On Damai Malaysia…

Surely there must be a How-to-Govern manual somewhere that says ‘Thou Shalt Not Martyr Thy Opponents Unless Thou Really Is Not Interested in Winning the Hearts and Minds of Thy People’… right?

PM: Silent majority have spoken – we don’t want demos

PETALING JAYA: The silent majority of Malaysians have spoken up and they want a stop to street demonstrations which disrupt people’s lives and cause disharmony among the country’s multi-racial population.

Representatives of Damai Malaysia – an umbrella body comprising 395 non-governmental organisations – handed over to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday a memorandum criticising the illegal street rallies.

The Prime Minister said the memorandum was a sign that people were angry with illegal protests and violent acts.

They want peace: Representatives of NGO groups under Damai handing the memorandum to Abdullah yesterday expressing their wish that peace be maintained.

“The country’s successes and achievements didn’t come about due to street demonstrations or illegal protests.

“We have progressed because we have been able to maintain democratic institutions which respect the law while the people enjoyed the fruits of peace and political stability.

“If freedom cannot be respected and used in a responsible manner, the people themselves will be at the losing end.

“As can be seen from today’s memorandum, the people who remained silent have now stood up to make their stand. They want peace to be maintained.”

He said he was informed that the street demonstrations had caused a 10% cancellation of hotel room bookings and rental of tour buses, while retail stores also reported a drop in sales.

Abdullah was speaking to newsmen after receiving the memorandum before flying off to visit flooded districts in Pahang.

At the outset, the group of about 20 people led by Damai chairman Mohd Saiful Adil Mohd Daud was not allowed to enter the Royal Malaysian Air Force Subang airbase but after waiting for the airbase authority to get back to them, they were finally allowed to go in.

Mohd Saiful Adil gave a brief speech before proceeding with five other representatives to hand over the memorandum. The group applauded before they left the place.

The whole episode took less than 15minutes.

Damai represents 1.5 million members and its representatives include those from 75 Chinese-based and 20 Indian groups and associations.

In the joint declaration read by Mohd Saiful Adil, the members expressed their disgust at street demonstrations and the use of religious and racial issues to create hatred among Malaysians.

They condemned individuals and groups who used lies and slander against the country and asked for foreign intervention in Malaysia’s internal affairs.

“We also condemn accusations that the country’s leaders had allowed ethnic cleansing to occur in the country,” he added.

Damai advisor and Bukit Bintang MCA chief Senator Datuk Dr Lee Chong Meng said the Bersih and Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) illegal demonstrations last month had caused tourists to cancel trips to Malaysia.

Cheras Hindu Youth Organisation vice-president S. Ariivazhagan regretted that Hindraf had used religion to protest.

“Hindraf has presented the wrong view to the world that the Indian community here is being persecuted. This group is not fighting for our rights,” he said.

On arrival in Kuantan, Abdullah labelled those who solicit support from outsiders as traitors and the action of Hindraf, which claimed to fight for the rights of the Indian community in Malaysia, as an attempt to destroy the country and racial unity, Bernama reports.

“Was there ethnic cleansing? There was nothing about wiping out the Indians in the country,” he said at a function to welcome him and his wife, Datin Paduka Seri Jeanne Abdullah at the RMAF base.

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I’m sorry, who are Damai Malaysia and who are the supposed 395 NGOs represented by them? Where is the list of those NGOs? So far the ones mentioned are all related to political parties which, in my book, don’t count as NGOs.

Secondly, where do they get off saying that they represent the silent majority? Were YOU asked? I’m sorry, I haven’t said much but I am NOT represented by this Damai lot. Who the hell is Mohd Saiful Adil Mohd Daud anyway?

Thirdly, what is in the memo? If they are claiming to represent the silent majority, then don’t the silent majority have a right to read that memo? I haven’t seen any report that actually tells us what is contained in that memo. And I love how thick it is! They seriously expect the PM to read the entire thing? (Or maybe it just says nothing except ‘we love you’ throughout?)

Fourthly, what is the difference between presenting this memo and those other memos? Just because this one says ‘We Think You’re Wonderful’ and ‘People Who Demonstrate Are All Thugs’, they get to hand it directly to the PM? While the ones that say ‘Please Can You Listen and Deal with Real Issues?’ have to go through police barricades, water cannons and tear gas? Is the inability to go shopping the most important issue of the day?

I can tolerate most things but I can’t abide being insulted and treated as if I’m stupid. Since when does peace mean maintaining hotel room bookings and retail sales? You mean, as long as tourists come and we’re shopping we’re OK? How dumb is that?

Peace is not possible without justice and equality. Look at places like Palestine; without justice and equality for all the people who live there, there can be no peace. Do we condemn their need to protest, even while we may not support some of their violent forms of expression?

Just because we don’t have violence doesn’t mean we have true and meaningful peace. Peace doesn’t mean just being able to go round without worrying if someone is going to shoot you ( though going by some of the stories in the papers, we should worry about this too). It also means living with a clear conscience, that your friend and neighbour is not suffering from injustice. It means everyone has the opportunity to better themselves, not just some.

I resent the implication that those who support the right to dissent and protest do not want peace and want violence. I don’t want to live in a place where I cannot say what I think, where I am treated as if I’m retarded if I want to express what I feel, where if I do not agree with the Government, I’m immediately labelled as a traitor. Excuse me!!! Do you know of any country where whole swathes of people are called thugs and traitors yet still remain peaceful? It is the name-calling, accompanied by thuglike behaviour on the part of Government institutions, that leads to violence, not the other way round.

All it takes is some empathy. I am so appalled that all the discussion is about what a nuisance demos and protests are when the real issues are swept under the carpet. Demos are just symptoms, not the real issue. What is so difficult about saying, “OK, enough already. Let’s all be civilised and sit down and talk?”

One oft-used criticism is that the protesters have not gone through ‘the proper channels’. It is unclear to me what the ‘proper channels’ are. If that was so, then why does Damai need to hand over their memo at TUDM base? Is that the ‘proper channel’? Do people have to lie in wait at airports and places in order to be able to talk about their grievances?

I am so fed-up of being condescended to by intellectual midgets who think they are smart just because they have power – Jasmine.

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