by Fathol Zaman Bukhari
They say good or bad publicity is publicity nonetheless. Most prefer to stay on the right side and will give an arm and a leg to remain in the good books. If something bad is written or said about them they will go ballistic, threatening legal action as an immediate recourse. Being in the media business we are never short of these flare-ups. Putting up with these inconsistencies is a way of life for most of us in the media world. What is good for the goose is good for the gander too, goes another saying. How true can it be?
What happens if we are on the receiving end? Should we resort to the courts as well? Or should we settle it the old fashion way by drawing a line on the ground and challenging the opposite side to cross first before striking. That was how we old geezers settled scores those days when catching fish and birds was a pastime far better than surfing the Internet like kids do these days.
Since achieving Independence on August 31, 1957, the country celebrates the auspicious occasion by holding a parade. Each state will hold its own with one mammoth parade in Kuala Lumpur known as the National Parade or Perbarisan Kebangsaan. Today the grand occasion is being alternated with Putrajaya or is held at one of the capital cities in the country. Its significance is, however, not diminished by way of locality, as the host state will go out of its way to be on top.
The 55th National Day Parade was held in Kuala Lumpur. Perak marked the occasion by holding a similar parade in Ipoh. The site has always been along Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang with the iconic Town Hall as a backdrop. The grand stand where VIPs sit is right in front of the Town Hall. It could not have been more suitably located. Once the participating contingents marched down the road press photographers would jockey for spots to take the best shots. This scene is repeated each year. Having been a member of the armed forces, parades are nothing strange to me. I was a detachment commander of the King’s honour guards in 1972 and the parade adjutant the following year.
The last time I was involved, as an active player, was the state-level National Day parade in Seremban in 1997. I was a member of the organising committee and was responsible for security. I was privy to what took place on that fateful day. Fortunately, nothing untoward happened. The Yang DiPertuan Besar, the late Tuanku Ja’afar ibini Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman and his consort were seen leaving the grand stand waving and smiling at the crowd. Chasing away ‘unwelcomed’ press photographers was not part of my job.
What took place on the morning of Saturday, August 31 at around 8am was truly uncalled for. Press photographers from the mainstream media and Ipoh Echo were shooed away by Police personnel. The reason – they were too close to the VIP stand and were in the way of the marching contingents. Press photographers in the way of the marching contingents? What utter bull!
Ipoh Echo’s photographer, Muhd Shahir (Ed) tried to reason with the sergeant major who was leading him out of the area. He showed his press pass and asked why another casually clad photographer, who had no identification whatsoever, was not similarly treated? The terse answer he got was, “Jangan pertikaikan kerja polis!” (Don’t question police’s job!). How ironic could it be? Weren’t the pressmen there to do a job too? Does it mean that when the Police are on the job no one else, media included, are allowed to do their job?
Dato’ KP (Ketua Polis), we have our job too! Our job is to cover the National Day parade. Police keep the peace while the media keep the rakyat informed. There is a defined line between the two. Dato’, it is not about who is going to cross the line first.