BN could suffer for attack on students

Kee Thuan Chye
Free Malaysia Today
April 21, 2012

Perception is what counts in politics. And the perception that has already set in among the discerning public, not only discerning students, is that Umno hired the thugs.


Barisan Nasional has probably just lost the votes of university students who are bright, perceptive and can think for themselves.

These students would have been reviled by the recent attack on the student protesters camped out at Dataran Merdeka by a gang of 50 thugs. They would have seen this as a shameful act of violence against their fellow students, who were helpless and defenceless.

They would have seen this as an act to frighten the students into ending their protest calling for PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund Corporation) loans to be written off.

Those who are bright and up to speed about politics in this country would automatically assume that this is the work of forces bigger than the thugs. For why should thugs randomly attack the students and beat some of them up, including women? What would be their motive for doing so?

The assumption would most likely be that the forces behind the attack are members of the ruling party – for who, more than anyone else, would want to see the protest end sooner?

That being so, it’s bad news for BN. Rightly or wrongly, the first suspicion would be that BN – or, more specifically, Umno – is behind this.

Even if it’s not the case in reality, it doesn’t matter. Perception is what counts in politics. And the perception that has already set in among the discerning public, not only discerning students, is that Umno hired the thugs.

This was the perception too when thugs also violently disrupted a Solidariti Mahasiswa talk in Klang last February.

So rampant have violent disruptions of political events been of late – particularly those that are deemed adversarial to the ruling party – that it has become common belief that Umno is responsible for them.

It has come to be seen as a modus operandi for intimidating opponents. Increasingly, with each new violent disruption, the image of Umno and BN has suffered. The perception is that the ruling party knows no other way than intimidation to deal with challenges to its authority and policies. Instead of adhering to democratic principles, it employs anti-democratic means.

This perception is supported by the fact that Umno has resorted to threats and violence a few times before in the past.

Umno Youth members threatened to burn down the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in 2000 unless the Chinese Malaysian Election Appeals Committee (Suqiu) retracted its 17-point appeal for improvements in some national policies.

Umno Youth members stormed an Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor II conference in Kuala Lumpur in 1996, broke down the doors of the conference halls, threw chairs and verbally and physically abused the participants.

In 2006, a forum on Article 11 of the Federal Constitution held in Penang was made to end abruptly by the vehement protest of a group of Umno Youth members at the forum venue. The police intervened by telling the forum organisers to cut short the forum.

Nothing from police probes

In recent times, we have seen the same modus operandi at work on a few occasions.

Last August, Umno senator Ezam Mohd Nor threatened to burn down the offices of Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider for what he said was their false reporting against Islam. This was, to say the least, a most unbecoming utterance from a senator.

Last January, the ceramah in Shah Alam organised by Anything But Umno (ABU) and Hindraf was gate-crashed by a gang of thugs who rode their motorcycles into the hall, threw leaflets and bottles around and verbally abused the audience.

In Penang last February, a group identified as Umno Youth and Perkasa members attacked anti-Lynas protesters at Speakers’ Corner, resulting in injury to two journalists. Even Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who spoke at the event, was harassed.

The police who were present reportedly looked on and did nothing. Later, Penang Chief Police Officer Ayub Yaakob blamed the organisers for not informing the police about their event.

Must one have prepared the police beforehand before the latter can perform their duty of restoring order when a fracas breaks out? If they have not been duly informed, do they just pretend they are not there?

What KPI should the police get for this, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak?

To be sure, the police have so far not been seen to be impartial in handling the various attacks. Their investigations after the fact have often led to nothing. No one has yet been charged in court, although in the Shah Alam incident, the attack was serious enough to cause a man to be hospitalised.

Even when there is video evidence to support the claim of violent action, the police have been known to say that nothing violent was committed.

In this current case of the attack at Dataran Merdeka, the students claim that the police stood and watched while the attack was going on. To this, the police counter-claim that they responded by sending 10 personnel to the scene within five to six minutes.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohmad Salleh says two plainclothes policemen were already at the scene when the attack started at 2.40am. So why didn’t these two plunge straight into breaking it up?

Only one attacker was arrested out of the 50 or so. This is poor pickings by any standard.

