Tuesday, December 11, 2007

While I Was There, Things Were Happening Here

Here people really have to work hard to build a scene. And by the time (the scene) is thriving, the poets would have nurtured themselves pretty well to take over. And that's going to be mind-blowing. ... I really do think than the Malaysian poets can whack off stage those so-called top poets in the UK now. The standard of writing here is better.
The words of performance poet Charlie Dark will be enormously encouraging to all involved in live literature in KL. The complete interview from the New Sunday Times is here.

I'm so sad I missed Wayang Kata V at No Black Tie on Sunday night when Dark performed with local poets. Has anyone blogged it or stuck up pictures anywhere? If so, could you please post the link?

I also missed Ann Lee's play Tarap Man which I had really been looking forward to. The only night I was free to go, the tickets were already all gone when I called up. But I appreciated Saras Manickam's review and really hope this excellent play gets staged again.

The other big event of the weekend was to have been the International Human Rights Day celebrations with a peaceful walk from Sogo to Central Market in solidarity with the principle of freedom of expression. I am most upset that things turned out very differently, and that lawyers got arrested ... what is happening? No, don't answer because the way things are going in this country is just too depressing.


Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is how the walk is going to achieve it's aims. The way I see it, there's no benefit to the walk, and there's the possibility of a fracas erupting, which will mean more trouble. In my opinion, it doesn't seem like a very good risk to take.

If they wanted to support free speech, why would they not donate their time, do some pro bono work for activists, that would be much more beneficial than just walking, and there'd be no risk involved.

bibliobibuli said...

well they had the central market thingy and that went ok

Anonymous said...

I sort of feel like I should let someone else tackle this question -- someone who was actually there at the walk, maybe -- because there are concrete answers to the question of Why walk around with placards, why protest, why demonstrate instead of donating your time to the cause in other ways.

But since no one else has emerged to answer, I'll just say that one of the things the human rights cause really needs in Malaysia is public attention, both locally and internationally. And that is the point of demonstrations -- to get attention, to pressure and/or shame governments into listening. A quiet donation of time would not have made even the local press; a protest march can make the news abroad if there is enough of a scuffle.

This disturbing quote from an International Herald Tribune article yesterday on human rights abuses by Rela:

"If you talk about human rights you cannot talk about security."

So says the director-general of Rela, as he authorises his thugs to round up and beat illegal immigrants in the dead of night. I hear that's what they're saying in Guantanamo too.

-- Preeta

animah the crow said...

Anon @ 2.18pm,
They do a lot of pro bono work, but it gets frustrating because they see the same injustices increasing. The Malaysian public, until recently has been largely apathetic because they are not aware of what is happening.
A walk like this gets attention and raises awareness.
In any case, the Human Rights Day walk has been going on for some years, I joined 2 years ago with my toddler daughter then - and to quote Zaid Ibrahim - it was a walk in the park.
It is merely a group of like minded concerned citizens who want to get together and celebrate human rights. Only this year, has it become controversial, and the Ruling party has threatened anyone who joins the walk. In the past there has been no fracas.

Anonymous said...

"that is the point of demonstrations -- to get attention, to pressure and/or shame governments into listening."

So you believe in pressuring or shaming governments "into listening" ? sorry but I don't see how that will work. To me that's the same as "I'll hit you until you listen to me."

"They do a lot of pro bono work"

You know that for a fact ?

"but it gets frustrating because they see the same injustices increasing"

injustices such as ? um.. are they blocking traffic or anything ? if they are would that be considered an injustice ?

Actually, I rather think most people throw parties when they want to celebrate.

I'm sorry, but I'm having a hard time understanding the motives behind this. We've seen (in the BERSIH rallies etc.) how this can turn really ugly really fast. I'm not sure a toddler should be at a demonstration, it seems somewhat dangerous to me. Please tell me how we can ensure that it won't turn ugly.

I'm sure it gets attention, but then again if you blew up a building you'd get attention and awareness. Not that I'm saying they're the same thing, but you get the general idea.

I'm also not sure if they're just apathetic because they don't care and are not really interested. You can't MAKE people care if they don't want to.

The RELA man is right up to a point, actually. It's not easy to see how we can support human rights fully and completely and still not end up with another 9/11.

Whitearrow said...

Hmmmm, i think the right to protest openly on the streets of any country is not only good for gaining attention locally and internationally, but if promoted, supported and encouraged, is a good sign that there is at least some balance of power between people and govt, at least on the face of it.

