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COURTING TROUBLE: Why do people these days resort to rallies and protests at any given opportunity and for every conceivable reason?
LATE last week, I received a sheaf of notes from my children's school, a high-performance smart school located in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur.
They informed parents of several upcoming events, and the cancellation of one. A field trip the kids had been looking forward to -- to Muzium Telekom and Menara Kuala Lumpur this Saturday -- had been postponed indefinitely.
The brief note, which elicited disappointed wails from my children and their friends, stated that the postponement was because of the "situation around the city that day which might not be conducive towards the safety of participants".
It further stated that the decision had to be made following concerns raised by parents and teachers.
So, what is happening in the city that day? Is teen idol Justin Bieber flying in and the school authorities anticipating a tween stampede along Jalan Sultan Abdul Samad? Are they bracing themselves for the big earthquake seismologists have predicted could happen "at any time"? None of the aforementioned apparently.
April 28 would have been just any other swelteringly humid, lazy Saturday if not for the planned Bersih 3.0 "duduk bantah" sit-in in the middle of the city, within the historical enclave, that is Dataran Merdeka.
Despite some wrangling over the suitability of the venue picked for the sit-in, Bersih (Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections) organisers have been insistent that it should be held in Dataran Merdeka as "there is not enough time to change the venue and most of the people expected to attend the rally have been informed".
In days pre-social networks, that would have been an acceptable excuse, but not now when missives and directives can be disseminated in real time not just around the country, but to the furthest reaches of the planet.
As it is, an Internet meme of the "ridiculously photogenic guy" getting a permit from City Hall to participate in the Bersih rally is already making its rounds in cyberspace.
And so it has come to pass. Disappointed schoolchildren, tourists, traders and taxi drivers aside, journalists are also bracing themselves for what would inevitably be a long working day. But journalists are made of hardier stuff and not known to react normally in the face of adverse situations.
Most people know what Bersih is fighting for, even if they might not comprehend it.
After all, wasn't the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reforms' report, which had 22 recommendations, just passed by the Dewan Rakyat last Tuesday?
"When the report was tabled, there were no dissenting views from the opposition," PSC chairman Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said on TV3's Soal Jawab programme last Wednesday.
So is Bersih protesting just for the sake of it? Is it merely hoping to stoke the people's ire and give a negative picture of the political situation in the country to the outside world? That it has refused to budge from Dataran Merdeka to more conducive venues such as the Cheras football stadium or Stadium Titiwangsa as proposed by Kuala Lumpur Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail is rather telling.
Are they hoping to be water-cannoned or tear-gassed, and have those images twittered across the globe?
Anti-gay protesters last weekend complied, even though at short notice, and demonstrated peacefully at a stadium in Universiti Putra Malaysia to denounce free sex and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender practices.
Regardless of the venue, however, all these demonstrations raise a question -- are they at all necessary?
Why do people these days resort to rallies and protests at any given opportunity and for every conceivable reason?
Dissenting mobs gather on any issue, and it no longer matters what these issues are. Some are still Occupying Dataran. Others have gathered over everything from community marginalisation to the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English.
Even the gentlest people in the land -- the Orang Asli -- are resorting to protests to make their views heard. They have protested in Puchong, Johor, Putrajaya, and two weeks ago, Kota Baru.
Kelantan Orang Asli Villages Network head Azmi Badul, who acted as spokesman for the Orang Asli, said their protest followed the indifference shown by the state government towards their previous memoranda of demands.
It is disturbing that so much energy is being invested in what only inflames when there are other more pressing matters to attend to. One of which is to clean up the electoral roll, ensure the process is open and continuous, and to make the electoral system as good as it can be.