Friday, 29 May 2009

Freedom Of Expression

London was a practical lesson on the freedom of expression. It appeared to me that people weren't exactly reticent in expressing their views at all.

Just next to the Westminster Abbey, supporters of the suppressed Tamils in Sri Lanka make almost daily protests, chanting for hours on end and waving banners urging the West to intervene.

The supporters of Palestine are not to be outdone by the Tamils. They're making their presence felt at Whitehall, just outside Downing Street.

And believe it or not, there were no riot squads brandishing tear gas cannisters or waiting to spray chemical-laced water on protestors.

But if you had nothing to protest about but plenty to say, you could always find yourself at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park.

You could choose to listen to the hellfire and brimstone preachers and argue with them..

... or you could just get yourself a free hug.


Antares said...

Free to express yourself... but all of it recorded on CCTV! In short, countries like England or the US aren't necessarily more "free" - just more sophisticated & subtle when it comes to controlling the hoi polloi :-)

walla said...

Somehow you would think resource deployment is a problem over here.

Brutal crimes are already over the top. Yet they continue to waste manpower to tangkap people in small groups lighting candles to show solidarity with causes that support making right certain injustices when they should be spending twenty five hours a day saving women and children from harm and men from assassinations.

Even lawyers trying to represent their clients do not escape unscathed such indiscriminate dragnets. For that matter, an assemblyman in a wheelchair could not be protected on the very grounds in which this nation is represented.

So you ask why. Then the answer comes out by itself. "So that we won't be like Bangkok".

Then you ask another question. If the reason people riot in Bangkok was because they saw some injustice in the system, wouldn't it be more permanent to solve the injustice problem by recognizing reasonable requests of the people than to clamp down on people who only want to highlight the problem? Likewise, here.

If there is no answer to that, one can only conclude that those who enforce laws have a fear. The fear that since they themselves are in the main from one race, it would be difficult for them to arrest those from the same race who will be the ones who will incite and create conflict on the ones who quietly gather to highlight the problems. In other words, the enforcers want to escape from enforcing against their own.

Own in terms of what? Is it race alone? Or also political affiliations? But they are supposed to be independent, it is suggested. Yet when we think of it, if the enforcers report to leaders who belong to one party whose policies have caused the very problems in question, then how can the enforcers be not seen to be acting without fear or favour?

But there are rules and regulations, it is also suggested. And do those rules and regulations reflect a finer balance between the right to freedom of expression and the right to keep peace? So that the thing that needs to be done is to update those rules and regulations for the times which have arrived - the times which say freedom of expression is necessary to balance the way the State has been governed in the absence of transparency and accountability which in turn has caused the problems in the first place? And that being the case, shouldn't those who peacefully and peaceably exercise their freedom of expression be protected and those who threaten them be the ones to be hauled up?

It is not just sentiments about basic human rights we have here. It is also about plain economics. As an example, it is the absence of early-warning transparency and accountability which has caused the RM12 Billion fiasco that is the insolvent PFKZ.

When intelligent people gather to quietly express solidarity about something, it is always because they have concluded that something has been wronged. Governments should appreciate their initiative as benefiting governance, especially when mainstream media and even some blogs are being given politically motivated anointment to confuse and be obtuse, rather than discuss openly to admit new perspectives with view to more tangible solutions.

There is no point just having KPIs for ministries alone. One can have the best set of methods in the world...but if those methods are only applied to do the wrong things, one will only get the best wrong results.

masterwordsmith said...

Hi dearie,

I remember the fun I had when I stood at Speakers' Corner the last time I was in London. Unforgettable! It is completely different speaking to an alien audience...and I know I would never ever get to do that in Malaysia, not in the current climate!!!

Am sure you are having fun there! So dear Crankster...hope to see you when you are back!

Take care and God bless!

Crankster said...

Antares, they've been protesting for over 6 months, I think. So I doubt the CCTV cameras would specifically zoom on them for identification purposes.

As for being more sophisticated in their control - yeah, maybe. But they don't restrict one's rights.

Walla, you forgot about arresting people wearing black. :) I was shocked to hear about that.

Crankster said...

Did you really go and speak? I merely walked around and listened to all the strange views of various people.

I hope to catch up with you when I get back too. I miss Malaysia very much.

Patricia said...

I wonder, too, what it would be like to live with such freedoms. But I think there are no absolutes. Even in a relationship, not 'bound' by marriage, where you have the freedom to come and go as you please, there will be something that keeps you there, holds you back, causes you to stop and think before you speak. No?

So it's all about self-knowledge, and self-control; and using your brain.

But I believe that in affording these freedoms, we teach our peoples to grow, and help them mature into thinking beings.

Which brings me back to us: we're stunted and stupid because we've not tasted of these freedoms. Just read the comments you find in, say, Malaysia Today. Some of them make me hang my head in shame. Is that abuse of a freedom? It's more like proof positive that we're a bunch of screwed up people who've forgotten how to think for ourselves.

donplaypuks® said...

I hear they are going to privatise Lake Gardens in KL to be turned into a Hyde Park with Speakers' Corner and all.

But being the kiasu type, they have decided to incorporate the S'pore version. You will have to register in advance and get a police permit if you want to make a speech or hold candle vigils or wera black shirts/t-shirts.

Also, you can only speak in BM and cannot talk about race, religion, Constitution, Islam, Royalty, Police, Army, Navy, Altantuya, Sukhoi jets, Scorpene Subs, Mongolia....refer to MsInformation@gov.con for the encyclopaedic lists of taboo subjects!! (Sigh).

Crankster said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Pat. I think some of RPK's articles are quite mind-provoking, but some of the commenters are just embarrassingly simple-minded.

That being said, they remind me of Singaporeans, who behave when they are under enforcement, but upon crossing into Malaysian borders, they lose all sense of civic-mindedness.

Crankster said...

DPP, I really don't know why they bother. No one will bother using it except for the muslim fundamentalist preachers. The intellectuals probably wouldn't be caught dead there.

If it's really true, this is probably some pretense at freedom of expression, so that the world will think we're advanced or something.