This is the first significant protest the current government faces. And this is yet another opportunity for this government to demonstrate that it is different from the previous corrupt racist, fascist regime.
That can be shown by accommodating the protest as much as possible with a view of not being explicitly hostile to it either through speech or action, but by guaranteeing the safety of the protest participants and others while they exercise their rights to freedom of assembly and speech.
I participated in all of the Bersih protests and each time, there was always a dread feeling inside of me expecting the worst to happen. Such feeling was warranted.
Previously, government-controlled media always delivered threatening messages to the masses ahead of any large protest. May 13 without fail was the boogeyman.
My first taste of tear gas happened while I was standing amid a large crowd near the Maybank tower.
I have been chased by the police before. At one time, an officer pulled a gun near Jalan Raja Laut after chaos erupted. There was a time when I walked by a security personnel during a protest, and he verbally abused me.
And the laying out of barbwire and other actions like the conspicuous rolling out of anti-riot assets with security personnel all equipped with armor always threatened the atmosphere of the protest.
Furthermore, it was common knowledge that the party in power then sent provocateurs to create chaos, and create a reason for the security personnel to come in and break the protest.
All this should be avoided by this government. The police should hold back and not purposefully threaten the crowd. No provocateur should be sent by anybody associated with the ruling parties and the government.
It is by backing off from these provocative tactics that we can show to the world that the government is self-assured and strong.
The function of a government within the context of its citizens exercising their rights is to protect those rights and the people who are practicing it peacefully.
We can disagree with the agenda of the protest participants, however racists they are, but we should also respect their right to assemble peacefully.
We can be different and we must be different. We can show to them that there is another way. We do not need to beat our chest to show our confidence and strength.
That is the best way to blunt their message: that we are different and better.