Laman Webantu   KM2: 6316 File Size: 11.1 Kb *

| KM2 Index |

FAC: Reformasi Needs to Reinvent Itself

8/11/2001 9:33 am Thu

[Masalahnya berakar di kepimpinan parti yang sebenarnya masih belum mereformasi strategi, pemikiran dan cara. Mereka berhenti di jalan besar bila disekat sedangkan jalan yang lain (mengikut undang-undang) masih ada.

'They have failed to reengineer the masses and seldom appear even in this cyber atmosphere. If you can't shake them there you should stir here. Because they will soon end up all there.'
- Editor

Tuesday, 23-Oct-2001 4:45 PM

Reformasi Needs to Reinvent Itself

The foreign media talks about the demise of Malaysia's Reformasi movement. Some newspapers are a bit kinder though. They say, "Reformasi may be down, but not out". On Monday, 15 October 2001, the Kuala Lumpur Federal Court discussed at length the Reformasi movement. Were the ten National Justice Party (keADILan) leaders and non-party political activists arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in April 2001 really a threat to national security as the police claim, or were they arrested because they are the backbone of the Reformasi movement?

The jury is still out on this one and it should not be until next week that the verdict is known.

The Federal Court has recognised the existence of the Reformasi movement. There was even a debate between the bench and the defence as to whether it is being suggested that Justice Augustine Paul should have recused himself from hearing the Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by the ten ISA detainees since he could be perceived as being anti-Reformasi.

But as much as no one disputes the existence of the Reformasi movement, no one yet has been able to pin down who is behind the movement and in what form it exists. Reformasi has no leaders. The movement has no structure. It is not a registered organisation. There are only organisers of Reformasi demonstrations. Is Anwar Ibrahim the founder or leader of the Reformasi movement? Well...yes and no!

The Reformasi movement saw birth soon after Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sacked Anwar from the government on 2 September 1998. It reached its peak on 20 September when Anwar was able to assemble an estimated 100,000-strong crowd of protestors in Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), prompting Mahathir to arrest Anwar under the ISA to neutralise what was about to become a revolution.

With Anwar out of the way, the movement started to slow down. It saw temporary reprieve when news broke that Anwar had been poisoned with Arsenic. Masses took to the streets demanding royal intervention and calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to establish the perpetrators behind the deed.

On the days of Anwar's sentencing on 14 April 1999 and 8 August 2000, demonstrations again broke out - though on a much reduced scale. The anniversary of the sentencing - known as "Black 14" - as well as on Anwar's birthday, small gatherings were held. But it was a mere 1,000 or so die-hard supporters and nowhere near the big one of 20 September 1998.

Today, the Reformasi movement is struggling to stay alive. Its death blow came in April 2001 when keADILan Youth Leader Ezam Mohd Nor and his inner circle such as Lokman Noor Adam, Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Hishamuddin Rais, Dr Badrulamin Bahron, N. Gobalakrishnan, and Abdul Ghani Haroon were rounded up under the ISA. Gobalakrishnan and Ghani were eventually released by the Shah Alam court much to everyone's surprise but the rest are being detained indefinitely at the Kamunting Detention Center where they can no longer pose any danger to the ruling party.

The Reformasi movement made a comeback in November 2000 when it brought the Kesas Highway to a standstill. Much to the surprise of even the organisers themselves, they managed to rally a crowd of about 50,000 people. Due to this success, a decision was made to make this a regular affair. The next attempt though - the Hari Raya gathering two months later - attracted less than 5,000 supporters. After that, the crowds dwindled to only between 1,000 and 2,000 and all attempts to repeat the Kesas Highway performance failed.

The police believe that the brains behind the Reformasi movement are the five keADILan leaders and one political activist currently under ISA detention in Kamunting. That was why they were detained - to kill the movement. With them safely tucked away, the movement now has to depend on a handful of second liners. But these second-liners - the Reformists - are mostly non-party people and are unable to tap into the party machinery to mobilise the crowds. Without party endorsement, support from the party members is lukewarm at best.

On Friday, 31 August 2001, the Reformists tried to test the waters to see whether they could still get the crowd without party support by organising what was supposed to be the second biggest event after the Kesas Highway gathering almost a year before. However, they managed to get only about 400 to 500 supporters. Some estimates put the crowd at only 100 to 200 - the rest being curious onlookers and bystanders who had spilled out of the nearby mosque after Friday prayers. The police outnumbered the protestors two to one.

