Have you been in a riot?
No, we’re not talking about a peaceful protest demanding the rights for vegans or a street rally asking the government to lower passing marks for the Sejarah subject.
We’re talking about an actual riot where tempers flare, batons in the air and blood everywhere so again, have you been in a riot?
If you’re about 25 or below, chances are you probably have not because the most recent (and the most violent) public anarchy happened over two decades ago in 1998 when then (and current) Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad sacked Anwar Ibrahim off his Deputy post in a sudden move that rocked the nation and sparked one of the most brutal riot the country has ever seen.
It was called The Reformasi.
An Angry Twenty Twenty
Now before you ask what does this have to do with anything?
The first week of December 2019 went well for the most part, except for Deputy Inspector General of Police, Datuk Mazlan Mansor. A series of audio recordings were found to have been distributed throughout the week, claiming an impending racial riot specifically on the weekend of Dec 7 and 8.
“The intention was to intimidate and provoke public outrage so we urge citizens – Do not contribute to the rumours by disseminating the wrong information”, said Datuk Mazlan.
Although it clearly did not happen, it doesn’t mean that our boys in blue can rest their case. We should know that with the 21st century Malaysian, it’s a lot easier to fan the flames of discontent, just by a single text.
Let’s admit it. We are an easily offended bunch.
We take offence at just about anything these days – government policy, neighbourhood squabble, road accidents, rumours. Like how Malaysia is a melting pot of colourful cultures, we are also a boiling pot of anger.
Contrary to The Reformasi where the source of information came solely from traditional media (or word of mouth), Malaysians today can easily get worked up by a few sentences (and a couple of photos) from the internet.
Although considered as a hoax or just fear-mongering by most Malaysians, there will always be the small group of people who would believe such things and act upon it. Which is what the government is carefully trying to avoid.
When Will We Ever Learn?
Riots especially the racial kind, are the easiest to trigger if you play your cards right.
Back then, all it takes was a few short calls from the boy who cried wolf and the whole village will come barging through your door, demanding punishment without a trial. The smallest flicker can trigger the biggest fire, specifically, if it’s between two different races.
Thinking of May 13?
Not quite. Try Kampung Medan.
In 2001, the peaceful suburban compound of Kampung Medan were disrupted when a violent riot erupted over a petty affair. It ended in a few short days, the aftershock a few weeks and the aftermath? Forever.
The Kampung Medan incident was a plain case of a simple scuffle between a Malay and an Indian family that exploded into an all-out street brawl between both communities. It’s an isolated case that could’ve been avoided. But it happened nonetheless.
Some experts are recalling the incident a classic case of poverty struggle where most residents come from the B40, lower-income group. The urban poor and the downright poor.
The authorities could only do so much by exercising the long arm of the law to restore peace, arresting the culprits from both sides and containing the wildfire. Lips were sealed, saying everything is in order while the public was begging for information.
A Much-Needed Reflection
Hong Kong should be a fine example of how a peaceful protest by an economically-oppressed society can turn to violent rage at any moment. While this article is out, Kowloon and its neighbouring cities are smothered in blood-filled riots that sees no end.
Looking at our own history and the state of national economy, poverty and employment, it’s safe to say that we’re dealing with our own devil, trying to stay afloat while making ends meet. Though far from the worse conditions, things could turn sour if we let it be.
Early December’s ‘riot warnings’ could be called a hoax but don’t mistake its lack of legitimacy for our lack of awareness. As a citizen, it’s our prerogative to cushion our landing well into 2020. Leaders and politicians can only lead and speak, the action comes from us. It’s already discouraging to hear some parts of the political divide are saying national unity is at its lowest.
Count the times you received a text from someone you know, personally or in a family Whatsapp group for example, calling for hate and boycott against others not your kind. Pretty sure you’ve read those right?
It means we haven’t actually reached total unity. It means unity is just a marketing gimmick for politicians to sell their policies and for brands to sell their products.
From a more covert perspective, what we are facing right now could also be viewed as a stealth move to divide and conquer, to destroy us from within, to tear us apart and govern what used to be a very peaceful Malaysia. And you know what will happen to a country destroyed from within?
Read THIS instead.