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Brickfields small shops protest: can small people protest at KLCC shopping mall?

Sat 2011-Dec-10 @ +08 08:00:26 am

A tale of two shopkeepers

Or: how business works — profits first, people last (except if you bring money)

Two types of shopkeepers: the small ones in Brickfields and the b-i-g rich one at KLCC. The small ones held a street protest yesterday, but the big one doesn’t want protests at KLCC today.

Brickfields shopkeepers closed their shops for an hour to gather outside Lotus (the old Peking Hotel) to wave banners and shout Bantah because of traffic changes in the neighbourhood, involving cars, buses and lorries, which they say drives customers away.

Their profits are affected, they say. So they protested.

Photo: Free Malaysia Today

Universal human rights

  • Article 1: All human beings are born equal
  • Article 7: All are equal before the law
  • Article 8: All may seek redress for violation of fundamental rights
  • Article 13: All have rights to free movement
  • Article 19: All have a right to an opinion and to express it
  • Article 20: Everyone may assemble peacefully
  • Article 21: Everyone may take part in the government of the country

The b-i-g shopkeeper, KLCC, at the rich end of town, is threatening legal action to stop a protest. It’s also about traffic — shopping traffic, of people with money to spend. And KLCC doesn’t want other people wearing yellow getting in the way of people with money to spend.

That’s how business works. When it hurts their profits, they protest. But when they fear it may hurt their profits — or they fear that letting small people protest will hurt their profits, especially b-i-g profits elsewhere up their food chain…no to protests.

And the two actions show up the hypocrisy behind the Peaceful Assembly Bill. It’s not so much a law as a political statement turned into a legal instrument. A statement of business interests first, people last. Turned into law. See for yourself. Here is the part of the Bill that reads like a political statement:

that the exercise of the right to organize assemblies or to participate in assemblies is subject only to restrictions deemed necessary … including the protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons.

“rights and freedoms of other persons” includes—
• the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possession;
• the right to freedom of movement;
• the right to enjoy the natural environment; and
• the right to carry on business;

That’s why it should be called a Freedom of Shopkeepers (Complain About Loss of Business) Bill. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

That’s the right that KLCC management (ultimate owner, tycoon Ananda Krishnan) wants to exercise: the right of their shops to do business is more important, is superior, to your basic right to meet, to assemble, to voice your opinion, or to wear what you want.

Organisers of the Walk and Talk at KLCC Park have done so peaceably for two weeks, without interruption or disruption to KLCC business. The protest is not against KLCC, it’s a protest against the Peaceful Assembly Bill. But KLCC management tried to disrupt the peaceful gathering by closing off the fountain area. People know why, because KLCC is owned by a big businessman with big political connections and they want to look after each other first.

Today, on UN Human Rights Day, the organisers of the Walk and Talk want to prove a point — both to KLCC management and of course KLCC’s friends in high places — that people can gather peacefully, in good spirits, in a family atmosphere, to make their feelings clear about how policy is being decided by their government — a government that has sworn to protect and defend the constitution, which is the basic law that provides basic rights to the people.

But the big shopkeeper at KLCC says his rights must come first. Because he has a bigger club.

The freedom of all people, big or small, to gather, to speak, to hold an opinion and to voice it, in public is a fundamental right of all human beings. It is a right that comes from the Creator, and is guaranteed in law in Constitutions everywhere, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is celebrated today.

But the big shopkeeper at KLCC says his rights are superior. Because he has a bigger club.

But the ordinary people’s rights? The words of the US First Amendment state it most simply and most elegantly :

…the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition for redress of grievances

The right of small shopkeepers to peaceably assemble in Brickfields and petition for redress of grievances.

The right of ordinary people to peaceably assemble in KLCC Park and petition for redress of grievances

It is the same right.

It’s not about denying anyone the right to make money or the right to do business. It’s about the basic right to be a human being, and to express our feelings.

And at 2pm today, ordinary people in yellow will try to do and try to say that they, we, are all human beings, and that they, we, all have a voice.

KLCC: they come in peace.

© 2011. All rights reserved


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