"This is not democracy. It's dictatorship. I am the law." - Herman Boone, Remember The Titans
Remember the Titans was one of my favorite sports-themed movies where in the first part of the film, Coach Boone (Denzel Washington) was saying that line above to his team before they started pre-season training of college football. The line held me dearly and after reading through quickly the first reading text of the Peaceful Assembly Bill, I see that things are getting from bad to worst.
From my several observations these new measures seem to imply that we are no longer heading towards democracy and in the line of the real reform that Najib Razak was promising about. Instead, it was heading towards the other end, turning it into a police state. Think of the whole idea as the Big Brother system, which is actually happening right now. Everything you wish to do, has to be done way ahead, one month ahead. According to the draft, there are 8 conditions that must be fulfilled by any organizer before a permit can be issued. And to make it worse, the police, with its given powers will ultimately say either yes or no and like a dictator, their word is law.
Remember that not all human conventions and declarations mentioned in the UN Human Rights charter. So far, Malaysia only ratified two. They are articles against discrimination of women and another for children. But others were never ratified at all. In fact, Malaysia especially United Malays National Organisation has not acknowledged and even ratified the Human Rights Declaration. This is why till today there is still detention without trial, cases of third-degree interrogation in police stations resulting with people dead in custody, cops refusing to accept the IPCMC recommendations (see Malaysiakini's Dzaiddin Recommendations Ignored) and even people / authorities responsible for beatdowns walking away scott-free.
One paragraph from the Bar Council's statement can say how bias the tone can be in setting up:
This Bill, like section 27 of the Police Act, vests wide powers in the police, who are empowered to impose restrictions and conditions, and to disperse assemblies and arrest participants. The police’s past consistent and atrocious conduct in suppressing assemblies shows that it is crucial that the police change their mindset and abandon the culture of impunity in managing freedom of assembly. In other jurisdictions, the power to impose restrictions and conditions vests in the local authority or a procession commission.
The summary is that the bill is merely separating Section 27 of the Police Act out and making it as an independent act. Nothing more. Same wine, different bottle like the replacement to the ISA.
It is natural to see street protests everywhere throughout the world. To forbid such thing is to suppress people dissatisfaction when they are unable to voice through channels or all avenues of venting their problems have been exhausted. If you say no to protests, how can you answer the question of why the Bolshevik Revolution happened more than 80 years ago or why is there the phenomenon of Occupy Wall Street? You can't go against the nature. But the caveats, drawbacks and everything seem to point for one reason - an ulterior motive, I would say. As Aspan, my friend said sometime back, change is natural, no one can run away from it. (see here)
The powers vested to the Home Minister, the custodian of the bill in adding / subtracting prohibited places coupled with the discretion by the police in approving the permit or otherwise can be considered as dictatorship. So whoever says that Malaysia is a democractic place now seem to have been misled by those claims as it is actually more or less a guided-democracy and slowly heading towards a failed state.
The Bersih 2.0 rally has already terrified many people in pro-government, particularly those who screamed most - from United Malays National Organisation. The biggest fear, and the main factor of motivating them to clampdown is the fear that it could alter the existing political landscape. That's it and that's the main reason. Altering the political landscape means they ultimately end up playing second banana and losing the power they have been holding for the last 55 years. Otherwise, what could explain why have some people became paranoid with unfounded things, figments of their own imagination like Ibrahim Ali?
Who actually came up with the bulk of those things? AG? Cabinet? Nazri alone? Main party? Najib alone?
This is one of the "projek pembodohan" that is in the play. Many people saw this as an insult of intelligence from Najib thinking that the conditions and laws drafted in this bill will make people happy, but many think otherwise. It's not surprising that we can see many "butter boys" and "pembodeks" that will say sweet and nice things of the bill tomorrow in the papers and the online mainstream press. In fact I am ready to see it coming and it's likely that many naive people will fall for it, in the process become a bonsai plant.
I would like to repeat this question again. Can anyone of you imagine if you are among the 30000 people that ended up in prison for doing something that is part of your basic human right, doing something of a crime that is not written in stone or doing something that is morally right but considered wrong by the oppressors?