Sunday, December 16, 2007

Malaysian rallies to dare defend human rights

A Thought On Rallies: The Bar, BERSIH, HINDRAF And Those To Come

"At the start of the dictatorships in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, the only public gatherings permitted were shows of military strength and football matches. In Chile, wearing slacks was enough to get you arrested if you were a woman, long hair if you were a man. "All over the Republic a thorough cleansing is under way," declared an editorial in a junta-controlled Argentine newspaper. It called for a mass scrubbing of leftist graffiti: "Soon enough of the surfaces will shine through, released from that nightmare by the action of soap and water."

In Chile, Pinochet was determined to break his people's habit of taking to the streets. The tiniest gatherings were dispersed with water cannons, Pinochet's favorite crowd control weapon. The junta had hundreds of them, small enough to drive onto sidewalks and douse cliques of school-children handing out leaflets; even funeral processions, when the mourning got too rowdy, were brutally repressed. Nicknamed guanacos, after a llama known for its habit of spitting, the ubiquitous cannons cleared away people as if they were human garbage, leaving the streets glistening, empty."

(Naomi Klein, 'The Shock Doctrine')

"In spite of fairly regular multi-party elections and some other features requiring accountability of the regime, the Malaysian state has been authoritarian since the colonial period, though analysts have charcterised the political system as semi-authoritarian, semi democratic, or quasi-democratic. Although these qualified descriptions suggest that some democratic aspects and forms remain, most of the minimal conditions necessary for the practice of democracy in the Schumpeterian sense, particularly fair elections, adequate opportunities for independent political opinion-making and political organisation, and minimal protection for the individual from arbitrary state power, hardly exist in Malaysia. Further, as Crouch points out, even the minimal civil liberties and democratic procedures that exist are allowed as long as the position of the ruling elite is not seriously threatened, let alone undermined; he observes that such rights have been 'quickly modified or abolished when elite interests were threatened'. This has been true of amendments to the Federal Constitution and other legislation, as well as to the rules and regulations governing UMNO, which has increasingly enjoyed and deployed the powers and privileges of long term incumbency since 1955 in a seemingly one-party state."

(Terrence Gomez and Jomo K.S., 'Malaysia's Political Economy: Politics, Patronage And Profits')

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