London riots

By Art Harun
August 10, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

AUG 10 — I have been rather sarcastically asked on Twitter such questions as, “you support freedom of assembly, you want Malaysians to riot like the Londoners?”. Another twitterati asked me, “Art, you support the riots in London?”.

Frankly, I am amused to my bone by such questions.

I am amused because the attempts at justifying the banning of public rallies in Malaysia by referring to the riotous behaviour of some others displays a certain degree of shallowness, if not lack of intelligence.

We all have freedom as human beings. There is no restriction on what we eat, for example. But eating without limitations, both in term of quantity and quality of the food, could harm our health. Do the majority of us eat until we harm ourselves? Granted, there are people who eat without a thought to their calorie intake; fat contents and the attendant harmful effects of the food. The point is there are also people who exercise their freedom to eat in a responsible manner.

So, may I ask, shall the State pass laws to restrict our freedom to eat just because some people eat until they die?

Think about it. Some people are simply yobs and thugs. These people did not rally or attend a demonstration as an exercise of their freedom to assemble. They are pursuing any valid and legal cause. They are just there to create trouble. Some are just there to loot. Some to look for a victim to rape. That’s the difference.

If anybody fails to see the difference, then I dare say he or she is blinkered and is all too eager to justify the unjustifiable by drawing a misconceived comparison.

The Tottenham riot apparently started from several peaceful rallies. Those rallies took place because the people wanted to show their anger against the police who had allegedly shot a guy by the name of Mark Duggan in a mini-cab. The police said he was a gangster and he shot at the police when he was stopped. So the police shot him dead.

The people got angry with the police and they started a peaceful rally.

We can surely learn a thing or two from this story.

Firstly, in modern democracies, police killings are frown upon by the society. In the US for example, there is an automatic inquiry into every case of discharge of arm or killing by the police. This is different from the inquest.

The function of the inquest is to determine how the deceased died. It makes findings of facts but not of guilt or the lack of it.

The inquiry however requires the officer to justify his or her shooting or killing.

Compare that to Malaysia. Our police kills even those who drive without licence! Those who panic upon seeing a road block and tried to evade it are also shot at sometimes. Once in a while, we would have news of the police shooting dead not one, but four or five people who are suspected rapists, robbers or gang members. In other cases our police would storm into houses and shoot even a pregnant lady. Those who drive off despite being asked to stop would be shot at without hesitation and any regard for the safety of the passengers in the vehicle. Normal and healthy people die in police custody. There was one who died frothing in his mouth.

I wouldn’t say that our police acts with impunity. But the fact is as members of the public, we do not have a clue whether all these shootings and killings could firstly, be avoided and secondly, are necessary. We do not even now whether there were several other options available to the police to apprehend all these suspected bad people and whether the police has availed themselves of all those options before opening fire and kill that person.

In the UK, obviously the public take these matters seriously. One guy is shot and it caused a riot!

How about here? Well, before the age if the internet, we wouldn’t even know about the killings. The newspaper and TV3 or RTM would set out the news with pictures of parangs and old pistols allegedly recovered from the deceased.

Thanks to the internet, nowadays we become more and more aware. The Aminul Rasyid killing is a case in point. He was only 14. His only offences were probably driving without a license; he did not stop after being ordered to do so and driving fast and recklessly while fleeing the police. He was killed!

In the UK, the whole government could have gone down if that had happened there. Over here, we just made noise. The police officer would be charged for some offences. Then we forget.

That proves something. We Malaysians are a peaceful lot. We are so tranquil that a foreigner would be hard press to know whether we are sleeping or in a coma or just plain dead. We don;t go out rioting for things like police killing. I don’t think we would go on a riot for anything, really.

With that kind of culture, could any reasonable person, such as the IGP or Home Minister conclude that any assembly of the people of Malaysia could turn into a riot?

Why then harass people assembling in some car parks holding some candles to support whatever cause or causes which they believe in? What is there in a rally to ask for something to which they are legally entitled?

The second point to note is this. The London riots do not exemplify the danger of freedom to assembly. It rather exemplifies the abject failure of their police force to control the crowd and to “read” the general feelings of anger permeating the air. That is their failure.

I have said it before and I will say it again. In a rally or peaceful assembly, the bounden duty of the police force is to ensure a peaceful, safe and orderly assembly. That is their duty. This, obviously, they failed to do in London.

