Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Best of Bersih 2 -- Echoing Art Harun

My personal take of Bersih :
a) The most touching moment was when Rakyat stood together locked hand in hand .... to sing Negaraku ....

b) It was a day when 1 Malaysia became a reality -- but can Najib take this reality .... 1 Malaysia indeed came out in unity regardless of race and social background to sincerely express the desires of Rakyat - clean elections and NO to corruption!!

Art Harun did a wonderful job by compiling touching articles and videos in his blog (http://art-harun.blogspot.com/2011/07/best-of-bersih.html) .. and doing such a wonderful wrap of the event ... but being kiasu like me ... I would like to cut and paste inspiring personal encounters in my blog so that it does not disappear one day (hehehe ... dont ask me what mentality is this ....)

i) Annette's Experience : Bersih = 1 Malaysia; Heartaches & Joy ~ A Bittersweet Day Indeed

After a great internal debate TO GO or NOT TO GO, I decided to go for Bersih. I decided, no one will know what is in my heart unless my presence speaks it. I support the 8 calls of reform that Bersih has put forward. At this point in my life, the decay has gone on long enough for me to speak out. And I still can take a bit of beating if need be, so I went.

I thank God for many who did not go but prayed for us. Cos, honestly I was SCARED! I counted the cost carefully. If I was arrested, a) I would not get to see my mom and I have been seeing her as regularly as I can, since she is so old oredi.

b) My loved ones may not understand why I needed to do this. c) My uncertainty of what will happen if imprisoned had lots of negative possibilities running in my mind.

Peter (another) FES colleague and I went in by 8.30am first to KL Sentral and when we saw people being interogated there, we took the train to Pasar Seni. We were watched. I had on a blue t-shirt with a BIG YELLOW SMILEY on it! :)

Already a tourist came up to me and said, she wanted to go into town. How to get there. I said it was not a good day to go into town! She said, she knew that but wanted to go. So I told her if she waited long enough, there would be people gathering at the KL Sentral station where we were then, and she could follow them. I said, I was going there later. She said, she knew I was the right person to ask. She scared me. If a tourist could spot me, surely the police could. So Pasar Seni was a good getaway! :)

Colin Pal was really indeed a real pal, and took us into his team of walkers. This was because the rest of the FES colleagues were only coming after Li Moi (another colleague's) wedding. But miraculously they managed to find us, even after the march had started!!

Let no one fool you. There were at least 50,000 PROTESTORS altogether. We were there! And it was touching to see how orderly we were. People marched from all corners, but when we converged, it was as if we had rehearsed it all. I felt tears prick my eyes, when the first group of marchers came towards us I think from Masjid Jamek. Then we merged and walked down Petaling Street towards Jalan Hang Jebat.

Halfway through that march, I found TEARS STREAMING DOWN MY FACE. I was thinking, how sad it is, that we Malaysian, this big family had to come out in this way. If our country had not been so 'raped' and corrupted we would not need to make this statement.

Our marches STOPPED at least 10 feet away from the police blocks. After chanting BERSIH, BERSIH (and off course some who went on to add their own groups chants) and HIDUP RAKYAT, we would turn back and try to make another way. We ended up at Menara Maybank, and waited for another 2 join us. Prior to this, already another 2 groups had joined us! Therefore the newspapers saying there were only 6,000 people is utter rubbish, or maybe got teargas in their eyes also.

Harming no one, but just chanting, we were HIT! TEAR GAS, at least 3 or 4 at a time. Wow! It STILL HAUNTS ME. We ran for cover, still trying to keep together with our FES colleagues. Ran into Puduraya former bus platforms. Jumped down slopes to get there. Couldn't breathe. Not a single air could go in. I quickly pulled out my asthma inhaler and pumped a few times. Then slowly I could breathe. The eyes, no hopelah. SO BURNING LAH. But we helped each other and regrouped outside Pudu Raya.

Then we sang NEGARA KU, and tried to march but the blockades were too strong. Second TEAR GAS. But the wind blew it back to the FRU. Not many of us kena this one. Then we sat on the floor to show, we were coming in peace. That was when they threw the third TEAR GAS. This was worse!!!!! We hid our faces by facing the walls of some shops. But later had to run anyway, as our group were exposed to the police. They closed in and followed us, with the water tank. That was ACIDIC WATER, so painful to the skin and eyes too. Then came the CHASING WITH THE BATONS.

