Who are these Reformists?

September 27th, 1998

Just who are these 'Reformists' who are dodging batons and water cannons on our streets?

There are quite a number of Reformasi supporters I know who personally do not believe Anwar is innocent. There are also Reformasi supporters who don't even like or trust the man. I personally never trusted him while he was in Cabinet and he shafted me (figuratively!) and the other NGOs with his handling of Bakun. He was a major disappointment there.

But there would have been no Reformasi without Anwar. More correctly, there would have been no Reformasi if he had not been gotten rid off the way he was. They had just gone way too far this time.

For many of us who are non-Anwar supporters, this whole mess is just the straw that broke the camel's back. Good grief, we have to draw the bloody line somewhere - they're not even bothering to be subtle or decent about it now. Can anyone with even a modicum of fairplay and justice see what's been happening over the past month without feeling that there is something very wrong and unfair here?

That is why I, and many others, support the Reformasi movement. Dr Syed Husin Ali. Dr Chandra Muzaffar. SUARAM. The Opposition parties. Anwar supporters? I think not. These people have been fighting for Reformasi long before the word was even coined. Some of these people are no strangers to the ISA. And these people will still be fighting for Reformasi even if Anwar is convicted in open court (if that ever happens).

This is not just a matter of whether Anwar Ibrahim is guilty or innocent. It is not about whether DR M is right or wrong about Anwar. This is a matter of whether the Malaysian people are ready for democracy or not. If Malaysians casually accept all that has happened so far without question - guilt by suspicion, trial by media, detention without trial, blatant unfairness, sheep-like loyalty - then Malaysians will stomach anything. In that case, we jolly well deserve whatever happens to us after. I never thought I would see the day when Indonesia or even Cambodia seems relatively more democratic than my own country.

And we do not have to stoop to their level.

We do not fight violence with violence.

We fight might with right

Yesterday evening, I had a dozen FRU men rushing past me yelling their heads off and their very hard batons swinging in all directions just a few feet away from me. I had the a loved one trembling in fear just next to me. I did not like that experience.

Like all peace-loving Malaysians. I want this to stop.

I believe that we need change and we need 'reformasi'. But Reformasi must just stick to the issues in question and to a specific reformation programme, educate, create awareness and operate within the rule of law that they are championing. To do otherwise would be just to play into their opponents' hands and is sheer stupidity.

At the same time, the opponents to the Reformists will use all means - fair and foul - to discredit, tarnish and stain the Movement. Rumours will be spread in their name. Violence will be incited in their name. Lies will be spread in their name. Their ranks will be infiltrated and their work sabotaged. The authorities are already painting the Reformists as the looters and rapists of Jakarta in May. And fools will believe it.

Their is only one way to ensure the Reformists are not caught in this trap. The Reformasi Movement must publicly reject violence.

The Reformists have already proven they have mass support. Now is the time to consolidate, plan, strategise - and ORGANISE. Offer something to the rakyat other than rhetoric and massive crowds.

I know many of you are angry. But we must not play exactly into their hands. Can you just picture 'him' gloating at a press conference .." itulah, saya dah kata dulu lagi, mereka ini macam perusuh Jakarta dulu ... hari ini mereka rusuh, rosakkan kemudahan awam, cederakan orang awam, nanti mereka mula bakar kedai, rogol perempuan ... inilah gerakan reformasi yang mereka mau ..? "

This is not going to help REFORMASI. This is only going to help Mahathir. Sabar, bertenang dan jangan kena tipu.

If you are angry, write about it, send it to every one you know, share your anger and disgust, make others angry and disgusted. Feelings win hearts and minds, not brute force. And it is the hearts and minds of Malaysians that we need to win - not street battles.

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