue to do so, as those who want to protest.
Prof U: Wah, you still live very much within the confines of old thinking. We are not afraid of people protesting. We want to change the public's perception of the government, as this will give the government somewhere to start its reform agenda.
Umar: Did you just say we must not be afraid of people protesting? I don't quite get it.
Prof U: If the government forsakes the confrontational stand for more cordial communication and cooperation, at least the protests will not develop into hatred although we may not actually change the minds of people. Such positive opposing forces could do the nation and society some good.
Azman: Absolutely! Even the moderate and middle voters will start to look at things in positive perspectives.