SCARY WOH! But PEOPLE'S SPIRIT kept us going. The much talked about AUNTY ANNE truly inspired me. She freely walked in her yellow t-shirt from as early as 11am, when everyone else was hiding their yellow stuff. She waved at us. The whole cafe, LAI FONG clapped for her, GIVING OURSELVES AWAY that we were Bersih supporters. I was also inspired to see JO KUKATHAS (the one who acted in Yasmin Ahmad's short shows); many church members; many races all in one accord.

People SHARED towels, salt, water. People gave away their extra t-shirst to those who were sprayed with acid water. People encouraged each other. People were in ONE SPIRIT. Truly there was this feeling that we had already build a BRIDGE ~ JAMBATAN ANAK MALAYSIA, and were walking on it towards each other. Malays, Chinese, Indians, Foreigners. We CARRIED each other by looking out for each other.

The 2 times, young men asked me, "Aunty are you okay?; Aunty you go first" when we were being chased by police, I WAS SO SO TOUCHED. The second young man was using himself as a shield for me.

People asked, so what did you achieve? You did not get to give your memorandum to the Agong, what? You did not make it to the stadium what.

REMEMBER THE ORIGINAL PURPOSE? We did not want to go into the stadium. We wanted to walk for CLEAN elections and for true DEMOCRACY. Did we achieve anything? Yes, at least 3 things :

a) We made a STATEMENT, that we do not condone corruption.

b) We BUILT BRIDGES across races.

c) We DREAMT and are STILL DREAMING of a better tomorrow for Malaysia.

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN? Most likely. But .... I am still TERRIFIED OF TEAR GAS! I really thought I was going to die then. But then, because of all those who prayed, we made it!

But, I know and you know, that ONLY BECOS .... ONLY BECOS of OUR GOD (of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and of Moses too, HIS HAND WAS UPON US and saved us from evil. Evil was prowling around. It could have come from among us at Bersih. It could have come from those in authority. It could have come from opposing groups. He hears our cries and will act when it is HIS TIME!


b) Charis Ding : I went to the rally as a spectator. I returned a believer. And I had ice cream with the FRU.(http://malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/letterssurat/41924-someone-did-win-on-july-9th)

I went as an individual rather than as a supporter. Whenever asked throughout the day, I told people "I just wanted to see what’s going on". And that was the truth.

In the weeks leading to it, I was undecided whether to support the rally. Right up to yesterday I couldn’t decide. But I knew I didn’t want to stay home or watch from a distance. I didn’t want to just follow the news online. I had to see it with my own eyes. So I decided to do a walkabout, and I thought perhaps it would take being there to help me make my stand. And so as I was there I considered myself an observer – a reporter.

The police presence at the Pasar Seni area was overwhelming. In front of Central Market, four or five blue trucks in a row. Tension on the streets. It was eerily quiet. On Petaling Street, I walked past a small sized aunty in a yellow shirt (: I overheard her words to a few young boys around her – "We must stay united" she said - "that’s why we must wear yellow, to show we are united". I smiled as I passed.

I saw that the flower shop was open and bought a bunch of daisies.

There was tension in the air, the sense of waiting for something to erupt. At Masjid Jamek, there were more policemen than civilians. I took note of their batons, their weapons. The air was oppressive. I caught myself seeing the men in uniform as the antagonists – weren’t they on the other side? But then I realized they were supposed to be our friends. It is their job to protect people like me.

I sat with the other people from various media. On the side of the road leading to the stadium, huge intimidating FRU trucks were lined up. POLICE barricades. After a while hanging around, I decided to wander across those borders. Some of the police, leaning against their truck, looked straight at me. I smiled, they smiled back. Phew. I walked by a bunch of intimidating looking FRU people staring at me. Right across the road from Dataran Merdeka, I stole a picture of one of them leaning on the back of his truck. He called me over. We chatted.

It's tough, he said. They’ve been here and there all week, hardly with any sleep. Staying watch to make sure everything’s alright. Sometimes they sleep in the trucks. They were there until the wee hours of the morning yesterday, and came back early in the morning. If he could, he’d rather just have a quiet Saturday, stay at home, watch TV.