What was Mohmad’s excuse? “It was early in the morning and we could not differentiate the attackers from those already there.” One might well interpret from that statement that the attackers must have just been standing around with their arms folded. Or perhaps the cops were sleeping on the job.

Are we to believe the claim made by the Government body Pemandu (Performance Management and Delivery Unit) that the crime rate has gone down when our police have shown their level of efficiency in this case?

Are we to believe Pemandu’s declaration that Malaysia is now the safest and most peaceful country in Malaysia when innocent, defenceless students can be attacked by hired thugs?

Power of passive resistance

The whole incident has, as usual, been badly handled by the authorities.

Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin showed a lack of emotional quotient when he tweeted: “No one asked (the students) to camp out at Dataran Merdeka. When something happens, don’t go asking for sympathy.” He had to later give the pathetic excuse that he wrote it like that to keep within the 140-character limit.

If there is something exemplary to be remarked upon here, it is the students’ composure when they were being attacked.

In not physically retaliating against their attackers, they demonstrated the power of passive resistance. No wonder they have won much public sympathy since. And no doubt they have won the admiration of their peers as well.

The students may well prove to be a substantial thorn in BN’s side, that will haunt the coalition at the upcoming general election, but that’s what you get when students you have been oppressing for four decades are stirred and finally stand up to reclaim their rights.

A friend of mine often says that change will come when students start to take to the streets. This has now happened, and I hope he’s right.

Kee Thuan Chye is the author of No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, now available in major bookstores.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 8:27 pm

    If PR wants to win big in the coming polls, it must capitalize on the following issues:

    1. Cattle-condos
    2. Bersih 3.0 (permission to use Dataran Merdeka rejected + BN/EC dirty election tactics)
    3. Lynas
    4. Shortage of Chinese Primary School teachers
    5. Media freedom reform
    6. Christians being accused for converting Muslims
    7. PTPTN + university students barred from FULL participation in politics

    It is high time that PR starts a brainstorming session on the above issues to build up its “election weaponry”.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 9:01 pm

    UMNO b party and in particular….Mahathir have always clamp down University students taking party in Malaysians affairs.
    He knows these people are too smart for him to be fooled.
    It will be the young new voters that will lead all Malaysians to alter the history of our country.

  3. #3 by raven77 on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 12:10 am

    The Barisan Nasional is in serious serious serious trouble…..dont really know if these guys actually know it…the GE will see the final end of MIC and MCA….the actual talk in town is how many seats UMNO can actually get….

    AS for the students out at Dataran……does the BN actually know how tough it is for a student to survive in KL…it is so costly some of them actually go hungry !!!!!

    BN and UMNO are out of touch with reality…and they will have to pay the ultimate price….

  4. #4 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 12:56 am

    UMNO, in a terminal state of cancer, its central nervous system now in a state of permanent siege, lashes out at everybody, including Merdeka square students.

    Watch out for UMNO in its final throes. It will continue to thrash about as its brains shuts down and cancer ravages its soul.

  5. #5 by k1980 on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 1:33 am

    The mca president cheated on his wife and sodded his ‘personal friend’….now will mca sue me for slander?

  6. #6 by monsterball on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 2:17 am

    I don’t think BN and UMNO b in particular are out of touch with the people or the U students.
    They must always pretend …they hear nothing ..see nothing and thus pretend they know nothing.
    Especially Njaib..look how quiet he is; because his advisor Rosmah have no better ideas to feed him to talk.
    These first class hypocrites have never gone through such a rough and tough time….until 12th GE…where Malaysians woke up and shocked them with the results.
    From first day after 12th GE….it’s non stop finding ways and means to survive.
    And we see Chua Soi Lek chipped in to be the lowest MCA scum president we have ever witnessed.
    There is nothing that has not been said before.
    While thousands including me are going to support BERSIH 3…it’s actions speaking louder than words to defy show them….again and again until we are free.
    Right now….Najib is hoping for a miracle or a country with fights from everywhere.
    The miracle to win 13th GE is how far he can with with frauds like before but in bigger numbers needed now….as more Malaysians are going to vote for change.
    Meanwhile needling…irritating…insulting…provoking…bullying…all have been done with no good results for Najib.
    He sure love to have reasons to announce Emergency Rule.

