The NST on 17 May came up with a refreshing editorial in support of democratic rights in the light of the disruption of the Aliran/Article 11 forum on 14 May. This editorial was all the more commendable bearing in mind that Charter 2000-Aliran has been critical in the past of some of the daily's earlier reporting. (We have now enabled the comment feature for media-related entries here; so you may add your comments at the end of this post. All comments will be moderated; so they will not appear immediately.)
Deeper questions must be asked of the protesters, however. What they were protesting — ostensibly, threats to the Rulers and the Syariah — was only tangentially concerned with the agenda of the ill-fated forum.
Instead, this was a recrudescence of the inchoate misapprehensions that continue to afflict this issue, despite progress on reconciling the jurisdictions of Syariah and civil law in this country to better manage the interfaces of Malaysia’s many faiths.
The failure to articulate sensibly positions on such matters bedevils efforts to resolve them, as the Aliran/Article 11 forum had sought to rectify — and as the protesters proved. The mob’s actions deeply damaged whatever cause they were presuming to espouse, as they came across as misguided, badly led and belligerent.
Their intimidatory tactics contributed nothing to the discourse, let alone any resolution thereof. Professing to protest in defence of their culture, religion or race, they seemed all the more out of touch with the national reality.
In short, last Sunday’s protesters on Penang Road sent a message of confusion and ignorance — no wonder they were angry and pugnacious. But they picked the wrong targets for their dudgeon. Their true adversaries would be the rabble-rousers whipping them up and herding them haplessly down a dead-end path.
The police, in asking law-abiding citizens engaged in rational and peaceful discussion on constitutional matters to consider aborting their meeting, set a dangerous precedent. Those who threatened peace and public order were allowed to prevail over those who believe in dialogue and the Constitution.