I nodded because I understood.

I spoke from my heart – it shouldn’t be this way. We should all be friends … we are friends.

Apa nak buat? There is always a chance of those who will cause trouble, he said. Don’t hang around here, he advised. It's not that safe today.

A motorcycle tried to pass, carrying packages in plastic bags. Not wanting to distract him or get him into trouble, I took my leave. Told him to jaga baik-baik. He said "nice to meet you".

I started back across to the other side. Halfway, I came across a bunch from the FRU surrounding an ice cream man, buying ice cream in buns. "Ais krim!" I kinda exclaimed. I was beside myself. "Ambik lah", they said. "Which one do you want? Cornetto?" Just realizing that I had pretty much imposed upon them to belanja me ice cream, I said – "Takpe takpe, saya beli sendiri".

"Takpe, bayar sama sama" – one of them said. They insisted I pick one.

"Where you from?" – they asked in English. "Here", I said – "saya orang sini saje". They laughed, "oh, ingatkan orang jepun!"

As we stood around with our ice creams, they asked me who I was. Did I come for the rally? "saya cume seorang gadis biasa" I said. They found that very amusing. "jangan-jangan ada t-shirt kuning dalam beg tu".

I laughed – "tak de lah…".

Then what was I doing there? "Saje mau tengok", I said. "cume ingin tahu".

"Baguslah tu", he said. "But you shouldn’t hang around today, it might not be safe". I asked them, "Apa khabar?". "Ok", they said. A bit tired, they hardly had any sleep. Ada rase tension? "Tension tu, sikit-sikit mesti ada lah".

We finished our ice creams, and I said goodbye. "Jaga diri", I said. "Jumpa lagi".

I just had ice cream with the FRU.

Right after I crossed the barrier there was a commotion and the media was running towards where I had just came from. They were apparently mobilizing.

About twenty minutes later, I was in the middle in front of the Maybank Tower with the throngs of people on my right and the FRU line on the left. The crowd had just gathered, they weren’t even moving forward yet. The FRU shot water cannons. It was unprovoked. Then the gas came. When it hit, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe. And it hurt. I grabbed some water from my bag and washed my face with it. I covered my face with my baju. In the chaos, one, two people offered me salt. "Makan", they told me. It really helped. I crumbled and sat on the corridors for a minute, eyes and nose watering.

I got up and kept walking, now amongst the people. Some looked me in the face, Chinese ladies speaking in Mandarin, Malay men in Malay, they seemed shocked and concerned. I must’ve looked a mess. "Are you ok?", they asked me. I tried to smile and nodded.

Soon, people started running. From a distance I saw the men in dark blue chasing the marchers. So many of them. People were running down the hill slope at the Maybank Tower compound. Nowhere to run, they jumped down the hill from some height, scampering across the streets.

I ended up in Pudu, watching the marchers and listening to their shouts of "Hidup Rakyat!". When we had to run later, at one point it was tricky to escape and we had to climb a railing at Pudu station. In the huru-hara, the man beside me, instead of just climbing up himself, was yelling to his friend – "Tolong amoi ini dulu!" He seemed more anxious for me than he was for himself, or even I was for myself.

Then it started to rain, and I thought – God Himself has intervened.

Once more, I had brothers who were concerned enough to ask me if I was ok. I followed the crowd and met some young men who had come all the way from Pahang for this. We ended up in front of the Chinese Assembly Hall, where a huge crowd had gathered. The police formed a human barricade, arms crossed, and barbed wire at the entrance of the road just a short distance from the Stadium. A. Samad Said came and talked with the policemen. Such a frail man, but so strong.

We sang Negaraku … and we sang it from the heart.

We dispersed soon after. I heard someone asking others to kutip sampah before we left. Retreating, suddenly part of the crowd broke into a run. There was a big group of police chasing from behind. Just as soon as we wanted to run instinctively, others said jangan lari … bertenang. Relaks saja. And we all calmed down again. It was like that the whole day – anytime there seemed to be a chance for rowdiness or chaos or violence, the people themselves would calm each other down, keep things in check.

