17 Sep 2015
COMMENT And so ends a rally which sent many into a tail spin of frenzy, stocking their pantries and whispering warnings of “stay indoors” for fear of a racial riot.
While the biggest mystery of its conception was eventually solved – it is an anti-(DAP) Chinese rally to defend Malay pride after all, and yes, Umno was a huge backer – it ends again in a shroud of mystery.
What on earth is Jamal Md Yunos on about?
According to the Gabungan NGO-NGO Malaysia president, he will call a press conference tomorrow to urge the government to take action against Petaling Street traders.
And if they don’t take action within seven days, Jamal himself will lead a group of red shirts into Petaling Street – or protesters themselves can “spit in (his) face”.
Hang on a second.
Why should action be taken against Petaling Street traders? What would be Jamal’s complaint? That they are Chinese?
Payback for ‘Chinese’ Bersih?
The rally was called because Malays purported were offended by the allegedly mostly-Chinese participants at Bersih 4, whom they claimed had insulted Malay leaders.
The protesters wanted to enter Petaling Street – a traditionally Chinese area – as a show of force and to cause similar losses they claimed Malay traders suffered due to the Bersih 4 rally.
So what exactly is the Domestic, Consumerism and Cooperatives Ministry supposed to censure Petaling Street traders for?
Also, wasn’t the rally about showing that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had the support of the people?
How would slapping a fine on Petaling Street traders for some thus far imaginary fault show Najib still has the people’s backing to remain as PM?
To be honest, 45,000 people on the streets (bused in and fed, too, mind you) is hardly an indicator of the people’s ardent love for the premier. But okay, maybe the rally isn’t about Najib at all.
Maybe it was just really about a Malay show of force.
As a Malay, I can see how some members of the community could take the Bersih 4 rally as a provocative insult by a sinister group.
In our daily affairs, most Malays are not straight talkers, we prefer to ‘cakap berlapik’.
Rich culture of proverbs
The rich culture of proverbs in the Malay language may point to this. Even today, when an entourage goes to woman’s home to seek her hand in marriage, for example we say we want to “pluck a flower from the garden”.
And if one is to criticise, the same approach is taken, especially if the person criticised is considered an elder.
Even those in positions of authority may more likely take the ‘marah anak, sindir menantu’ method.
Literally meaning to scold one’s son or daughter to send a message to his or her spouse, it shows the Malay penchant taking a roundabout way to criticise, without causing offence.
I personally feel the language of protest and dissent need not be polite. I don’t think one needs to say please or thank you during a rally, or shy away from burning effigies and dumping manure to prove a point.
Yet, I can see how some less attuned to such displays would find such direct and harsh criticism of Najib a terrible affront. So terrifically ‘kurang ajar’ (insolent).
Mix this distaste for direct criticism, with a very regard for pride and honour, some misplaced belief of superiority and being indigenous, and you see the other version – the offended Malay, out to reclaim his pride.
But how does slapping a fine on Petaling Street traders (now probably more multinational than ethnic Chinese with the area a favourite for migrant labour) redeem this loss of face?
How does yelling ‘Cina babi’ (Chinese pigs) and harassing ethnic Chinese reporters on the ground do the same for that matter?
How does anything that happened yesterday mean a thing to Malays, our sense of self-worth and belief in our own abilities?
Just like in the lead up to the rally, I remain confused. The rally remains shrouded in a whole lot of unanswered question, a whole lot of mystery.