OCTOBER 17 — The Red Shirts movement sank to a new low when their supporters assaulted media practitioners who were covering a Bersih convoy at Kuala Selangor last Saturday. Two of the journalists were women.
The Red Shirts supporters grabbed The Star reporter’s collar as they shouted at her to delete a video recording of the standoff between supporters of the anti-Bersih Red Shirts and Bersih.
A video shows a chaotic scene of men yelling at her and asking if she’s from Malaysiakini, which she refutes. They then shout “Delete! Delete!”, after which she gives a small scream and cries out “Don’t!” and later on, “Please don’t hold me like this.”
It’s terrifying enough for a woman to face one hostile man, much less a group of them.
Apparently, the Red Shirts supporters also punched a Malaysiakini photographer on her shoulder and called her “Cina babi” [Chinese pig] after she took pictures of them.
Three men believed to be supporters of the Red Shirts have been arrested for criminal intimidation.
These attacks against the press, especially the way a mob of angry men assaulted a woman, are cowardly and despicable.
Malaysiakini reported that Bersih supporters were at a hypermarket in Kuala Selangor to distribute flyers on the upcoming Bersih 5 rally when the anti-Bersih group arrived on motorbikes. The altercation soon ensued and the police reportedly told everyone — both the Bersih and anti-Bersih groups — to disperse.
Red Shirts leader Datuk Jamal Md Yunos said he would defend the actions of the anti-Bersih group in Kuala Selangor if it involved the Red Shirts. “I’ve said earlier — if there is no Yellow, there will be no Red”.
This is a violation of Bersih’s right to freedom of expression and assembly. The Red Shirts’ aggressive behaviour also forces the police to divert limited resources to handle the chaos sparked by these racist thugs and gangsters.
If the Red Shirts disagree with Bersih’s opinions, they can hand out flyers too, explaining why the polls reform group is wrong. They can have peaceful rallies.
Instead, the Red Shirts resort to violence to silence their opponents. Worse still, they assault the media and force journalists to delete video evidence of their criminal behaviour. They even attacked women.
What kind of men are they?
Violence is a pusillanimous response and shows that the Red Shirts lack the ability to persuade people through words and reason. They only want Bersih to be shut down by the authorities who fear the Red Shirts’ explicit threat of bloody clashes with the electoral reform group.
If the Red Shirts want to defend the government, they can easily organise ceramahs, or write articles or letters to the editor.
Red Shirts leader Jamal can even have a debate with Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah. The debate can be broadcast “live” on television and put on YouTube.
But right now, the Red Shirts are acting like a bunch of thugs and hooligans who use their fists to express themselves.
As leader of the Red Shirts, Jamal should be held accountable for his supporters’ actions.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.