Risking everything, Malaysians text, tweet as protests turn violent
The Internet is bringing Bersih pro-reform protests to computer screens, iPads and smartphones worldwide -- as young activists risk their lives, using the social media to demand democracy.
He’s just a kid – a university law student – but K. Sudhagaran Stanley is using the tools he has, the Internet, to demand change for his homeland.
Last week, it put his life at risk — but he texted and Facebooked all the way through a dramatic confrontation with police in which the devout young Christian says God delivered him from angry police.
Stanley and thousands like him have been marching in the streets of Malaysia’s cities and sharing every moment of it on Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and the other social media – expressing a deep passion for their native Malaysia, a prosperous Pacific Rim republic in the South China Sea that shares the Malay Peninsula with Thailand and the island of Borneo with Indonesia.
While staying in touch on the Internet, Stanley took to the barricades with his friends – an estimated 50,000 of them in Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur as well as thousands more demonstrating at 85 locations in 35 countries the world.
But populist revolution has changed dramatically from Paris in 1789, Moscow in 1918 or even Tiananmen Square in 1989. Today’s protesters wield the Worldwide Web: ”Finally arrived in Kuala Lumpur,” Stanley posted on Facebook to friends and family worldwide as the protests began. “All set for tomorrow.”
He and other fervent activists had brought their iPads, Androids and Blackberries to text each move of a Malaysian protest movement called Bersih, which in Malay means simply “clean,” and which demands electoral reforms in Malaysia.
In the public squares and at their keyboards – quite often at both at the same time – tech-savvy Malaysians called for an end to what they say are age-old inequities unfairly giving power to an entrenched elite favoring the nation’s majority Malays, slighting Malaysians of Chinese and Indian heritage, and completely denying a voice to millions of Malaysians pursuing careers abroad.