Meeting up with my friends who were in the KLCC group, we exchanged stories. My friend Jagadev was at the frontline. He had been hit by teargas seven times that day, and he has a battle wound from where a canister hit his leg. But the bulk of what we spoke of wasn’t of hatred or anger – but a sense of passion, of new hope, and of solidarity as a people.

"It seems we’ve got pretty decent people", I mused as a passing comment. I didn’t know how true it would turn out to be but it was immediately confirmed.

So many stories. My friend, caught in the rain, had a Malay man hand her some papers for her to cover up from the rain.

Hit by the full brunt of the tear gas, Jagad, along with a few others, stopped to help a man who had fallen down. He was heavy, too.

When someone tried to shout, incite others and burn a Patriot t-shirt, the rest immediately stopped him, silenced him and removed him from the group.

We are a decent, civilized people. What we experienced that day - Malaysia.

Later on at dinner with a different group of friends, the conversation was about our nation. This was rare. In the fifteen years I’ve known them, I don’t think we’ve ever talked together about politics, or our nation, or playing a part in it. At least, not like this. But that night, they said to me – because of you guys, we've decided we are going to register to vote.

They too caught the passion. The unggun. They too were upset over how the government had reacted to the rally, and the statement made by the Bersih marchers is loud and clear. I think it was a statement of hope that they caught. Tens of thousands of Malaysians who went out for a better nation. It’s a call that we can no longer disown or detach ourselves from, because we are in no way a lost cause.

In the midst of this conversation with my friends, something amazing happened. Following Bersih stories on Twitter, we talked about how good Malaysians can be … we remembered certain events and openly admitted those from other races who have been kind to us. And we confronted our stereotypes of always painting them a certain way.

A distinct thought came home to me then: Malaysia, I do love you.

That night we said cheers, to a better Malaysia.

By the end of the day, I discovered I referred to the marchers and myself as ‘we’, no longer ‘them’ and ‘I’. It is because we were there together, as Malaysia. We helped each other and cared for each other as Malaysia. There was no political agenda with the people there – I was there, I experienced it and I know it. It was Malaysia, embracing in our hearts and our actions the hope for better government.

What I experienced on the 9th of July is Malaysia. We are decent people, we are a people of quality. Those in power who are selfish or bigots or who try to divide the people – that is not Malaysia, and they are not deserving of Malaysia. Those who try to taint and politicize the beautiful events of that day, are not deserving of Malaysia. We are a people who deserve much more than that.

We came out and proved that yesterday. It has proved to me, to the marchers who were there, to my friends, what Malaysia is.

And so, on 9th July, Malaysia won.

c) Abdul Haleem : Bersih 2.0 - Was it worth it? (http://www.facebook.com/notes/abdul-haleem/bersih-20-was-it-worth-it/252906668059703)

Was it worth it?

It has been twelve days since I have seen my wife, my son (who has just turned three) and my one month old daughter, sweet little Lana girl. If I don’t go down to see them this weekend, I will not see them for at least another week. Three days ago my wife and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary, whilst we were apart. I had a choice to go back to Penang and be with them for the weekend, but instead, I chose to go down to Kuala Lumpur to support Bersih 2.0.

I arrived in KLIA at about 10:30 in the morning. The airport looks eerily deserted. As I traveled light, I literally ran to get an ERL ticket and jumped onto the train. As my excitement grew, I looked around to see KL appear as a ghost town. Even on Hari Raya holidays, you’ll see more cars in Sg Besi Highway compared to this particular Saturday.

Walking out from KL Sentral, I was shocked to see a huge presence of FRU units and police. I assumed this is to ‘manage possible demonstrates who might alight in KL Sentral and walk towards Masjid Negara.’ I proceed to my hotel which is just across from KL Sentral. Coming out from the elevator I was greeted by two cops who are stationed there. I told them I am here to check in and they let me pass. I did notice more polis in the lobby but I was still naïvely thinking that they were only there for general safety. I checked in, went to my room and changed into something more comfortable, (not the official t-shirt though) and walked back to KL Sentral. I was surprised when I was still managed to get a ticket to Masjid Jamek.

