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Saturday, November 19, 2016


Raja Sara Petra
“Malaysia arrests pro-democracy leader ahead of anti-PM rally,” said the Reuters news headlines (READ HERE)
Any novice or cub reporter knows that a ‘Dog bites man’ headline does not sell as many newspapers as a ‘Man bites dog’ headline would. So headlines are very important and the way the news is written gives the reader the message you want to deliver. Basically you can judge a book by its cover, as much as the saying goes the opposite.
In reporting the Bersih rally today, Reuters and Today Online reports those arrested as ‘pro-democracy’. This, therefore, can only mean that those who arrested these people or ordered the arrests are anti-democracy. And since the Prime Minister is mentioned in that headline the impression given would be that Najib Tun Razak is anti-democracy.
From this headline, anyone who does not know Malaysia or Malaysian politics well would get the impression that Malaysia is ruled by a dictator or a government not duly elected in the proper process. The argument the opposition puts forward is that Najib’s government won less than 50% of the votes in the last election and therefore should not be running the country. But then is this not also how things are done in the UK or the US as well? It is not votes but seats that determine the winner.
At least Reuters got one thing correct, that today’s Bersih rally is an anti-Najib demonstration. Those such as G25 who support today’s rally say they are fighting for institutional reforms. Institutional reforms is a big word and may entail many things such as civil liberties and human rights. Would this include the rights of the LGBT community, the recognition of gay unions, the rights of Muslims to leave Islam, the rights of Malaysians to live as husband and wife without the need of a religious ceremony (like in more advanced countries), and much more?
Muslims such as those in G25, Bersih, and so on, talk about change. The question is how much change are they prepared to accept and how far are they prepared to go? For example, change can also include the right to publish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. If Muslims are still sensitive about what they perceive as insults to Prophet Muhammad and/or Islam then they are not yet ready to talk about change.
Different people participate in and support Bersih for different reasons. While some do genuinely want to see free and fair elections or a reform of the electoral process (which was what the original Bersih in 2007 was all about), others just want to see Barisan Nasional brought down or Najib ousted. Many of these people who, today, support Bersih were the same people who exploited the system to stay in power and resisted change when they had to power to bring about changes.
Maybe we should all read George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ to understand what is happening today. In this book the animals fought for freedom from tyranny but when the animals came into power they became worse than the humans they removed and the cleverer animals, the pigs, oppressed the not so clever animals. It is ironical that ‘Animal Farm’ portrays pigs as those political animals that exploit other animals for their political gain.
I suppose at the end of the day it is the media that decides who is the patriot and who is the terrorist. And you can be either, depending on how well you play the media. History always determines the hero. And it is the victor who writes history. And the western media always likes to take the side of those who oppose authority. Nevertheless, the media does not always determine the winner, as Donald Trump’s victory has shown. And this is going to be the same regarding what happens to Najib.

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