Now, if the police are failures, would we punish the people by restricting their constitutionally guaranteed right to assemble?

If so, since our police has totally failed to arrest the acid splasher — who has, it seems, disappeared from everybody’s radar and is probably now laughing at all of us — shall we also ban everybody from walking on the streets in Bangsar and Brickfields?

You tell me.

  1. #1 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 2:16 pm

    Then the next day, some bloke twit and everyone came out with brooms, dustpans to clean up the streets. This is a very good idea. Like in Argentina where people come out clanging their pots and pans. In front of Putrajaya.

  2. #2 by Loh on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 3:24 pm

    ///The Tottenham riot apparently started from several peaceful rallies. Those rallies took place because the people wanted to show their anger against the police who had allegedly shot a guy by the name of Mark Duggan in a mini-cab. The police said he was a gangster and he shot at the police when he was stopped. So the police shot him dead.

    The people got angry with the police and they started a peaceful rally.///–Art Harun

    According to report, the rallies had been peaceful until a 16 year old girl threw stone at the police and she was grabbed and pinned to the ground. The crowd then started the commotion. If the same crowd were in KL protesting at Bersih rally and faced police tear gas, KL will have to be rebuilt.

    David Cameron, the PM said that those who were old enough to commit criminal offence were old enough to face punishment for their actions. It would appear that those who were involved were solely the youngsters who were out to loot and who took advantage of the situation to help themselves with what they could not get, in normal time. The copy-cat riot and loot spreads across the country.

    The riots there has nothing to do with race, religion or politics. But here in 1969, the ambitious group of persons planned it and then justified it with race issue.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 3:33 pm

    It is most unacceptable that the ruling regime bolsters its grip on federal power through robbing away people’s constitutional right to hold rallies in the street.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 3:46 pm

    We accept freedom of assembly as democratic expression. We also accept the distinction between Bersih marchers and London’s rioters. The obvious contrast with London’s rioters lies in Bersih’s organisers & participants assembling, for a democratic cause in exercise of a political/constitutional right with every intent to be peaceful and non violent. This means that whatever happens in London is not an analogy to say it will inevitably happen here if Bersih were to march. Having said that, it is also stretching the argument to say that a peaceful assembly can never make the transition change into chaos & public disturbance.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 3:48 pm

    It will be recalled that London’s riots started off as a peaceful vigil for the death of Mark Duggan (by police shooting) that spiralled out of control with contagion effect. In places that uphold freedom of assemby, there are assemblies that were peaceful in service of the democratic cause and there were those that descended into free for all lawlessness. If one upholds freedom of assembly it does not mean one need to argue and discount the risk of a peaceful rally turning ugly as not being present. (Although the pro-change protesters in Tahir Square protesting for Mubarak’s exit were supposedly “peaceful” and pro deocarcy in agenda yet a section of the crowd brutally assaulted sexually CBS journalsit Lara Logan finally saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers).

    That risk of violence/disturbance is always present in public assembly like hand & glove – it is the risk, cost of and price for upholding freedom of assembly that is cherished as just as important as the need for public order.
    Because both principles of freedom of assembly and public order are equally important, that’s why the answer does not lie in using selective instances to justify either freedom of assembly OR public order but in the police / authorities cooperating with organisers tactically and logistically to ensure crowd control and mitigate the risk of a section of it turning lawless and spreading the contagion – so that we can have both freedom of assembly AND public order. Admittedly this is easier said than done.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 3:50 pm

    For Art Harun to blame London police every thing is not fair either. When a riot break out authorities will inevitably be short on resources. There will always be no sufficient officers to establish a command presence at key points to address moving (separate) crowds seized by mob sentiment throwing molotov cocktails and smashing windows, looking for opportunities to loot and cause havoc, as they move from place to place. The rioters usually outnumber officers. How a peaceful crowd can be provoked to violent behaviour is best left to experts who specialise in crowd psychology. It is sanguine to however think that Malaysians in general are so peaceful that we are better than Londoners or immune from the dynamics of crowd change from peaceful to riotous as experience elsewhere shows.

  7. #7 by Loh on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 4:06 pm

    It seems that LLS, the former Transport Minister was not involved in the decision making on PKFZ land purchase, or he was simply ignorant about the issue besides practicing the calligraphy of his signature, he could not have misled the Prime Minister. So the Prime Minister at the time misled himself.