As soon as I alight in Masjid Jamek LRT station – I could feel the atmosphere. The party is definitely ON. I remember thinking to myself that being alone may not help at all. Thus, I seek a group to join. Within 5 minutes, I noticed a crowd of about 30 people gathering at the junction of Amanah Rakyat Building. As I join them the leader starts to give a speech. A journalist told me it is Dr.Hatta Ramli from PAS who is giving the speech and he will lead this group to Stadium Merdeka.

We manage to walk to Menara Maybank without any trouble. By now the group size grew to hundreds, as we are now joined by other political figures such as Tony Pua from DAP.

Suddenly, without any warning, teargas and chemical laced water were shot and sprayed towards us. The effects were immediate and were more than I could bear. As this is my first face off with such hostility, like many hundreds around me, we ran to seek shelter. We climbed the stalled escalator towards the main entrance of Menara Maybank and worn out and almost defeated, we crumbled to the floor for a decent breath. The teargas effects were agonizing and thanks to the expertise of FRU chemical unit, the chemicals were burning my skin. There were number of Makciks hand in hand with their teenage daughters. Although people were outraged, we remained civil and this was when I learned my first two lessons of the day.

  1. Despite the anger, frustration and pain, all of us were civil. Very civil. I instinctively knew that it wasn’t a good time to break and thrash everything that was in front of us. Although vandalism is part of mass rallies everywhere else, it wasn’t here. Not one person vandalized anything.
  2. True unity is in action. People genuinely care for each other regardless of ethnic, religious or status differences. Everyone was ONE. Malaysians. With all due respect Mr.Najib – this is 1Malaysia with substance. Not the kind of crowd with free 1Malaysia tshirts waving the Malaysian flag whilst thinking of the free food which will be provided later.

Was it worth it to join the rally? Definitely, I have no doubt in my mind. I felt a sense of solidarity with all those around me, in a way which is almost unexplainable.

After 30 minutes of a break and recharging myself with a can of Redbull, I seek to rejoin the masses. I found a huge group just in front of our newly renovated Pudu Bus Terminal. By then, the marchers had already experienced rounds of tear gas and trigger happy water cannons. I watched in shock, as water ran down the street like a flash flood. Somehow, I manage to sneak into the crowd.

Someone told me how MP Sivarasa was negotiating with the polis and whilst he was negotiating, I had the pleasure of experiencing something, I will never forget for the rest of my life. Despite the drizzling rain, the uncertainties and the risk of being fired by another round of teargas, the crowd spontaneously starts to sing Negaraku. It was such an awesome moment in my life, that I had goosebumps.

Later MP Sivarasa informed us that the police were allowing us to march on one side of the road towards Jalan Sultan. Deep down inside, I was like ‘yeah right’. Less than 10 minutes later, he and couple of other negotiators were whisked away by the polis (they were later arrested) and all hell broke loose. Rounds of tear gas and sprays from the water cannon, force the majority of the group into the Tung Shin hospital compound. I initially thought that it was a safe bet to be in a hospital compound. Boy oh boy, it was a perfect trap for us. Yes, they did shoot tear gas inside the parking compound of the hospital.

Being cornered with nowhere to run, not less than 30 guys and girls were arrested, including me. I was handcuffed using some sort of cable tie (which I use wildly in my job), but the only difference being, this one is much larger. The cop who drags me from Tung Shin Hospital compound all the way to Menara Maybank was very civil, but not the FRU personnels, who were standing along the street. At least five of them make nasty remarks about my disability. I was grouped with not less than 50 other detainees in Menara Maybank waiting for the famous Black Maria. At this moment, I learned my next two lessons whilst waiting for the Black Maria.

  1. I first met the now most famous Bersih 2.0 figure, ‘Aunty Bersih’, whilst the crowd were singing Negaraku. She sang along. Despite her fragile state and clearly suffering from earlier teargas effects, she holds on to the flowers. Determined and courageous, just like Ambiga. This aunty came around to the staging area where we have been held up and with full respect, she bows in front us – the official detainees. It was so touching. I learned that this is a fight for everyone. This is a fight for the future of our kids. The fight to save this beautiful nation.
  2. Not less than 5 good Samaritans came around and passed us fresh bottled waters. They bought it and brought it to us. For some of them whose hands had been tied at their back, they even hold up the bottle whilst they took a sip. Who are they, politicians? Nope. Suhakam? Nope. Just another MALAYSIAN. I learned that this is who we are. What we are. Utusan, Ibrahim Ali and their fellow goons surely have no idea what is like to be on the ground.

