Of discordant voices

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I have a confession to make. I am not a communist. And… I know I am French but, I swear, I don’t go on a rampage around the world, trying to destroy every monarchy on the planet.

I am not anti-Muslim. And, more importantly, I am not some stupid hooligan planning to wreak havoc upon your beautiful country. Yet, this is what the government wants you to believe about me. And still, I hope to be someone tolerant, peaceful and logical.

There is no need for me to introduce Bersih. We all know what it is about. Oh, wait… do we? As I have come to notice, there are a lot of conflicting reports on the topic. So, before I proceed, please allow me to define what Bersih is, based on my opinion.

Bersih is a movement by citizens, for citizens, asking for free and fair elections, which are usually seen as a pre-requisite for any healthy democracy. But all those conflicting reports have generated conflicting opinions.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have no qualms with people having different opinions to mine. On the contrary! It is a great opportunity for us to exchange ideas, to have a dialogue, to… dialogue?

OK, so, this is where I am getting all hyped up. Let the NGOs, the government, the opposition deal together, sort the legal stuff out and untangle the whole situation. What I am really concerned about is the lack of reasonable arguments, of any real dialogue, at the grassroots level, between citizens.

I am worried about the way normal people, people like you and me, react to this situation. Doesn’t it look like a lot of people are popping out of their minds recently? That common sense has just gone rushing through the gutter?

I tried having a dialogue with some anti-Bersih people. Some are actually moderate and we can have a nice cup of tea and talk like civilized friends. But too often, I get those deaf monologues.

The “I speak, I speak, I speak and I won’t listen to whatever you have to say” kind of conversation. When I post a pro-Bersih statement on Facebook, some other pro-Bersih’s will “Like” it, some others would comment on it, and then comes an anti-Bersih.

He counter-argues. With two words, “Ambiga keling.”

Are you kidding me? Is that all you have to say? Is that your strongest argument against Bersih? I swear, sometimes I feel like a cartoon character about to pull off her hair out of frustration!

Ask an anti-Bersih a legitimate, logical question to understand his point of view, and he will most often shoot himself in the foot by avoiding the answer and ranting about something else. How to look credible and sensible with this kind of reaction? Another example:

Anti-Bersih, on my wall: Malaysia is not like Egypt, Libya or Syria. There’s democracy, elections and freedom in Malaysia. We should be grateful to be Malaysians.

Me, trying to use reason: Freedom? What about the freedom of speech and expression? The right to peaceful assembly? Those are ensured by the Malaysian Federal Constitution, Section 10, Articles 1A and 1B. How come then that they are not respected?

Anti-Bersih: Malaysians are peace-loving people. We can have teh tarik, roti canai and nasi lemak anywhere without disturbance. We don’t like violence.

Aaargh, pening! Just answer the question!

Not being able to run through a dialogue would be bad enough, but the anti-Bersih’s are also making themselves guilty of what they are accusing us of. Yes, let’s talk about threats of violence.

I am sure you have all heard of this Silat master planning to call on all his students to go to the streets and fight to protect the country. Can you imagine them? “You shall not pass.” (To be pictured with a Silat pose.) It would be funny, if they were not serious about it.

Who would be starting the violence? Am I supposed to look like a dangerous warrior, hiding weapons up my sleeves, lurking in the dark, killing innocent citizens?

And yet some people are getting really frantic and personal about it. An acquaintance of mine, an army veteran, went to the point of making threats. I am going to quote him on this. “Old soldiers never die, they fight all the way. We are determined to demolish all these evil people once for all, enough is enough. These idiots have underestimated us, we will see what happens. Are we going to just sit and watch? You know what ex-French legionnaires are capable of!”

He concluded by telling a friend “If they attack the Istana Negara, there will be bloodshed.”

Any attempts at rationalising the discussion, at calming down the situation, went to no avail as this veteran is the Ambiga-keling-I-won’t-answer-your-question kind of person.

Am I violent? No. Am I planning to overthrow the monarchy and the government? No.

Am I planning to destroy the country? No.

So why make threats of violence against me? Yes, I am scared. And I do believe that rising above your fears is very important. But one disturbing statement made by this ex-soldier keeps running through my mind. “I hope to meet you on July 9th.” Oh really? What for? I don’t want to find out…

Between threats of violence, kindergarten-level reasoning and refusals to have a civilised dialogue, anti-Bersih’s are most of the time harming themselves. I do agree with one anti-Bersih argument, the one stating the opposition’s hidden political agenda. Yes, the opposition is trying to hijack the movement and, no, I don’t like this one bit!

But I am open to dialogue. Are you? Will you listen and try to understand my arguments, as much as I try to understand yours? Let’s start a dialogue. A real, mature one, amongst normal citizens, between you and me.

Please. For the sake of democracy. For the sake of this country. Thank you.

***********

NOTE:

* This article was originally published in The Malaysian Insider on July 7th here.

* Following which, I heard of comments stating I was a Jew. I’m not. And even if I was, it would not be relevant to my political opinions.

* I also received a comment stating that I should look at how we treat Gypsies in Europe before commenting on other countries. I believe human rights are universal and, as such, I would fight for human rights wherever I am. Me having an opinion on Malaysian politics doesn’t mean I am sitting idly when human rights are concerned in Europe either.

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