When silence implies consent
Writer: Azmi Sharom
Published: Fri, 03 Feb 2012
On Jan 21, a mob of supposedly Umno supporters attacked a forum organised by Hindraf and the group calling itself ABU (Anything But Umno). From the videos posted online, it is clear that this was an unprovoked attack.
Unless you take the police line which said that the forum was organised in a Malay area and therefore such an attack was to be expected. An odd logic since many of the organisers and speakers were Malay.
Be that as it may, there are also accusations that the police did not act in an impartial way and did not do enough to stop those who instigated this attack. Well, if this is true, it does not come as much of a surprise.
Any group which gathers and is seen to be in favour of Umno (I would say the BN but I can’t think of any examples of a BN mob), seems to be treated with kid gloves.
A few weeks ago a group of rotund men made a video where they threatened to commit battery on a university student for daring to take down a flag of their dear leader Datuk Seri Najib Razak. As far as I know, no action was taken against them.
Now, I wonder if these kinds of thuggish behaviour will actually turn people against the BN. For those who are directly involved, it most certainly will. But for those who were not at these places and did not get hurt by these thugs, I really do wonder.
After all, the BN is busy right now spreading goodies all over the place. They promise that they are going to fix Tamil schools, build houses for the Orang Asli and there’s cash being handed out left, right and centre (unfortunately, not in my direction).
So does the electorate care that in this country, mob behaviour is practically condoned? Should they care?
Of course I can write on about justice, rule of law and might not being right. But as much as I believe in these ideals, the Malaysian mind being what it is, a more pragmatic approach is required. What then are the pragmatic consequences that spring from having a government that is not willing to come out and condemn such behaviour?
The most obvious concern would be the hindrance to free speech and expression. Free speech and expression, as the government is so fond of saying, does not include violent behaviour. How correct they are. Threatening and hurting another person cannot be seen as a legitimate form of expression.
If a group of morons on motorbikes can storm a hall and get away scot free, then naturally people will be afraid to express themselves, or to even come and listen to others expressing themselves.
Without open and free expression, then a country can be run into the ground by the corrupt and inept without the people knowing about it. In other words, if we want to be successful and prosperous, we need to have free speech. We need differing opinions so that we can be informed and act accordingly.
The second pragmatic concern is that if our law enforcement agencies are not going to clamp down on such behaviour, then really, what are they there for? Their motto is currently “firm, fair and prudent”. Firm with whom, fair to whom and prudent in what is the question to be asked? Any gathering organised by people not from or sympathetic to the ruling party will get the police knickers in a collective twist because they are always spouting on and on about public safety.
Well then, I would have thought that when public safety was actually threatened they would jump at the chance to show off their prowess. It does not look like it. However at the time of writing a man has been brought in for questioning by our boys in blue, so I am hoping they will prove me wrong.
The final concern is simply this, if a leadership is not willing to say outright that mob violence is wrong, even when that mob seems to be supporting their agenda, then it means that this is a government for whom the ends justifies the means.
This means that we the people cannot be safe for they are leading not with any principle but by pure pragmatism and when that happens, anything can happen.