Was it worth it to join the rally? Hell yeah!

After being help up for almost an hour, we were taken to Pulaupol. Man, the place has been setup for a carnival. A number of makeshift tents, mobile lavatories, temporary surau’s and being Malaysians, buffets included. This is surely a good PR job by PDRM. My estimation is not less than 500 detainees in there at this time. It was tough and as this is my first time being detained, I was calm, as I knew that being tense will not help anything at all. Our MYKAD’s has been taken away. We were allowed to use the lavatory and Surau’s but not allowed to use the mobile phone. Despite this, I continued to text my brother and other friends. I was informed that the lawyers were not allowed into the Pulaupol compound. Within an hour, all the formalities were done. No statement was taken.

The chaos really began when the cops started a roll call to return us to the MYKAD. Imagine a guy with loud speaker calling out name after name. Somehow, this is a blessing in disguise. During this roll call, every time a non Malay name comes up – the crowd cheers for him loudly, followed by a big round of applause. At about 8 pm, my name was called and I hitched a ride on PDRM buses which ferries the released ‘detainess’ back to KL Sentral. I got off just outside the main entrance of Pulaupol and joined my brother and his colleagues.

A few minutes later – something unexpected happened. Harris Ibrahim was walking out calmly from the crowd at the main entrance of Pulaupol. I can’t help myself but call out his name loudly, I went up to him and embrace him. I did see the kind of joy in his eyes knowing all his efforts had paid off and I am sure he could see in my eyes the kind of satisfaction I had, because I had joined this rally.

Was it worth it? – Do you need to ask me again? – What’s next my fellow brothers and sisters?

d) Ahmad Azrai : In Blackest Day - My eye-witness account of July 9th, 2011 in Kuala Lumpur — the day Malaysians proved that peace-makers will always triumph over war-mongers (http://www.facebook.com/notes/ahmad-azrai/in-blackest-day/355427934963)


I was there, and no matter what the Malaysian government says — from their ownership of a vast majority of the mainstream media, down to the insensitive and/or untrue (mostly both) statements made by ministers or the Polis Di Raja Malaysia (Royal Malaysian Police or PDRM) — no matter how much they want to deny what happened in Kuala Lumpur (KL) on Saturday, July 9th, 2011, they cannot deny my words.

I was there.

I was there from the first Light Rail Transit (LRT) train in the morning at 6am, travelling and watching the clear roads, where there was hardly any traffic due to aggressive road closures enforced by the PDRM. At the last station, I got down to have breakfast, and bought a copy of the New Straits Times, The Star and Utusan Malaysia.

I was there.

I was there fuming, and trying hard to control my anger, at the blatantly one-sided depiction of the scope of events leading to July 9th. At how Bersih, a coalition of NGOs who wished to send a list of suggestions for freer and fairer elections to the supreme head of the country, was demonised by the mainstream government.

I was there.

I was there on the train again at 8.30am heading back home, planning to leave again for the hotspots around noon. On the train, I met up with the LRT security guards whom I have known over the past 13 years from riding the LRT almost everyday. They were dressed in their Polis Bantuan ("Auxiliary Police") uniforms. I chatted with them, and held my tongue when I discovered to my shock that they were sincerely against the gathering, and that the police were merely keeping the peace instead of threatening a peaceful group with arrests and implicit manhandling. I wished them well as they got off at their designated stations, and continued the journey home.

I was there.

I was there back at Wangsa Maju in record time as the trains ran at better-than-peak-hour efficiency. I promptly went to the cybercafé to read what the independent Internet media had to stay, as well as follow the progress on Twitter. At around 11.20, I walked back home, bathed again and went back out on the LRT. I headed out back to KL, and saw the huge gathering of people outside the old train station. Alighting at KL Sentral, I purchased a small bottle of water, which proved to be very useful later on. Stopping for lunch at the YMCA — all the while observing a small but very steady stream of people walking towards Jalan Petaling — I made my way towards the same venue at 1pm.

I was there.

