They allow the people to express their open dissent against any unjust government policies, systems, laws or actions, says W H Cheng.
When the Romanian government planned to enforce a decree to make abuse of power a crime punishable by jail only when the sum involved exceeds 200,000 lei, which is equivalent to RM210,000, an estimated half a million Romanians took to the streets to protest their government’s plan to legitimise corruption below that amount.
The Romanian police did not try their best to prevent the demonstration from taking place in the city of Bucharest by arresting prominent leaders of opposition parties and civil rights organisations. This is part of the democratic process, which the Romanian security abided by.
But in Malaysia, the Umno-dominated Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government has very often viewed protests and demonstrations as acts detrimental to parliamentary democracy, thus enacting many kinds of restrictions under the Peaceful Assembly Act, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) as well as many laws and regulations that are seen as violating the democratic practice and human rights, especially on matters touching on freedom of expression.
Some Umno and BN leaders have also stressed that protests and demonstrations are not part of the culture of Malaysians, even to the extent of claiming that protests and demonstrations are against Islam.
Let us remind all the leaders of the BN, particularly those from Umno, again that protests and demonstrations are not about Malaysian culture, race or any religion at all.
Protests and demonstrations are one of the many components of an effective democracy, where citizens possess the fundamental human right to express their dissent, criticism or opposition freely on the streets without any attempt to harm or injure anyone.
It is also some kind of expression of patriotism towards their nation.
Protests and demonstrations are another way in a democratic environment or nation where a person or a number of persons express their open dissent against any unjust policies, systems, laws or actions of the government.
By using oppressive laws against any elements of protests or demonstrations just because they are opposing or criticising the government, the ruling party violates the basic rights of the citizens.
Nothing to do with religion
We must always remind Umno leaders and those from Pas that protests and demonstrations have nothing to do with any religious ethics at all.
The so-called edicts against any protests and demonstrations are impractical as one cannot use divine powers against practical issues which require practical resolutions.
Protests and demonstrations happen because people are dissatisfied with government policies, actions, systems, laws or any kind of injustice done to the people and the nation.
Therefore, BN leaders, particularly those from Umno and Pas, should stop confusing everyone by linking religious elements to protests and demonstrations.
Be practical in facing opposition to your administration. If it is corruption, then it is corruption; if it is a RM2.6bn scandal, then it is indeed a scandal.
If the government, the leaders or the ruling party are not good and have strayed from their objectives, then it is the responsibility of the people as citizens to protest and demonstrate in order to pressure the government into amending its policies or correcting any wrongs and injustice done.
Most effective way in democracy
Aside from general elections which are required to be held every five years, protests and demonstrations can be carried out during the tenure of the sitting government in order to remind the leaders of their promises and the consequences in the next general election.
In short it is a signal from the people that a government or ruling party is not performing to expectations and that it should make amends or get ready to exit.
Protests encourage people to speak up, express their opinions and make the government aware that it should always be transparent, competent, accountable and clean in its daily administration.
The government or ruling party must always be reminded of its discipline and service to the people and the nation.
If the government or ruling party is corrupt, has abused its power against the people, violated human rights, oppressed the people, shifted public funds elsewhere, is moving towards one-party rule or turning into a police state, it should be shown the exit as soon as possible to prevent the nation from falling apart.
Our people should view peaceful protests and demonstrations as a patriotic way of expressing their views and concerns for their nation, apart from casting their ballots at general elections.
If the government starts arresting and jailing people for expressing their thoughts, or if leaders were to continue siphoning money from our nation’s coffers, do we have to wait for the ballot boxes to state our stand? Think about it!
Source: Berita Daily