I was at the Bersih 2.0 rally to witness up close the demonstration process. I am sad to witness how the government has lost the middle ground through the senseless and irresponsible reaction by the police.
Most of the protesters were ordinary Malaysians who took part for various valid reasons. Some were not happy with the state of governance, high inflation, abuse of power, corruption etc. Granted, there were many partisan members too but the government cannot discount the fact that easily as many as 30% of those who took part were ordinary people or the middle ground.
Together with the crowd, we were 'ambushed' by the police in front of Tung Shin Hospital. Tear gas canisters (at least 4) were fired into the hospital compound and some of the crowd got agitated and shouted at the police to be more considerate because they had fired tear gas into a hospital compound, right next to the emergency ward.
The IGP and Home Minister Hishamuddin should not deny that there were no provocation. The police did not try to use a less hostile manner to disperse the crowd. If any, the police and the government should have allowed the use of Stadium Merdeka and avoid the total clampdown of Kuala Lumpur.
By allowing Bersih to use the stadium, the government could have negotiated some ground rules e.g. it must be non-political and a totally NGO event. It could have avoided the opposition parties from taking advantage of Bersih 2.0 as a rally point for their political momentum towards 13th GE.
By allowing a peaceful protest to take place, the government could have helped to boost the country's image and it's own credibility as an advanced democratic country able to accept and tolerate dissent and freedom of assemble and speech. It could have made Malaysia a new spring of democracy and a beacon of hope among Muslim majority countries.
The sight of police chasing the demonstrators like a pack of wolves would have a powerful impact on the minds of middle ground Malaysians. Police brutality should not have happened at a peaceful rally. The force should not have been unleashed on our own Malaysians.
In summary, the government should learn to be more tactful and crafty in managing its political communications. It should have engaged with Bersih 2.0 and the Election Commission. Some of the demands made by Bersih 2.0 are reasonable and if implemented could have given more credibility and legitimacy to the winning coalition.
It should learn that brute force and might albeit through Perkasa, PDRM and other threats are not the right method to win over the middle ground. BN or UMNO's current strategy is both outdated and counter productive. The diehard UMNO/Perkasa members would have endorsed what had been done to Bersih 2.0 but they are not the ones who are going to win elections for BN or UMNO.
By being more skillful and savvy, the PM would have neutralised Bersih 2.0, enhance his own democratic leadership, avoid Pakatan from capitalizing on Bersih and prove to the world that he is a leader who has his ears to the ground.
The way forward, the PM must learn his lesson well and use the right advisers. Otherwise, he might ended up as a casulty of his own outdated political model.
Read my comment on AFP.