I was there when a virtually-unbroken line of people a kilometre long made its slow but steady way towards Stadium Merdeka. Despite a small but very vocal number of active agitators, the line was quiet and dignified, with occasional bouts of cheers. I walked from Brickfields towards the train station, then the main post office and crossing over to the Pasar Seni LRT station, which had already been shut down.

I was there.

I was there amongst the crowd that moved from Petaling Street towards Jalan Pudu, bumping into my friends from work. I was not there as a worker though, even though I would have been within my rights to be there as the journalist that I am. Lack of support from my editor-in-chief was the reason why I was not there as a reporter on the scene. But I was there, as a citizen of Malaysia, which was the only justification I needed.

I was there.

I was there when Malaysians of all colours and ages walked peacefully towards the Puduraya Bus Station, and I was there as we all revelled in the fact that there were definitely more than 20,000 people standing all around — on the roads, in and around the bus station and Menara Maybank itself. I was there at 1.50pm when I met James Pollard, a British tourist from Bristol who was wondering what was going on. And as I gave him a continuous explanation, the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) brought out water-cannons (laced with chemical irritants and not just harmless water) as well as the CS tear gas rifles, shooting both at the crowd. A small police force started running and catching people, kicking and beating some of those they caught in broad daylight.

I was there.

I was there as the crowd managed to push back the FRU for a moment before making its ways down Jalan Pudu to inch towards the stadium. James and I moved towards the bus station and rose up the ramp to get an elevated view. That was when the FRU decided to fire the tear gas above at the unarmed and non-participating spectators — in short, the innocent bystanders.

I was there.

I was there when I got hit by tear gas for the first time in my life. It was excruciating in a manner beyond mere words; the skin and the eyes burn and sear, as does the nose and throat, producing coughing that only serves to make the victim inhale even more irritants. I was racked in pain, unable to do anything but struggle to breathe and vomit. A concerned citizen tried to give me some salt to counter the effects, but I was too much in pain and discomfort to want it even though I knew it would help. It took a while, but the effects wore off, leaving me weak and feeling wretched.

I was there.

Photo: James Pollard

I was there when all my fellow Malaysians showed concern for one another, helping each other, not a single of whom were shouting or behaving in a manner befitting of hooligans. So unlike the police, strutting arrogantly with their weapons and numbers which were puny compared to the crowd, shouting insults and belittling the very people they had supposedly been sworn to protect and serve.

I was there.

I was there when they confronted the people who sat on the road, with nary a weapon of any sort in their hands. They only used their voices, and even then it was merely a wall of cheers and vocalisations. I saw it all from the overhead pedestrian bridge of the bus station when they fired tear gas again into the seated crowd. Another British friend I had made, Sam Franklin, got footage of the whole scene. Of course, being at the scene meant that in the rush to escape the gas, I got stuck, and got another stronger blast of the CS gas. It was even worse the second time around, due to the higher concentration. But again, I survived.

I was there.

I was there down on the street with James and Sam when there was a final ceasefire, and the MP for Subang R Sivarasa was negotiating with the police. And we then moved off to get a drink and recuperate — and therefore missed the Tung Shin hospital incident, which was reported brilliantly by my work colleague and friend, Max Koh. I have never been prouder of a friend than I am of Max for his concise, excellent account of what happened. This article is not meant to compete with his account — but I am the first to admit that it can never compete with its brilliance.

I was there.

I was there with my new-found friends who later took me back to their hostel to recover — with James; Sam; Kaya from Taiwan; Mike O'Connor from New Zealand; Tay Franssens from Holland; and Ben Quigley from the USA — and I sat down with them as they watched Sam's videos, and answered their questions as best as I could. And I told them not to just take my word for it, but to ask around. They did — and all agreed that even the contrary points of view (of which there were many, either from the police forces or from ordinary Malaysians, who for some reason did not understand nor support the Bersih movement) reinforced what I had told them. And reinforced what they had seen.

I wasn't there for some things.

I wasn't there when the deputy inspector-general of police denied that the Tung Shin Hospital compound was both attacked with tear gas and sprayed on with the chemical water, despite photos and videos to the contrary already up online. And I certainly wasn't there when the Prime Minister of Malaysia Mohd Najib Abdul Razak made fun of people who were weaklings for their reaction to "a little tear gas". Most definitely, I wasn't there — because if I was, I would have spit at him.

