A day immediately after the Sept. 16 Red Shirts Malay rally, I had asked the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to apologise to Malaysians for the most shameful abdication of responsibility in allowing Malaysia Day to be desecrated and racial harmony and social peace to be undermined by the divisive, racially-charged and provocative Red Shirts rally.
It does not appear that Najib will be ready to tender such an apology, as he had transformed his “silent blessing” before the Red Shirts rally to active endorsement after the rally, closing his eyes, ears and mind to the racist slurs, provocations and breaches of law committed by the participants of the Red Shirts rally.
If Cabinet on Wednesday are not prepared to apologise for its shameful abdication of responsibility in giving “green light” for the divisive and racist Sept. 16 Red Shirts rally, will the Ministers step forward to tender separate individual apologies?
I still hope that Najib can realise that he is Prime Minister for all Malaysians, and not just for Malays, UMNO or an UMNO faction.
Clearly, the primary purpose of the Red Shirts rally of Sept. 16 was to show that the Prime Minister still commanded mass support, despite widespread criticisms not only from Opposition parties and the civil society, but also from various UMNO leaders and ranks.
There is nothing wrong with organizing a Red Shirts rally to demonstrate that the Prime Minister had not become an isolated political figure but commanded “mass support”, but what was not permissible and most reprehensible in a democratic and plural society is for the rally to be turned into a highly racially-charged and provocative affair, threatening racial peace and social harmony, and what is worse, undermining Malaysia’s efforts at restoring national and international economic confidence by sending out the message as if Malaysia has become a potential Indonesia in the late 1990s with “anti-Chinese” protests and demonstrations.
I suggest that the Cabinet should invite the Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Hasmy Agam to give Ministers a briefing of what happened at the Sept. 16 Red Shirts rally, as Suhakam was on the ground to monitor the rally.
In a press release a day after the rally, Suhakam had expressed its regrets on how the “peaceful assembly turned non-peaceful when a group of participants pushed past the police restriction lines in an attempt to reach certain parts of Kuala Lumpur that the organisers and PDRM had initially agreed were prohibited”.
Hasmy said the commission was “perturbed” by the “irresponsible and confrontational actions of several participants for inciting lawless and disorderly behaviour by flaunting racially charged placards and for uttering slogans that promoted racial or religious hatred in our multireligious and secular society”.
He said such behaviour cannot be condoned and must be appropriately dealt with, adding that the advocacy of racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence should be prohibited by law.
“The right to peaceful assembly is not an excuse to perpetrate violence which will only make a mockery of the concept of peaceful assembly,” he said.
The Cabinet should not be like the proverbial frogs in the well but must be brave to acknowledge that great damage had been done by the Sept. 16 Red Shirts rally not only to the Malaysian nation-building process but to Malaysia’s Vision 2020 to become a fully developed nation in five years’ time.
The 34-hour Bersih 4 overnight rally of August 29 and 30, participated by hundreds of thousands of Malaysians regardless of race, religion, region, age, gender or politics had hurt the dignity and pride of the Prime Minister and a coterie of UMNO leaders, but the four-hour Sept. 16 Red Shirts rally had deeply wounded the heart and soul of a “sehati sejiwa” united Malaysia nation.
This is a time of national healing, which is why I had suggested the revival of a National Goodwill Committee under the chairmanship of former Cabinet Minister, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, involving the participation of all patriotic Malaysians regardless of race, religion, region or politics to take the nation back from brink of the precipice of a divided and failed state to return to the previous national trajectory of a twin success story of a plural society of diverse races, religions and cultures which could also make good in economic development and justice.
Is Najib and the Cabinet capable of rising up to this national challenge?