Saturday, November 10, 2007

Free and Fair

There is a momentous event happening in Malaysia today. A coalition of opposition political parties and NGOs is organising a mass rally. They plan to march from Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) to the Royal Palace. There, they will submit a memorandum to our King. They hope to have a show of force of more than 100,000 people. This will be a peoples' movement to demand for free and fair elections.

For one thing, it has adversely affected the flow of traffic in the city. From this official news article, it would seem that the police are taking steps to handle the situation by closing off the city centre. The police are calling it a security check. I'm guessing that anyone caught wearing anything remotely yellow is going to be checked. I guess, as a sign of support for our King, the people rallying today, will be wearing yellow.

Anyway, we're doing a little something to show support here:

Date: Sunday, November 11, 2007
Time: 1:00pm - 1:45pm
Location: Outside the Senate House
City/Town: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Bring something yellow along. Even if you have nothing yellow, just come along to show support for your friends. Better yet, bring your friends. Oh, and bring a banana if you have nothing yellow. You can at least have a snack after. I'm going with my camera and tripod to capture the event.

Although I doubt that much is going to change with this single event, I do think that it's at least a step in the right direction. If we can affect change through mass rallies, it will show that democracy actually works. We need to do something to stop the rot in Malaysia. And, I feel that as the younger generation, it's up to us to fix it. Things need to change. Having free and fair elections is a good place to start.

I pray for the people who're joining the rally in KL. I do hope that it proceeds peacefully and achieves it's objective without violence. I hope that nobody gets into any trouble because of this. Any gathering of more than 4 people is illegal in Malaysia and this is going to be a gathering of thousands.

UPDATE@1315: I love the mainstream media. According to this article, the police exercised great restraint in dealing with the people trying to join the rally. The police intercepted the group from Masjid Jamek and used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them. And the article further says that only a handful of opposition leaders and Bersih handed over a memorandum to a palace official at Istana Negara. Contrast it with this article from Reuters, which has been picked up by the international media.

Regardless of who has the right numbers (police claim less than 10,000 people marched, organisers claim 30,000+ and some blogs put the figure at 50,000+ people came), it does show that there is a large number of people who are unhappy with the unfair elections being run. So, maybe it's time for someone to do something about it. I guess, the organisers hope that our King will exercise his powers to do something useful.

I believe that if the government had not used fear tactics, more people would've come. The government had openly called it an illegal gathering and had threatened to arrest people. The government could've done the RightThing and allowed the rally to be held, under police supervision, instead of declaring it illegal.

Also, I wonder if it was worth it for the police to cause traffic problems in KL, if it was for merely less than 10,000 people at Merdeka Square. I do believe that we can easily fit 10,000 people into Dataran Merdeka, without any problems. It is a fairly large piece of green in the middle of the city. So, I think that that number is highly suspect. Maybe the police were just helping out by clearing the street so that the people had somewhere to sit, like illustrated in this photo. IIRC, I do believe that is the main road that leads towards the palace.

UPDATE@1700: As usual, the Beebs carries the best write-up on the event. It even has photos of the tens of thousands of people facing off with the FRU as well as photos of people running away from the water cannons.

UPDATE@1715: And now for the requisite YouTube video of the Al-Jazeera news on the event. Our news got squeezed in between the news on Myanmar and Pakistan. How about that!

UPDATE@1800: And now, for a blow-by-blow account on a map. Credit: MalaysiaKini.

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