But I was there.

I was there that day, on the ground where brute force was used to subdue peaceful citizens who had every right to be in the capital city. Mohd Najib, where were you? You and your wife were out being wined and dined the whole day in luxurious comfort, as you always have been. And you have the audacity to speak about and belittle things that you obviously do not know about.

Well, I was there.

I was there, and I survived. You who call yourself a pemimpin ("leader", literally "one who guides") are not fit to pimpin me or any one of us anymore. And so I say that I am determined to continue fighting the good fight for freedom, truth, fairness and equality — even if it kills me. As the great Mahatma Gandhi once said: "They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me, then they will have my dead body. NOT MY OBEDIENCE!" — and the same goes for me. As the old and beautiful song Tanah Pusaka goes: "Biar putih tulang, jangan putih mata." (Literally "Better to show that your bones are white, better not that show that your eyes are white", ie "Tis better to be dead than to be willingly blind") You can take away almost anything from me — but you can never take away my dignity.

I was there.

And I am still here.

Ahmad Azrai grew strong and learned how to carry on.

e) Aunty Anne, lady of liberty (http://uppercaise.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/aunty-anne-lady-of-liberty/)

Why do we have to feel so scared (and threatened) in our own home land.. and by own countrymen?

Aunty Anne (Ann Ooi, 65, formerly a teacher in Penang) is the mother of entertainment personality Elaine Pedley.

Photos: Hugo Teng

» Visit the Facebook fan page…

An encounter with Aunty Anne at Bersih

By Charlotte Hew
(posted at Facebook)

By: Charlotte Hew
BERSIH 2.0 (9 July 2011). Our Walk for Democracy.

Anne, from Setapak, took a bus ride down to KL, ALONE, in support of the rally. She was stopped 4 times, being asked her IC, and questioned by the police on why she’s wearing yellow. “why can’t I wear yellow?” was her reply. she didn’t know what time the rally was scheduled to start, she didn’t know where, she has no one with her; all she knew was to get down to KL, and stand for what she believes in.

the first thing she asked when she sat on our table, “what are you guys doing here?”

Anne teaches English in government schools for about 35 years (if i remember correctly). but her passion is really singing and dancing; and what she values most in her life now is freedom.

Anne has rallied in bersih 2007. she was disappointed as to why no one else was wearing yellow that day. we said chill lah.. that’s cuz if we do, we’d be stopped by the cops even before we get the chance to enter KL. “it’s so sad.. it’s so sad that the police are treating our rakyats like these.”

“When you come to rallies, there’s a spirit of unity… something i cannot describe… when everyone is united for a cause. you don’t even get this sort of unity in church.”

She left me with a question that still resides in my heart. now may i impose on you to think about it. “Why do we have to feel so scared (and threatened) in our own home land.. and by own countrymen?”

Unity in spirit, strength in numbers. Imagine Malaysia in our fullest potential only if we stand together as one.

f) Pak Samad Said (Unggun Bersih) -

Semakin lara kita didera bara—

kita laungkan juga pesan merdeka:
Demokrasi sebenderang mentari
sehasrat hajat semurni harga diri.

Lama resah kita—demokrasi luka;
lama duka kita—demokrasi lara.
Demokrasi yang angkuh, kita cemuhi;
suara bebas yang utuh, kita idami!

Dua abad lalu Sam Adams berseru:
(di Boston dijirus teh ke laut biru):
Tak diperlu gempita sorak yang gebu,
diperlu hanya unggun api yang syahdu.

Kini menyalalah unggun sakti itu;
kini merebaklah nyala unggun itu.
24—25, 6.11. A. SAMAD SAID


Pak Samad Said, our National Laureate, has been tireless in his efforts for Bersih. On the 9th, this 76 year old walked and walked and walked, until he was stopped by the police near the Istana, where he had wanted to deliver the Bersih memorandum to His majesty the King. According to Pak Samad, His Royal Highness had said “can” when asked whether Bersih could deliver the memorandum on the 9th. Alas, it was not to be.

Pak Samad is however, Malaysia’s new hero.

No comments: