What should one make of the Red Shirt? Recent events involving the Red Shirt over the past weeks can only be summed up in one word – thugs. There are other less desirable words that best describe the group and their behaviour but let’s not dwell on it. In the beginning of the month Bersih commenced its seven-week convoy, which is scheduled to make its way across 246 cities, villages and towns. The purpose of the nationwide roadshow is to create awareness on issues surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as well as calls for the dismissal of Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak. Of course the ultimate aim is to promote the forthcoming rally to be held on 19 November 2016 in Kuala Lumpur. When Bersih announced its plans to have a road tour in mid-September Datuk Jamal Md Yunos leader of the Red Shirts had readily threatened to disrupt the Bersih convoy movements. By all indications, he was not making empty threats.

Bersih has stated that it intends to conduct the nationwide roadshow in a non-violent manner and to hold a peaceful rally in November. Interestingly enough unlike past Bersih rallies last year’s two-day Bersih rally was held rather peacefully without any untoward incidents. On the other hand, the Red Shirts have certainly lived up to their reputation as a bunch of hooligans. On the first day of Bersih’s national tour the Red Shirts had clashed with the Yellow Shirt group at a number of locations including Teluk Intan, which saw a scuffle break out between the two sides. This past weekend a video emerged showing Red Shirt supporters allegedly assaulting two Bersih supporters in Sabak Bernam.  In Tawau, Sabah two cars belonging to Bersih participants were damaged by unidentified individuals. Meanwhile Datuk Jamal is being accused of inciting racial violence following a Facebook posting pledging that the May 13 tragedy will occur again if the Bersih 5 rally proceeds in November. The Inspector-General of Police has swiftly slammed Datuk Jamal’s Facebook posting as seditious and vowed zero tolerance. Shortly after the Red Shirt leader issued a denial that he had posted the warning of a repeat of the May 13 incident.

Several Barisan Nasional leaders including Gerakan and MCA presidents and UMNO Youth Chief have spoken out against the violent approach taken by Datuk Jamal and his group of Red Shirt. Such condemnation is called for particularly since Datuk Jamal himself is an UMNO Division Chief, thus his action reflects badly on the ruling party. Political disagreements should always be carefully tempered to avoid unwanted incidents. It is certainly discouraging to see that politicians such as Datuk Jamal needing to resort to thuggish practices. Perhaps he should realize that the average educated Malaysians are not swayed by such behavior.

It is without a doubt that over the past year Malaysia’s political scene has turned livelier than ever before. There is the birth of two new opposition parties – Parti Amanah Negara and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. Then there is former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad making nice with the opposition, which was a shock to everyone.  Dissatisfaction and political differences are best addressed at the ballot box. Remember that every vote counts. So have your say at the next general election!