Over 100 people took part in the ‘black coffee session’ yesterday in what is believed to be the first of such protests organised through social networking website Facebook.
The protest, innocuously called ‘1BLACKMALAYSIA AfterDinnerCoffee Session’, took place at several Old Town White Coffee outlets last night without any incident.
Word of the campaign was spread mostly through Facebook, which provided information on the various Old Town outlets where the sit-down protests were to take place.
When contacted, ‘black coffee session’ organiser and Bersih activist Wong Chin Huat said there were gatherings at seven of the famous kopitiam outlets – Kuchai Lama, Jaya One, Aman Puri (Kepong), Bangsar South, 3rd Miles Square, Bandar Puteri (Puchong) and Bayan Baru (Penang).
Wong believed that these black coffee sessions could potentially be the beginning of a cultural movement.
“This is not just a political movement, it’s about young people using online networks to connect and do something revolutionary in Malaysia.”
Wong’s Bersih coined the 1BLACKMALAYSIA campaign to mourn the “death” of democracy following Barisan National’s power grab in Perak four months ago.
He said yesterday’s sessions could bring a transformation of the people’s mentality – that one day people will associate politics with something as normal as going out dating or for dinner.
“These sessions are a way of normalising political discussions in a funnily serious or a seriously funny way. It breaks stereotypical links between politics, money and seriousness,” said Wong.
“It may not be a superior alternative, but it’s definitely a more interesting one, and one that will only cost you a cup of coffee.”
Everyone can easily participate
At 9pm, about 30 protesters were seen at Old Town’s Kuchai Lama outlet, with a few clad in black.
Among the patrons seen there were political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, Penang-based Save Our Selves (SOS) coordinator Ong Boon Keong, human rights lawyer Harris Ibrahim and Malaysiakini columnist Helen Ang.
Protestors Neow Ti Hooi and Toh Jin Hong – both 23 and from the Malaysian Youth and Student Democratic Movement (Dema) – have high hopes and expectations for the protest.
“I think this is a good event because people can easily get involved. Just wear a black T-shirt and come here. Everyone can do it, and it’s a way to express our demand to dissolve the Perak state assembly,” said Neow (left).
She also felt that the use of Internet was crucial in exposing the younger generation to Malaysian politics as well as protest events such as these.
Outlets closure ‘not for renovation’
Undaunted by the low turnout, Neow commented that the ‘black coffee sessions’ were just the starting point of a movement that was yet to come.
Toh (right) added that Dema went to the extent of promoting the protest to students in universities such as Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia.
Sitting with a group of 10 protestors was a middle-aged government servant from Perak who declined to be named. He said he was there to support his friends.
According to him, he did not anticipate any immediate changes from the protest, but speculated that there could be long-term effects if protestors don’t go overboard and maintain diplomacy.
Another patron from Puchong who only wished to be identified as Chan, felt that the protest was not yet an effective method.
He said that the effectiveness of the campaign depended on how radical the leaders are, how far they are willing to intervene, and whether or not the protestors could build and retain the momentum of the protest.
On another note, none of the protestors believed that the closure of several Old Town outlets last week were due to internal renovations as claimed by the management. The closures had led to the cancellation of the planned ‘black coffee sessions’.
“I don’t think Old Town White Coffee should be angry with us (protestors) because we’re actually giving them a lot of business.” said Neow.
(source:Emily Chow Malaysiakini.com)