The Reformasi movement must come to terms with itself. It must accept the fact it no longer has what it takes to get the crowds onto the streets. Its successes of the past were due to certain factors that are no longer prevalent today. The movement needs to assess its strength and recognise its weaknesses if it wants to continue playing the role of pressure group for change.

For starters, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, keADILan's Vice President, does not believe street demonstrations are the way to go. And he has publicly stated so. He feels the benefits are few and the downside just too great. It was street demonstrations that resulted in the ISA arrests of April 2001 and six party leaders and activists are now out of circulation because of it. Dr Chandra believes that street demonstrations do not achieve the desired result and only gives the police a good excuse to round up the party leaders under the disguise of national security.

Even if keADILan supports the demonstrations, it would still do no good. The Kesas Highway success was not due to keADILan alone, but because all the four Alternative Front (BA) parties were involved. In fact, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) was the biggest contributor as it is estimated that 90% or so of those that turned up were its supporters.

Furthermore, in the Kesas Highway event, all the top opposition leaders came out in full force - its Presidents, Deputies, Youth Leaders, and so on - so getting the crowd was more possible. On top of that, the crowd was not limited to those just from the city. People came from all over Malaysia a day or two earlier to join the protest. In short, it was a national affair, not just a local thing - and it was a BA supported and sponsored event.

But the Kesas Highway rally took a lot of planning. Six weeks ahead, meeting after meeting were held where the organisers went through every minor detail and left nothing to chance. Half a million flyers were printed and circulated, and 100,000 full-sized posters pasted all over town. The mosques were "attacked" every Friday with flyers scattered at all the main entrances.

At every ceramah throughout the country, announcements were made urging the opposition supporters to come down to Kuala Lumpur to participate in the gathering. All four party Presidents pledged support and the crowd rallied around their Presidents. It was a full-time job for the organisers but that ensured the success of the Kesas Highway gathering.

Now, PAS no longer seems interested in supporting street demonstrations - at least not the pro-Anwar or Reformasi events. It too has lost 19 of its leaders to the ISA and according to speculation it can expect to lose 30 or so more in the near future. Needless to say, without PAS' support, there would be no crowd.

PAS' prowess was demonstrated last Friday, 12 October 2001, when they managed to get between 7,000 to 8,000 supporters to demonstrate in front of the US Embassy after Friday prayers. Compare this to the Reformasi event after the Friday prayers of 31 August where not even 5% of that number turned out.

The police believe they have succeeded in crippling the Reformasi movement with the detention of the six Reformasi leaders in Kamunting. They are further convinced of this at the sight of the many failed attempts at crowd mobilization since. Unless the Reformasi movement can convince the police otherwise, the six are going to remain under detention for some time to come to ensure that the movement stays dead.

The Reformasi movement blames keADILan Youth for this. It says keADILan Youth lacks the guts to fight after what it saw happen to its leaders in April 2001. KeADILan Youth, however, sees no purpose in more of its leaders ending up behind the barbed wire fence of Kamunting in pursuit of a lost cause.

The Reformasi movement is going to try and prove its critics wrong. On Saturday, 27 October 2001, it is planning a convoy to the Kamunting Detention Center. The police, for sure, will try to thwart this plan. The question is, will this be just a Reformasi thing or will PAS come out in support of it seeing that 19 of its leaders too are under ISA detention?

When the ten Reformasi leaders and activists were detained in April, there was a backlash that made even the police wonder whether they had made a mistake. But when the next ten were detained - all PAS leaders this time - nothing happened. Clearly PAS does not react as violently as keADILan when its people get arrested. So, another group was rounded up and, possibly, more arrests will come in time.

Many feel PAS will not put its full support behind the 27 October convoy. Look what happened when Ibrahim Libya got killed, they argue. The first thing PAS did was to deny he had anything to do with the party. Furthermore, when ten of its leaders were arrested recently, PAS denounced extremism - as if to declare the ten were in fact extremists - rather than come out in their defence by denying their involvement in any terrorist acts.

27 October 2001 is a day to watch. Can the Reformasi movement pull off an impressive enough convoy? If it can, then there is no denying the movement may be down but definitely far from out. If, however, nothing much happens, then the police are going to wring their hands in glee and declare that the best thing they have ever done is to arrest Ezam and his gang under the ISA.

As they say, one more for the road, and the road may yet prove to be a long and winding one indeed for Malaysia's Reformasi movement. 27 October 2001 is the acid test for the movement. If the movement proves that, without Ezam and the rest, it is not able to make a dent, then Ezam will be in for the long haul.