And even without that reason (publicity), I've always thought such protests a legitimate vehicle for expression anyway. And especially if one is discontented, there aren't all that many public venues for expressing such discontent in terms of mass...you know, apart from referendums and such,...so what else can one do but organise like-minded people to march down a street with you as a sign, or symbol, of the views of the collective. It's a statement of sorts. Yeah, some marches can turn violent, but is that a good reason to say no marches should be held at all/have no meaning/have no proper motives? Personally, I don't think that's the way to go. The fact is, many marches around the world have been done peacefully (throughout history), with people making their point peacefully too. And, well, those violent marches expressing discontent have also altered history (for the better sometimes), so despite my dislike of violence, and the fact that I don't condone violence, who's to say the possibility of violence should negate from scratch the need for a particular act/situation. Maybe it's a sign that what's pushing the person to be so violent should be dealt with. Having said that, hope all the marches in this country at least will be done in a peaceful manner.

Btw I don't think it's all that safe to bring children on marches (not even because of the risk of violence, but just because with so many people around you'd really have to keep an eye on the kids and make sure they're not stomped on or otherwise spirited away), but I suppose that putting away the risk of those things happening, bringing them on a protest with you would be good in terms of inculcating values of freedom of expression and the right to protest in them from a young age.

Hmmm, this post is rather rambling. Apologies, as it's being done in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

That's true.. in any large crowd it's always a good idea to keep tabs on the kids, because you never really know. I'm all for marching if there's some sort of way to prevent it from turning ugly. But there doesn't seem to be one.

I'm sorry to say I still don't get it. It seems to me if I was discontented, I'd gather a whole lot of people together in secret, and then just swing the vote next election.

It just seems to me that this would be the most effective option.

Whitearrow said...

Hehe yeah that'd be one way to do it certainly. Hmmm of course, knowing the workings of the human machine, by the time you garner enough secret support to sway a vote, it probably wouldn't be a secret anymore ha...

Well, I think that sometimes what seems to be the least effective option can turn out to be the best when push comes to shove. Circumstances can have a lot do with it certainly. But I wouldn't dismiss the effectiveness of protests/marches out of hand, whether in attracting publicity or just plain making the people who are protesting feel empowered for that small moment in time. Who knows, it might work in effecting change, or it might not...but I guess the achieving of something important's always worth a try even if only by way of strange and inexplicable means...in fact, that reminds me of the Salt March to Dandi...the one with Gandhi in India...I mean, can u imagine, marching for salt...(or the abolition of salt tax as the case was)...if i'm not mistaken, the British Viceroy was warned about it and said that being a salt walk it wouldn't keep him awake at night or something...which although a reasonably funny comment at the time could not have envisioned the effect that that one peaceful march had...amazing really... of course if Gandhi had tried that with Pol Pot I'm sure the ending to the story would have been quite different...the salt tax would probably have been increased...but there you go...

Man, yet another unpolished/rambling post from me. Right, will have to leave it at that for now.

Anonymous said...

I can see why they wouldn't have had much of a choice. It's not as if they could vote or anything. They really and truly didn't have much of a choice. Here people have a choice, they're just not taking it, which is what I don't understand about it.

Whitearrow said...

A choice? Hmmm, well, a vote is an exercise of a choice certainly in terms of choosing a government/ruling party etc...but i think a protest/march covers more areas than choice of govt.

A protest may help to highlight to a ruling govt (that one may in fact not be opposed to in general) that something is wrong with the current system in terms of a specific area (whether welfare, education, etc) ie that a particular group of people are becoming unhappy, sick, unemployed etc as the case may be. In that sense, it's not that the protesting voter's choice would change at the next election but merely that that voter wishes to bring awareness to the rest of the public or to the ruling party (which they in fact support in terms of other matters) that a particular, specific point has not been addressed in that society to the detriment of the protesters...

also, a vote may not bring this out in the way that a protest would as the choice of govt would generally reflect the majority viewpoint (at least in a democratic framework) and if a minority (esp a small minority) is disenfranchised and having problems, such problems would probably not show up in a vote. I think changing policies in a country by vote would probably work where there is a large group in the country, preferably making up the majority, or at least a strong minority, so that when they vote, such disenchantment is reflected and would not in fact be the drop in the ocean so to speak, of all the votes counted at the conclusion of an election.