COMMENTARY BY JAHABAR SADIQ, EDITOR
The Malaysian Insider
29 August 2015
Before 6pm yesterday, one of the best jokes in Malaysia was in the form of a riddle. It went like this: why did the chicken cross the road?
Because Tun was on this side.
But after 6pm yesterday, the better joke was that wearing anything yellow with “Bersih 4” was now illegal.
One specific colour, one specific word and one specific number.
Of course, this isn’t the first time such a ban has been gazetted. It happened for Bersih 2 way back in 2011. People ignored it then, people will ignore it now.
Because it isn’t a colour, a word or a number that is uppermost on the minds of those gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, or the other cities across the world today.
There are five issues or demands on the table, and those issues are the ones that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government must address, rather than decreeing that any yellow clothing with the word Bersih and number 4 is outlawed.
But they appear rather like ostriches and are burying their heads in the sand, hoping the ban and roadblocks will throttle the turnout in Kuala Lumpur today.
Perhaps it will, but the past three Bersih rallies have shown that people from all walks of life, from pensioners to teenagers, politicians to panhandlers, poor to rich, will be trying to converge around Dataran Merdeka – where Malaya’s flag was first raised in August 1957.
Particularly this weekend, as Malaysia celebrates National Day, the name that has come back as a concession to our fellow Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak.
National Day, however, is also appropriate because Merdeka means freedom and independence.
That, Malaysians are not – neither free nor independent nor trusted by the government to gather at Dataran Merdeka in any combination of yellow, Bersih and 4, to press for five demands.
Instead, the square has been locked down, ahead of the National Day parade to protect the chairs, stage and flags all set up for the August 31 celebrations.
Yet the Malaysian spirit is strong. It triumphed against the British way back in 1957 to gain independence for Malaya. It triumphed against regional powers to form Malaysia in 1963.
So what can a ban on the combination of one colour, one word and one number do? At worst, evoke a snort of derision, and at best, get more people to turn up and thumb their noses at the powers-that-be.
And celebrate Merdeka as they should, together as Malaysians. – August 29, 2015.