    Since LLS was not performing his duties as a Minister, as expected of him, should LLS cough out all the salaries and emolument, plus the perks expended on him, over his entire career as Minister? Since LLS’s son had golden touch, and was a billionaire, LLS can certainly refund all he took. It is better for him to claim a idiot than to face conviction.

  8. #8 by Loh on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 4:14 pm

    Malaysian Police arrested more than 500 persons (same number of arrests in UK) on the day of Bersih when only policemen had the means to irritate others. Had Malaysian police been in charge of the situation in London, there would either be no looting, because they had no chance. But then crime rate in the Malaysia is so high and yet criminals are hardly arrested, it would appear that Police Malaysia were only able to arrest peaceful citizens. Thus had Malaysian police been in charge in London, and since they could not stop them, they might join the looting.

  9. #9 by waterfrontcoolie on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 4:27 pm

    Some A.. hole really could not tell the difference between our BERSIH and a bunch of Gangsters. Anyway, the WEST has lost the right to lead when they could not tell this difference; just like the American who got caned in Singapore! So our local supporters of BN , don’t draw any parallel here.

  10. #10 by monsterball on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 4:42 pm

    In Malaysia…you can bet the Big Boss hope riots and fighting start and that will give them plenty of options and opportunities to focus how to steer Malaysians away from changing the government or end corruptions with their votes.
    What happened in England is entirely different from what Malaysians are walking and protesting about.
    The fact that Malaysians are all geared to be calm and…facing provocations and high handed bullies with nothing ..except marching on and shouting back…is exactly what makes the corrupted lot afraid of..disobedience with no violence.
    Like Mahatma Gandhi said….”They may arrest me…beat me…even kill me…but they will never have my loyalty and dignity”
    That is what Malaysians need to be prepared to save our country and people from tyrants …robbers and thieves…..that obviously have some support from so call highly dignified Malaysians…all because of money and for selfish reasons.

  11. #11 by tak tahan on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 - 10:19 pm

    I thought Londoners are more democratic people than Canlanders but it turns out the other way..wakakaka.We the Bersih rallied peacefully but kena teruk teruk.What if supposed the riots over there handled by our honourable,entrusted guardian of the law,PDRM?Joke aside..we are really in the police state where laws is never respected and uphold by the so-called shiok-sendiri and self-imposed half past six ministers.We will still walk peacefully to make our voices heard loud enough and clear if we are still been kept in the dark.It’s time we use our wisely vote to tendang keluar the ever ready racist,non-progressive yet makan kuat monster-BN.

  12. #12 by bruno on Thursday, 11 August 2011 - 4:36 am

    I have said it before,and I will say it again.In modern days mass protest or demonstrations there is not one as peaceful and disiplined as our Bersih rally.There is always rowdy crowds and damage to private and public properties.Whether these demonstrations are held in our neighbouring countries or in Western countries it doesn’t matter.There will always be looting,clashes and damage to properties,except in Malaysia.

  13. #13 by dagen on Thursday, 11 August 2011 - 12:34 pm

    Bersih rally and the london protest? Of course they are different. Look at Youtube. It is clear. The mobsters in the former were the police.

  14. #14 by cemerlang on Thursday, 11 August 2011 - 2:05 pm

    So yesterday RTM showed our MARA student sitting and bleeding and some hypocrit so called show kindness only to have his things stolen by a white man. This showed us that if money is spent like mad, then Malaysia will become like England where poor white people will steal even from the so called stupid coloured people.

  15. #15 by bungkit on Friday, 12 August 2011 - 3:46 pm

    Public protest is a daily occurrence in UK and unlike in Malaysia, freedom of speech is respected. In UK, when there is a public protest, police are there to ensure public order, not to stop the protest. They work together with the protest organiser to oversee that a rally goes in an orderly manner, not spray them with water canon and tear gas.

    The UK police chief admitted yesterday that they had employed a wrong tactic. They shouldn’t be crowd controlling for obvious reason; the riot was not a political protest but purely theft and acts of violence.

    I just know that one of those UMNO clown will be quick to make reference of the UK riots to Bersih rally. Hishamudin is the first one I spot in The Star today, too quick to put two on two with mind of a simpleton. The riot in UK is simply an act of violence, period. When did the Bersih campaigner ever went around looting?

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