About a year and a half ago, I brought forth a proposition:
Peaceful demonstrations are part and parcel of democracy. Our Federal Constitution through Article 10 grants us the right to freedom of speech, expression and assembly. It is an excellent avenue for the government to get direct feedback from the rakyat. It is a check-and-balance mechanism, a safety valve for the rakyat to vent out their frustrations openly.
If this direct feedback from the very people they are elected to serve will help our government play its role better, then we should provide avenues for the rakyat to be better heard. We need support systems and processes to allow for peaceful demonstrations — one that expresses the rakyat’s aspirations while minimising disruptions.
About two weeks later, in another piece, I elaborated my point.
I would be happier if the government allocates space and provisions for people to march, because it is within the rights of the people – and it will be more fun. In the Klang Valley, I have suggested Putrajaya. In that situation, PDRM would be able to work together with the marchers to ensure a smooth journey. They could work together with the organisers to designate a route and provide safe passage for all. We could take care of the wellbeing of the people, even prepare water in case people are dehydrated and ambulances in case people are unwell. Allocate space for temporary stalls, selling all kinds of fun stuff like merchandise, ice kacang, cendol, souvenirs, etc. We need to chill out a little, and disagree with each other without hatred.
I do not expect a wholesale and widespread acceptance of my proposition. It’s only natural to expect opposing views. In particular, an anonymous writer – who goes by the moniker ‘Pak Sako’ – challenges my proposition. He posits that:
This false compromise either signals a weakness of resolve that misses the whole point of a situation, or masks a sly strategy that claims “moderation” to blunt progressive action (painted falsely as extreme) so that the conservative status quo prevails.
Pak Sako also goes on to describe the ‘third alternative’ as I had proposed to be “neutering”.
In light of recent events – the recent Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat, otherwise known as #KL112; which actually transpired (for the most part) as what I have proposed; I’m glad to know that my supposed “false compromise” did not “blunt progressive action”. It most definitely did not “neuter” any movements. In fact, to claim the middle path alternative as neutering progress is to neuter peaceful means and promote extreme ideas and behaviours. Fortunately, it would appear that the rakyat is more sensible these days.
I feel vindicated that my proposition and call for action is en vogue. I feel vindicated that the taunts and disparaging comments hurled my way have been proven wrong. I feel vindicated that Pak Sako, whoever he (or she) might be, and his words now lack authority.
However, as much as I’m delighted by the feeling of vindication, I feel a greater joy in knowing that the middle path way has been given a chance by our local politicians as well as the rakyat. Perhaps the merits of the middle path as the way of the future; and that it is responsible, just, realistic, and smart – are sitting more and more comfortably with the greater, more mature Malaysians.
Congratulations to all Malaysians who, consciously or not, are following in the middle path route. Congratulations to the Home Ministry, PDRM, and Stadium Merdeka’s management for co-operating by providing safe passage and not resorting to underhanded and reckless manoeuvres. Congratulations also to PAS and Mat Sabu for being a gracious host and their willingness to work together with all relevant parties to ensure a smooth-sailing event.
In this regards, PAS has shown their maturity and leadership that is neither obnoxious nor self-serving. And they chose to not be offensively assertive like what had happened in previous Bersih rallies. Insistence on details like venue shows a constraint of artificial boundaries that is set within the framework of one’s own mind. Once again, kudos to the organisers and fellow Malaysians who chose not to be bound by that limitation this time around. Both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, it seems, have made it a point to learn from their own follies in the past.
Allow me to conclude by reiterating a point I made in 2011, which is also included in my book, The Middle Path:
The goal is to get the point across, not to see who can shout the loudest. We must always look for the third alternative, the middle path.