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Bolehland has to learn democracy 123 from Sri Lanka

Another protest by students in Sri Lanka. The student demonstrators in Kandy I saw is consisted of a musical band.

When I was in Kandy in 1998 during the civil war in Sri Lanka, many parts of the country were put under the emergency rule and strict censorship on war news reporting in the mass media.

In a Saturday’s afternoon, I had encountered a marching musical band consisted of at least 100 students from a secondary school in Kandy town. At first, I thought they were celebrating a festival or in a burial ceremonial parade. A shop owner told me they were actually protesting a new ruling imposed in their school by the headmaster when I asked around what was going on.

Amazingly, the same headmaster approved his students to express their unhappiness in a street demonstration, a dream in Malaysia !

There were only a few policemen present to maintain public order and traffic flow, not beating the students with flying sidekicks or firing tear gas as you have seen in Malaysia. Most bystanders and shop owners were clapping their hands to give the students moral support. No violence and no disruption on business activity, what I saw is a carnival-like atmosphere in the street with free music performance.

Sri Lankan secondary students are given public assembly rights during the civil war is truly an eye opening on how democracy was practiced in Sri Lanka. I feel ashamed when the Police Act in Malaysia barred public gathering for more than four persons.

Reformasi rally in the same year in Malaysia was demonized as a violent protest by BN government which had scared off 90% Chinese adults and thus casted their votes for BN in 1999′s general election. The ultimate reward for Malaysian Chinese was being labeled as the communists by then Prime Minister, Mahathir for asking many appeals before the election.

While our newly enacted Peaceful Assembly Act in 2012 is still imposing many undemocratic rules like no street demonstration, teenagers under 21-year are not allowed to participate in any peaceful demonstration, at least 10-day notice given to police, etc. in the peaceful time.

How many years Malaysia is behind Sri Lanka in the democratization journey? I say at least 30 years.

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