Let’s keep thuggery out

I have been working for Nurul Izzah and Parti Keadilan Rakyat since October 2010.

When I began, I did not know what I was really getting myself into. I am, by training, a chemical engineer.

But over the years, I’ve donned the hat of a writer, a theatre practitioner, a graphic designer, a teacher, and many others.

Suffice to say that a political activist is but one other hat (or blood-stained medieval helmet) I’ve had to wear.

Before I started, I asked some very close friends if I should get into this thing called “politics” (I’ve come to see it more specifically as “party politics”, because in almost every field of life you will come into contact with politics – office, at home, the theatre, at work, etc).

Some said don’t get into it “because it’s dirty”, while some said the things that I’ve been doing all this while – my writings, The Fairly Current Show interviews, the theatre productions – are all indicative of my own latent and emergent political activism.

In any case, here I am: 20 months of formally working in politics.

Definitely not long, even if I considered my volunteering in the 1999 general election as the start of my political activism.

I’m still relatively a greenhorn, attached to ideals and the ideas of justice and equality still.

Yet these past months have surely tested many an idealist’s resolve.

In particular, let’s reflect on the way in which certain parties have responded to Bersih 3.0.

I refer, of course, to the “butt exercises”, the Merlimau incident where cars were pelted with eggs, and the straight-up intimidation tactics employed to try and cow Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan into silence.

That these parties have specifically targeted Ambiga and not Datuk A Samad Said, a co-chair of Bersih 2.0, is particularly telling, so much so that  Samad has come out to ask if these parties are making issue of Ambiga because of her gender, ethnicity, and religion.

If that is the case – and for many it appears to be so – then such thuggish politics must stop.

In Lembah Pantai as well I have witnessed many examples of thug politics.

In the case of the eviction of residents from the PKNS flats in Kg Kerinchi, several youths who were trying to protect the rights of the remaining residents were physically assaulted by “outsiders” who had been brought in by irresponsible parties – to this day, we have not received word if these “outsiders” will be charged.

Likewise, the case of a threatening SMS received by Nurul Izzah, with a veiled reference to harming her daughter.

And again, more recently, when Nurul Izzah was to do some programmes in PPR Pantai Ria, the hall was blocked at the very last minute by unknown (influential) parties.

What is it about Ambiga and Nurul Izzah which frightens their opponents so?

To the point that their positions and political ideas can no longer be confronted by words, but by fists and/or rear ends? To the point that acts that obviously cross legal lines appear to bring no reprimand against the perpetrators, bringing to fore the lack of political will by the authorities in curbing thug politics?

Malaysia is very obviously at a crossroad, and we must be very careful in picking the path with which we will go forward.

Whatever our ideological differences may be, whatever partisan persuasions we might have, let us be committed and work hard to ensure that we keep thuggery out of politics.

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