How not to pull an Edi Rejang

NOVEMBER 24 ― Edi Rejang, a man who posted on Facebook a video of himself berating a young Chinese woman for giving out beer samples at the alcohol section of a supermarket, unexpectedly ended up the target of vitriol and cyberbullying himself.

Edi, who is supporting his family on a single income, reportedly lost his job as a dispatch rider after the social media shaming. It appears that Malaysia is heading towards America’s direction, where a stupid Facebook post or tweet can get you fired.

He is also under police investigation under Section 509 of the Penal Code for allegedly intending to insult the modesty of a woman.

Despite Edi’s situation, it is a little hard to feel sympathy for him because it was not enough that he verbally abused the woman in person; by posting the video, he wanted her to receive the full-blown public shaming that he is suffering now.

Although Edi’s actions should not necessarily be considered a criminal offence, I can say that as a woman, it can be terrifying to be confronted in person by an angry man.

In any case, this column wishes to explore how we can express our opinions and try to effect change without resorting to social media all the time, a double-edged sword that can backfire on you.

If you are upset about something, it would be more effective to target action at a shop or corporation rather than say... a sales promoter or waiter.

The first step is to organise. Get like-minded people, preferably from that community to work on an action together.

It doesn’t have to be terribly many, but the more the better. This is the most important and crucial step because corporations and politicians will only be moved to action if they perceive mass dissatisfaction. 

Find out who your allies are. Your allies could be leaders in that community. Get them to support your cause and add pressure.

As a group, you can send letters to the editor in the media as well to explain why you don't agree with something.

If there is no response, flood customer service with complaints.

Start a petition too. If you cannot identify the person in charge, you can address the petition to, probably, the corporate affairs manager of the company.

Identifying the person with the power to act on your demands is very important. So take some time to figure this out. Don’t simply address the petition to the prime minister or the Mentri Besar because they are not in charge of local issues.

Set a signature goal. You can publicise your petition on social media, but again, do not be racist because racism will only harm your cause.

Once you achieve the targeted number of signatures, deliver the petition in person to the company. You may want to call the media too. Take photos and videos of the petition handover and share them on social media to keep up the pressure on the corporation.

You can also complain to the local council or state assemblyman of the area. It may, unfortunately, be a little difficult to find the person in charge in the local council to speak to, so expect a little runaround and red tape. But once you manage to find the local councillor or the person in charge, get your group to hound their office with phone calls and complaints.

Local councils may drag their feet because they may not feel a sense of accountability due to the lack of local elections. So it is best to also approach the state assemblyman for local issues like these.

Call the state assemblyman’s office. If she or he does not have dedicated staff to receive complaints, air your grievances on Facebook or Twitter (but nicely and not in a racist manner) and tag the assemblyman.

Try and secure a meeting with the local councillor or assemblyman so you can make your case. When your group gets a meeting, ask politely for specific actions to be taken within a specific timeline. Politicians will usually try to fob you off with vague promises, so it is important to hold them to specific pledges and to keep following up with them.

If there is still no action, you can move on to more confrontational (but peaceful) methods like staging a demonstration. Again, do not say racist things to avoid looking like fanatics who wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Keep trying the methods above or think of more creative actions. Community organising is a long and difficult process that can take years before you achieve your goals. Sometimes, you may have to compromise with other parties and take the middle path.

Of course, if reading all this is giving you a hangover-style headache, you can just let the matter slide.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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