Police arrested Teresa Kok at about half to midnight. I received a sms shortly after. At 3.30am, I received another sms saying Shieh (Syed Azidi Syed Aziz) and two other bloggers have been rounded up under ISA too. It turned out to be a false alarm; the sms did however qualify that the intelligence was unconfirmed.
Then yesterday evening, police picked up Shieh, ostensibly on sedition charges. So not only were the sms-es quick off the block, they were not far off the mark either. Shieh was first presumably to fly the national flag upside down in blogosphere running up to Aug 31. Where does it say a computer-graphic the wrong way up is seditious?
In any case, the Kickdefella blogger righted his inverted flag after Anwar Ibrahim’s win in Permatang Pauh.
On Sept 15, Anwar spoke at a gathering in Kelana Jaya stadium. He said mainstream media demonised him as well as the Opposition partnership. Teresa has also previously complained that Utusan Malaysia misrepresented her. Presently, the pejorative reporting by the same newspaper helped lay the groundwork for her detention, as what happened with the Hindraf 5.
Re-looking the concept of Merdeka on the eve of Malaysia Day, Anwar told the crowd that Malaysia must be liberated from corruption, racist politics, ISA and be “Merdeka from media who are liars and ‘fitnah’.”
Any more than mainstream media are believable, how so are sms-es unreliable? But cellphone texting is really a mere tool to mobilise the people, reminiscent of the Yellow Wave of People Power in the Philippines which toppled President Joseph Estrada in 2001. What then? Licence the use of telephone with annual permits?
Police have so far have given no indication they think Umno warlord Ahmad Ismail’s comment on Chinese is seditious. And in any case, how different is the essence of Ahmad’s remarks to the substance of what Dr Mahathir Mohamed has been blogging?
On a further note, clarification made on behalf of Teresa would have convinced right-minded Malaysians that she is in the clear. Yet police will not release her.
It is not always that police make sense. They didn’t when taking in Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng under ISA. And police did not even provide any rationale when they disallowed members of the public holding a lit candle at last weekend’s vigil for ISA detainees. Police were appeased after the flame was snuffed, so it would appear that unlit candles are not a red flag to the bull.
When preaching about ‘the rule of law’, some forget that police do not observe the rules of fair play, so for them to apply the law justly is moot.
Bloggers do ‘national service’
Undeniably a few alpha bloggers are influential in shaping public opinion.
Teresa blogs, and Raja Petra Kamarudin himself mentioned how important it was for him to be at large to disseminate info during this pivotal period – Sept 16 plus one, a day, a week or a month – when public opinion could tip political outcomes. If you wanted to gauge Raja Petra’s influence, the ‘judiciary reformation’ online petition is a yardstick; of the 25,700 names, thousands lent their signatures at his urging in Malaysia Today.
There is assuredly a crucial context to Raja Petra commanding the interest of the police and political subtext to his ISA arrest.
Star editor-in-chief Wong Chun Wai penned in his Sunday column: “Malaysia Today website editor Raja Petra Kamarudin is not regarded as a journalist in the true sense – he is more of a writer and, certainly, a political player. As a critical writer, he makes no bones of his plans to bring down the Government and openly speaks at ceramahs for the Opposition”.
Haris Ibrahim openly speaks at ceramahs for the Opposition too. It’s entirely possible he and other socio-political bloggers I’m acquainted with write for political reasons. What’s so criminal about that? Chun Wai and his ilk do the same. However, having no truck with new money, i.e. undisclosed funding channelled into New Media recently, many socio-political bloggers write pro bono.
Personally, I prefer reading blogs which have no pretence of their volunteer partisanship. The accredited mainstream media now paid to blog in portals staked for themselves the traditional virtues of balanced reporting, objectivity and impeccable standards. You think?
But if original-recipe bloggers are truly as unskilled and slanted as the self-professed ‘award-winning’ professional journalists parachuted into cyberspace would have it, why should blogs even blip on BN and police radars? Our Brenda Starrs and Clark Kents would render such amateur citizen journos wholly 'irrelevant'.
In a free marketplace of ideas, there is a robust contestation of views. For most of the latter 50 years, we had a one-party rule and a single ideology to rule the roost. Now that there is competition, our authorities quickly suspend the trading.
All in a day’s sermonising
The agenda that Chun Wai attributes to Raja Petra – planning to bring down the Government – is not one that is intent on destroying the country. A government falling only means some cronies lose their jobs and the ones filling their shoes get a shot at doing a better job of it.
Neither will bringing down the Government pose a threat to Malaysia’s security nor jeopardise peace and order. There is such a process called peaceful transition of power carried out in an orderly manner.
Compare Malaysia with our best friend Israel. Both style themselves democracies. Both have race laws and a strong theocratic aspect to the state. Modern Israel is only a decade older than modern Malaysia but the Israeli government has changed many times.
Israel has had a dozen Prime Ministers in office 31 terms, with a few becoming PM several times. Some of her ruling coalitions have been unable to finish out the years of their electoral mandate, some lasting two years. Shimon Peres was PM seven months before giving way to Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.
I'm not saying we should emulate Israel, I’m just pointing out the similarities and differences.
There are those argue that Anwar soliciting crossovers is immoral, and others agonise over ethics. Collapse of government through MPs switching allegiance is not treason. It’s political procedure, though one may not approve or advocate such moves.
I hardly had great expectations of a takeover on Sept 16. If anything, I’d blogged before in The People’s Parliament that like other folks not enamoured of him, I’m wary of Anwar. A strong dose of distrust in senior politicians is healthy. But at least on Tuesday, I felt upbeat enough to write ‘Great eggpectations’,
a sequel to ‘Eggciting times’. It was my attempt at satiric humour but truth is stranger than fiction.
With all due sympathy for Hoon Cheng’s 24-hour ISA ordeal, the manner in which police handled her detention was farcical. The mechanics of Malaysia’s comic leadership is plain for the world to see and no longer funny. It is the incompetence displayed in BN governance that is downright ‘immoral’ ... if people insist on using the word. It’s an immorality that splits our sides, and hurts.