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Monday, July 11, 2011

Najib gives Malaysia an international black eye - John Malott

Sulaiman Kamal | 1:16 PM | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Bernama claims in an article today that Bersih's goal all along was to tarnish Malaysia's image abroad.
Bernama has it totally backwards.
It is the actions of Najib Tun Razak and his government over the past two weeks, and the police crackdown yesterday, that have tarnished Malaysia's international standing.



In most parts of the civilized world, you gain credit by allowing your citizens to air their views. Cracking down on your own people is something that countries like China and North Korea and Zimbabawe do.
Allowing Bersih to hold their rally would have raised both Malaysia's and Najib's image abroad.
Matthias Chang, who was a political secretary to former Prime Minister Manathir Mohamed, said it best ten days ago when he referred to the government's attitude and actions towards Bersih as “heavy-handed” and “sheer stupidity.”
Matthias wrote, “How long would the Bersih rally be, in the absence of any police action? At the most, one and half hours, and thereafter they would have to disperse, again peacefully. End of the story. Nothing happens, no news worthy of a headline in the front page of the local mainstream media, or for that matter, the foreign media.”
Matthias continued, “The police can agree to a pre-designated route to avoid creating traffic jams and unnecessary inconvenience to the public. There is no need for the deployment of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) or the military. What is needed is traffic police to assist the organizers. This is all that is required. Any leader associated with the Bersih Rally would lose credibility if they allow the rally to turn ugly or violent. In those circumstances, the security forces would have every justification to take stern action and they can be deployed quickly. Let us not make a mountain out of a molehill.”
The whole world is watching Malaysia now
But this was not to be. Najib made an incredibly wrong decision, and Malaysia is now paying the price for it. If Najib had allowed Bersih's followers their constitutional rights, the march would have been a headline only in Malaysia's newspapers. Most of the world would have ignored Bersih.
But that was not to be. We all know -- and have seen, thanks to the Internet --what happened on Saturday. Najib has given Malaysia an international black eye. It was all predictable, and it all could have been avoided.
To be honest, the world does not pay that much attention to Malaysia, but now it is wondering what is going on. A Google news search shows that over 1,300 stories about the march have appeared in newspapers around the world since Saturday.
The heavy-handed and unnecessary police actions have been seen on CNN, the BBC, and al-Jazeera, as well as reported in places like Time Magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Najib's actions have been condemned by major human rights organizations and the UN Human Rights Commission.
Let's get it straight. It was not Bersih's desire to exercise their constitutional rights that brought this situation about. It was the paranoia, the incompetence, the disastrous understanding of the way the modern world thinks - call it whatever you want to - of Najib and his government, and no one else.

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