A Budding Sprightly Spring

by Kee Thuan Chye
Malaysian Digest

THE young are not happy with the result of the 13th general election (GE13) held on May 5. I saw that for myself at the ‘Black 505’ rally in Penang on May 11, at which most of the participants were young people – of all races.

They came by the tens of thousands, carrying Pakatan Rakyat and Malaysian flags, blowing vuvuzuelas … and sporting banners that spoke of the unity they profess: “We are Malaysian – Malay, Chinese, Indian.” For them, the race-based politics of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) is anathema.

In that sense, the ‘Black 505’ rallies, which have since been held in Selangor, Penang and Perak to tremendous responses have become more than just demonstrations of disgust at the alleged electoral fraud of GE13; they are also manifestations of a real sense of unity among like-minded Malaysians.

This is the kind of unity that BN, despite throwing out billions of ringgit to buy allegiance, cannot possibly engender. In fact, this unity has come about because BN, after its poorest performance at a general election to date, has been playing the racial card wildly. Prime Minister Najib Razak and ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and Umno’s propaganda rag Utusan Malaysia have been attempting to demonize the Chinese for BN’s own failings. But their devious attempts have backfired on them. Other Malaysians have come forward to defend the Chinese, including even Umno members Saifuddin Abdullah, the former higher education deputy minister, and Shahrir Samad.

They point out from clear-cut evidence in the voting patterns that Malaysians of all races voted strongly against BN, not just the Chinese. The popular vote itself spoke resoundingly of more than half the voters’ rejection of BN. Indeed, this is the first time in Malaysia’s electoral history that the winning coalition obtained less of the popular vote than the loser.

Pakatan leader Anwar Ibrahim knows this favors his coalition, and is milking the voters’ dissatisfaction to maximum effect through organizing the ‘Black 505’ rallies. In Selangor on May 8, about 100,000 people showed up for what turned out to be essentially another Opposition ceramah running down BN and the Election Commission (EC) for allegedly colluding in the fraud.

But that didn’t really matter to the cheering crowd. What mattered most was the sense of community they experienced gathering together to denounce the alleged act of fraud that had denied them a change of government. Those who had been devastated by the GE13 result, those who had cried their hearts out when it was announced – they all experienced catharsis at the Kelana Jaya Stadium in the company of fellow comrades for change.

I was there that night, and what heartened me was not the politicians’ rhetoric but the spirit of the people. They indicated they were not going to accept the GE13 result meekly, and in their cries of “tipu” (cheating) and “bohong” (lying) was the unmistakable ring of steely determination.

It was this that motivated me to attend the Penang rally as well. And what I saw there was basically the same.

For starters, the drive from Penang island to the Batu Kawan Stadium on the mainland took nearly three hours as the North-South Expressway was jammed up for several kilometers, but the people in the cars that crawled along with me were apparently too buoyed up to care. Mostly dressed in black, the color designated for the occasion, they were singular in purpose.

Everyone was a friend. The four middle-aged Indian men in a car I passed by, the group of young Chinese in another car with PAS and PKR flags sticking out of it, the young Malays on motorcycles bearing PAS and DAP flags – they smiled, they waved, they raised thumbs-up signs. Everyone was in it together. Everyone recognized in one another their common purpose. Even lorry drivers passing by on the North-South Expressway honked in support.

When I got to the Bukit Tambun toll gate, I was amazed to see the number of cars already parked in its vicinity. I asked someone how far more I would have to go to reach the stadium and was told it would be another three kilometers. Many people were willing to leave their cars at the toll area and walk all the way there.

I decided to drive on. As I did so, I passed thousands of people walking in an orderly fashion towards the stadium. They were mostly young and in high spirits, headed more for a carnival than for a protest rally. They carried flags, blew vuvuzuelas, sang songs, chanted slogans. There was hardly a policeman in sight; in fact, the police needn’t have been there because the marchers were all so disciplined. And the motorcyclists as well.

It was about 8:30pm when I reached the stadium and managed to find a parking space. Inside, about 30,000 to 40,000 thousand people had gathered, but as the night wore on, more and more came in. Many others couldn’t make it, like my friend and his nephew coming from the island only to find they couldn’t cross the Penang Bridge because it was too jammed up.

One by one, the politicians came forward to speak, but it was the same old bluster. They accused the EC of being complicit in the fraud, called on Najib to step down, said Pakatan had won the popular vote, that it had won the entire general election.

But did it?

After drumming up such a frenzy with these rallies, Pakatan must surely have to prove that it did. But can it?

I’ve been told that Pakatan is investigating 27 seats, and numerous lawyers and accountants have volunteered for the job. But will they be able to secure the tabulated results from all the streams of the constituencies whose results are being questioned? Will they be able to get the all-important Borang 14 (Form 14) which carries the details of the voting in each stream, validated by all the polling agents present and the ketua tempat mengundi (returning officer)? Will they be able to get all the Borang 14 of all the streams in all the 27 constituencies?

Is this what the rallies so far and those to come – in Pahang, Johor and Sabah – are leading to? Will they culminate in the presentation of incontrovertible evidence that Pakatan was indeed cheated of victory?

Or are these rallies just Anwar’s way of trying to drum up a show of strength to boost his cause? A case of taking a gamble and hoping to come up with aces?

Ultimately, he must know, rallying the people and riling them up will not be enough. They will want to see action, expect a resolution to the claims of cheating. If Pakatan doesn’t offer one, how would they feel? What then might be the consequences?

As I thought about this that night while sitting out the jam heading home after the rally had ended, something else distracted me. It was the sight of the rally participants walking back to their vehicles, in the same orderly manner as before. They showed they were not there to create a disturbance; they were there to assert their right – to be heard. And they were united in spirit.

It is this that is perhaps the most precious feature of these rallies. And it is this that Malaysia needs to cultivate. If nothing else, Anwar and Pakatan have managed to harness that spirit. And it is perhaps their success in doing so that might exonerate them if nothing comes off in the end.

As I watched the young rally participants pass by, still energetic despite the long walk, some reluctant to go home, some still waving banners by the side of the expressway to the encouragement of honking motorists, I felt exhilarated by their refreshing vigor.

I felt I was witness to a revolution of the young. A Budding Sprightly Spring.

  1. #1 by negarawan on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 - 10:10 pm

    There are “fence sitting” groups within UMNO, MCA and MIC who are aware of the vast electoral fraud committed by BN in PRU13 but are too afraid to voice it out, although they are disgusted. Only time will tell if their conscience will take over…….

  2. #2 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 - 11:43 pm

    if we allow any government to cheat in elections via vote-buying and gerrymandering, we are condoning their crimes!

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