"We Depend Much on Twitter and Facebook"

Malaysian people at times do not think beyond today.

Senin, 18 Juli 2011, 12:02 Indra Darmawan
Marina Mahathir
Marina Mahathir (GlobalExpert.org)

VIVAnews - Marina Mahathir, daughter of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, was amongst tens of thousands of protesters marching on the Kuala Lumpur streets last week, demanding the government to carry out free and fair elections. 

Known for her bold political views, Marina is a notable activist and accomplished blogger. When two Malaysian bloggers - Ahirudin Attan and Jeff Ooi - were brought to court in 2007, Marina then born a hand.

Marina Mahathir is a Malaysian writer, blogger and activist with interests focused on the issues of Muslim women’s rights and HIV/AIDS. In Malaysia she has been known since 1990 for her fortnightly column ‘Musings’ in The Star newspaper. She writes on current issues, women, health, local politics, human rights and education.

Before she finally decided to join the mass protest, she writes what she felt about the possible danger that the protesters may face. "After seeking advice from various friends, I finally decided that I could not stay safely at home while my daughter, friends and colleagues faced possible danger. I had to walk with them. Besides even if I stayed home, I would have spent all my time worrying. So I had to go."  

VIVAnews on Thursday made an email interview with Marina, asking her responses about the mass protest in general.

What made you join the Bersih 2.0 mass protest?

I am an executive director at Sisters in Islam, one of the 62 NGOs joining the Bersih 2.0. We perfectly agree on the protection of human rights as well as the right of Malaysian people to speak and assemble as is stipulated in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

Apart from that, I was particularly furious against a personal attack toward Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan, chairwoman of Bersih 2.0, by both royal authorities and the Malaysian Prime Minister.

I believe that the Malaysian people were surprised upon the police crackdown. We did not anticipate the measure taken by the royal authorities as they arrested members of the Socialist Party of Malaysia on charges of communism, which is absolutely groundless. It was also irrational to have picked up all people wearing yellow shirts, the color chosen to mark the Bersih 2.0 protest.

People are also mad at how the royal authorities abuse power. That's why people, having been silent all the time, gathered in the mass protest.

Did the police harm you?

I am all good. I was in the area where the riot police did not use violence against the protesters. They directed the protesters to walk toward the Stadium Merdeka. 

They were professional officers. I did not see anything harm that police did to us. In fact, there was no reason to act brutally against us. People launched their protests in such a manner that did not spark unrest.

They represent all classes of people. The elderlies and the youngsters were there. Communities were there. It was like a carnival where people are free to dance and sing.

On the other hand, protesters elsewhere were subjects to excessive force. People shared the same stories, including a colleague of mine. They were hit by tear gas, water cannon, and stuck in commotion.

They did not set out provocative actions, yet the police ran after them. The police kept chasing them until they were cornered at the frontyard of Tung Shin Hospital.

The mass protest brings in huge number of demonstrators to the streets. Does this reflect a situation where the Malaysian people are longing for, a change that is? 

I am not really sure on that. However, I do know that more people who couldn't go to the streets supported the protesters. It's rare to have big mass protests in Malaysia. So, many people are afraid to join in because they don't expect violent acts are committed against them.

But the last mass protest is a special case. More and more people including me went to the streets. I guess the protesters had real concerns over the current situation in Malaysia.

What roles did the social media sites play with regard to the Bersih 2.0 protest?

I and my compatriots indeed depend much on such social media sites as Twitter and Facebook to get updated with the Bersih 2.0 movement. But that day, we did not tweet much so as to prevent the authorities from being informed of our plans for the demonstration.

We actually did not know who would join us in the protest. It was stunning to see thousands of people were there. Imagine, how many more would have joined us if the police had not blocked the entrance roads to Kuala Lumpur?

Does the Malaysian government monitor any social media accounts belonging to the opposition?

Barisan Nasional (National Front) has established a group called the cybertroopers responsible to answer all negative remarks addressed to them.

But they didn't make it. The attempt only worked at their supporters since it was easy to identify them. Anyway, they have quite unreasonable approaches in coping with the problems.

Why did you become a blogger?

I started my blog in 2006 to know more about blogging. Since then, I posted anything to exercise my rights of free speech and to educate people on various important issues. Sometimes, my blogposts are also delightful. I've been writing for The Star for about 20 years now. That way, people know my my opinions are on certain issues.

Is there any case where either the Malaysian government or your father was aroused by any of your blogposts?

Never. But once The Star tried to censor my column since its topic was deemed 'too sensitive'. But then I posted in on my blog. But today I prefer tweeting my thoughts on Twitter and sign in on Facebook to writing on my blog.

What do you think of Malaysian democracy in the near future? Can the Bersih 2.0 carry on with the role it plays on the changes the Malaysia are dealing with?

It's hard to say, really. Malaysian people at times do not think beyond today. But the Bersih 2.0 coordinator continues to make people aware of the important matters. There's hope that the protest can be an excellent momentum for us to move on.


Translated by: Bonardo Maulana W 

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