Here we go again! Years and years ago, British colonialists, missionaries, travel writers and academics were too happy to rap us on the knuckles for not doing things according to their schemes. Now the "white man's burden" has fallen on the likes of Tisdall (Guardian 13 July) to lecture us about our erring ways with an instruction that the Malaysian PM should abandon the Mubarak model, in the wake of the Bersih 2.0 demonstration of 9 July.
For Simon Tisdall, the assistant editor and a foreign affairs columnist of the Guardian, here are a few pointers he has ignored.
1. The Kempen Bersih was not a platform for 'democratic reform' in the style of Tunisia or Egypt or Syria or Bahrain or Dubai or Burma. It was, as claimed by Datuk Ambigar Sreenivasan, the Chairperson of Bersih 2.0, to seek electoral reforms on seven items. It's a bit like the recent referendum in your country, Mr Tisdall, where the people voted (not demonstrated) on whether to change the electoral system to proportional representation instead of 'first past the post'. If you take a poll from the protestors on 7 July, how many of them can tell you the seven electoral reforms that their leaders were demanding?
2. You say, "Najib reacted with ..... with heavy-handedness when ...... demonstrators took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur demanding reformasi - democratic reform - and an end to a defective electoral system that guarantees Najib's party representing the Malay majority, UMNO stays in power indefinitely. (para. 2)
In the first place, reformasi was the battle cry of Anwar's party (PKR). Why use this party slogan for a protest demanding electoral reform? It is hard for those millions who were at home that weekend to be convinced that this yellow T-shirt campaign was not being used as a party platform for the opposition parties' agenda, even though they had won over three states during the 2008 General Election.
We know Malaysia is of little consequence in your little black book but you, Mr Tisdall, don't do yourself much favour by stating that UMNO alone rules the roost. The Malaysian Government at present is comprised of a coalition of Malay, Chinese and Indian parties.
It might have been valid 10-15 years ago, to categorise UMNO as the party representing the Malays. But today, the Malays in Peninsular Malaysia especially, have split threeways, between PAS, Anwar's PKR and UMNO.
3. The death of one demonstrator in KL is a cause for regret. But you and others in Malaysia are way off the mark in comparing this to the death of Iain Tomlinson, an innocent bystander who was shoved and pushed to the ground by a Metropolitan Police officer. We still do not know the facts of Baharuddin Ahmad's death and until then, you and Amnesty International should hold your guns and not jump to self-righteous reprimands. How long did it take the Police and the British authorities to get to grips with the demands of Tomlinson's family for justice? And was it not too long ago when the Metropolitan Police shot a Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes seven times in the head at Stockwell Tube Station?
4. You quoted Amnesty International's report that the Malaysian Government's action during the demonstration "..... flies in the face of international human rights standards ...... David Cameron should tell Prime Minister Najib that these human rights violations are unacceptable."
The Right Honourable David Cameron is hardly in a position to reprimand anyone in his or any other country. His Government, his Police Force and his nation's Media are flailing like headless chickens with the unfolding of the incestuous relationship between his ( and Brown's, Blair's and Major's) government and Murdoch's media and the Metropolitan Police.
If Britain is not a 'failed' country like North Korea, Pakistan and other Muslim countries, it is most certainly a nation with rotting values. What is Amnesty International's take on this corruption and abuse of power in Great Britain? Will they condemn Cameron, Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and the Police top brass?
5. To connect the Bersih Campaign in KL to Tahrir Square is an insult to Egyptians who were protesting not only against Mubarak's repressive regime but also for economic reforms. For Egypt, according to the CIA World Factbook 2011, the unemployment rate was 9.7% (3% in Malaysia and 7-8% in UK). The percentage of population living below the poverty line in Egypt was 20% (5% in Malaysia and 14% in UK).
Telling Najib to "abandon the Mubarak model' is quite laughable and reveals the lazy thinking of this reporter from the venerable Guardian. Mubarak ran a one-man show for over 30 years, subsidized to the hilt by American and Israeli money and patronage. Under Mubarak, Egypt did not support the Gulf War of 2003 but he was against an immediate American pullout. Together with America and Israel, Mubarak enforced the siege in Gaza.
As for the Opposition in Malaysia, they had the right and privilege of wresting away three states from the ruling party. And they not only lived to tell the story but to widen their election campaign by way of street demonstrations. More worrying for the Malaysians who did not support the Banana Revolution is Anwar's warning that "We will have to pursue free elections inside and outside of Parliament." (para 9)
If more street protests are inevitable, as Anwar has suggested, what do the opposition dare hope to achieve? Articles like Tisdall's and others from the West make the Banana revolutionaries believe firstly that Britain and Europe will be 'persuaded' to impose economic leverage on a country that "is not politically immune to the the international zeitgeist, any more than it's economy is immune to global trends" (para 11). My, oh my, is that a promise or a threat from a nation whose external debt is only second to the US at 8,981 billion US dollars ? For comparison, Malaysia's external debt is 72.6 billion US Dollars.
As for 'Najib touting for UK trade', British Universities and English Language publishers have been soliciting (mostly through the British Council) for customers in Malaysia for donkeys' years.
Secondly, and heaven forbid, does the Opposition hope for a situation like Libya?
6. Tisdall advises that Malaysia should learn a lesson from the 'north' (Thailand). But Malaysia does not have a quasi-military government. And Thailand does not have a large non-indigenous minority that they have to cater to and negotiate with for political and economic power. And a lesson from the 'south' (Singapore) is a delusion. Street demonstrations like the one in KL will not see the light of day! As for Aung San Suu Kyii's 'twin imperatives of freedom and democracy' (para 12), I don't think she is that conceited to claim that she 'speaks for an entire region.'
Furthermore, I don't think Malaysia has any desire to 'be a paradigm for South-east Asia' (para 13). And anyway what gives ignorant and pontificating reporters, from a morally-bankrupt Britain, the right to even suggest such a thing?
Finally, let's just remember one irrefutable fact: there is no more police brutality, or racism, or corruption, or denial of human rights in Malaysia than there is in sweet old England.