  7. #7 by boh-liao on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 3:09 am

    Don’t forget AhCHEATkor oredi called his kaki 2 “defend Putrajaya with our bodies and broken bones”
    Violence, thugs (blackshirts) actif in many places: KL, Sarawak, Pg, Pahang, etc

  8. #8 by boh-liao on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 3:21 am

    Mooo likely 2 say: Umno/BN no need students’ votes lah 2 win 1, we got POSTAL VOTES, UmnoB, MCA, MIC, Gerakan mah, goodie goodie 1

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 5:59 am

    ///Only one attacker was arrested out of the 50 or so.///- Kee Thuan Chye.

    Well even one can disclose (under intense interrogation of the nature that TBH was said to have gone through) who cajoled organized or hired the mob. Ask the authorities to disclose. But that is asking too much isn’t it? Since 308 there is proliferation of pressure groups and NGOs with diametrically opposed agenda – both for and against the BN Establishment’s race based politics held in place by feudal patronage practices, conducive to corruption and lack of accountability. However there is now emerging groups of hooligans and thugs attacking and intimidating any group which brings their agenda (perceived critical or against BN establishment) to the public fore. Arguing issues and making a stand in public is not their forte. Violence or threats thereof are. This is happening in KL when we used to think that it happens only in repressive 3rd world’s capitals like Columbia or Kampala! If the authorities do not want to be blamed for complicity then they should investigate and disclose to public who organizes finances foment these groups, and be seen doing something to deter and stop their actions.

  10. #10 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 10:01 am

    I was in country heights last. And i saw a large gang of superbikers. Something like 30 of them going round n round a certian part of that housing estate. It was mega noisy. And that went on for somefhing like an hour. Hmmm… Wonder if any opposition ppl were having talks there n these UMNO ppl deceded to show up with noisy machines. Just a guess. Can blame me far guessing it that way. Look at the way umno behaves – like thugs.

  11. #11 by DAP man on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 11:04 am

    UMNO is making enemies with practically everybody – students, Bersih supporters, Opposition supporters, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, Christians, etc etc.
    I am sure every UMNO and Pertubuhan Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) member have some preference for kinky sex. This is human nature, you idiots and hypocrites.

    These idiots are mentally sick.

    BN hopes to win the elections with the supports of illegal immigrants, postal voters, police, Rela, civil servants, police and by cheating.

  12. #12 by SENGLANG on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 11:27 am

    Those attackers allied with BN/UMNO or other wise does not matter, but from the incident they seem that the most important have the support of the authority such as the police. This was the most important issue. Thus most people will link these attackers are on the BN side. As the writer has mentioned in politic people will not see the true but it is perception that matter. The attack has sure back fire on BN

  13. #13 by Winston on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 12:12 pm

    “The whole incident has, as usual, been badly handled by the authorities.” – end of quote

    Mr Kee, it’s not badly handled, it more like intentionally badly handled!!!
    Same for incident after incident after incident!!!!
    This should be grist for the opposition to wise up the people, especially the rural folks through the students, who suffered or witnessed the whole incident, to convince their kin to boot out the UMNO/BN in the next GE!!!
    The PR must capitalise on all these God-send blessings in disguise to the hilt to prise UMNO/BN’s grip on Putrajaya!!!!

  14. #14 by cseng on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 12:18 pm

    BN would not suffer, Because Najib has the best democracy in the world.

    EC will win the election for them, because EC has the cleanest roll in the world.

  15. #15 by cseng on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 12:21 pm

    With the rates the dataran merdeka get rapes, soon this dataran will have its 10′ high fence.

  16. #16 by k1980 on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 12:42 pm

    //EC has the cleanest roll in the world//

    Saifool oso has the cleanest a-hole in da world

  17. #17 by sotong on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 1:37 pm

    There is a strong culture of bullying and intimidation……fortunately none was seriously injured or killed.

  18. #18 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Sunday, 22 April 2012 - 10:27 pm

    And let me guess. That silly chap who was arrested will admit that he is an opposition guy. It will be a frame up case to smear PR.

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