KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — Participating in the 428 Bersih Duduk Bantah is considered an adventure of a life time for me and LKG, she 68 and I 67, because we had to be prepared to dodge, run, and might get injured if tear gas and water cannons were used. However, as four years went by, being awaken by the 2008 tsunami, both of us were very well informed by the alternative media of the excessive blundering of our country’s wealth, we decided to participate in Bersih 3.0 to demand for clean and fair elections so that those who are really working for the welfare of our country will be elected into government.
I am luckier than LKG, because I had the blessing of my sons and daughters-in-law to attend the event as senior citizen. I told them since they could not participate, let me represent the family. I was very confident that I could come home safe and sound. LKG, being physically less fit thus fearing objection, did not have the courage to tell her family that she was attending Berish 3, had to lie that she was going out for lunch with some friends.
On the eve of our great adventure, I prepared a poster to state precisely my reason for participating in Bersih 3.0 — A Better Malaysia For Our Next Generation, Khas Untuk Cucu Jay Fu, Jojo Fu and Kylie Fu.
My daughter-in-law Ailene, being unable to participate herself, though very much eager to do so, excitingly prepared me well to go to WAR — trying to get a Bersih 3.0 T shirt for me, but in vain (out of stock), ear plugs (rumoured that police might use anti riot sound devices), towels, mask, salt water, yellow raincoat, sun block, list of legal advisers’ contact numbers in case of arrest, etc.
Ailene sent me to the Taman Bahagia LRT station at 9.30am. The train was packed literary like sardines, all youngsters, and only a handful of seniors like me, who of course were offered seats immediately (funny I did not experience such eagerness while travelling at ordinary times).
A man sat next to me saw my poster and snapped a photo to send to his UK son who was also participating at Bersih 3.0 simultaneously. The atmosphere in the train was very joyous, all looked as though going for a happy outing rather than a serious thing like a street protest.
At my destination, Pasar Seni station, the first excitement I met was people’s shouting “Pak Samad! Pak Samad!” There he was, a very humble-looking, frail old man standing in front of at least eight policemen who looked like bodyguards (found out only later that he was standing there protesting that he was barred from crossing the connecting bridge he usually took to go to the mosque). Of course I did not miss the opportunity to snap a picture with the celebrity, co-chairman of Bersih 3.0.
My friend LKG arrived 30 minutes later. As it was still early, we decided to look for food. Out of the station, the next excitement we had was meeting ex Perak MB Nizar with his beautiful wife. We managed to take a photo with them too.
Most shops around Pasar Seni were closed, the only one that opened in Petaling Street was having a monopoly. We ate there and LKG changed into her Bersih 3.0 T shirt, not daring to wear from home in case her family found out her real intention.
It was then 11am. Petaling Street was already packed with protesters, and isolated small groups happily paraded along the streets. We joined a group of Malay youngsters in black who used chairs as drums while chanting slogans (or prayers?).
While resting at the road side after the parade, I happened to look at the gentleman standing not far away. At once I recognised him. “Tony Pua!” I shouted. That started a commotion, everybody nearby started to queue up to take photograph with him.
After successfully taking a picture with him, LKG commented “Pure thing, look at his white hair, all over only after four years as MP. With his qualifications, he could have migrated to other countries and have a good life. Why stay in this rotten Malaysia?” I replied “because he loves Malaysialah. We must have more young people like him who really sacrifice for the good of the country, don’t forget that’s why we are here to petition for a fair and just election!”
Tony, my hat off to you. We Malaysians are very grateful to you for your good work.
Another commotion started soon when Aunty Bersih passed by. Many youngsters stopped her to take pictures.
I said to LKG Aunty Bersih Anne Ooi was my junior in the teachers’ training college, she was a joker and so full of energy.
“Let’s go and take a photo with her,” said LKG.
“Not this time, I doubt she can remember me. I don’t want to disturb her this time,” I answered.
Maria Chin Abdullah came around twice giving instructions to our group at Petaling Street, to wait for the signal to move. She also reminded us to be disciplined. At about 12.30pm, we started to walk orderly in a carnival mood, as Malaysians, irrespective of race or religion, started singing songs to the tune of “Bersih Bersih Bersih, Bersih Bersih Bersih”, chanting the slogan “Hidup Bersih, Hidup Rakyat”. I felt that I was only 25 instead of 67! Thank God for giving me a chance to share the wonderful patriotic moment with fellow Malaysians who, for the love of our country, risked facing tear gas and water cannons, and worse still, arrest or injury. When we sang “Negaraku” in unison in truly Malaysian spirit, it put the dirty politicians who asked the Chinese and the Indians to balik China or India for trying to divide us for their evil ends to shame.
We had the admirable PAS Amal team to lead the way and control the crowd. We estimated that there might be as many as 100,000 this time, twice bigger than the size of Bersih 2 (so thrilled to find out later that the crowd might be as big as 300,000! Bravo fellow Malaysians!). The road, the pavement, the LRT station platforms, the five-foot ways, even the walls, were packed with very law-abiding protesters, some had to keep standing because there was not enough space for all to sit down. There were some short speeches at the end of the road on a make-do platform. We could not hear what was said because hailers used were not meant for such a huge assembly. However, we felt that it was good enough when we shouted and sang our hearts out spontaneously whenever someone took the lead. In short, we enjoyed and felt proud every minute being part of such an enormous yet so orderly a gathering.
At about 2.30pm, we were told to disperse. Though it was 90 minutes earlier than the scheduled time, I felt that the organisers had made a wise decision to end it there and then as the objective was achieved.
Hardly had we reached the end of the road when retreating, a bang was heard and we saw smoke rising. LKG said that it was tear gas. I was wondering why fire tear gas when the crowd was walking away so peacefully. It might be some people who seemed not satisfied that the assembly ended so peaceful that nothing much could be remembered so they made some confrontation, or might be the police wanted to show the bosses that they were doing their job indeed??
When we were on the train going back to Taman Bahagia, we heard announcement that Masjid Jamek and Pasar Seni LRT were shut down. I was angry with the operators for being so inconsiderate, because it would surely leave thousands of protesters stranded, while at the same time felt relief that we were wise enough to go home as soon as the event was over.
After gathering facts on all what happened after we left, I have this to say:
The party that had to be held responsible for the ugly ending is the government. If the protest had been allowed sincerely without last-minute restraints, such as closure of Dataran Merdeka with barbed wires; stopping and hindering the operation of public transport such as the LRT, buses and taxis by blocking more than 60 roads; giving last-minute court orders, imposing threats, etc, Bersih 3.0 could have been run successfully like the Himpunan Hijau protest in Kuantan and all 428 Bersih 3.0 in other states where no pressure was applied.
Comparing the trend of the gangster attacks that happened recently in Dataran Merdeka, the ABU, Anwar and Nurul’s ceramahs, I saw a similarity that makes me wonder too if the ones who started the trouble were paid to smear the good name of Bersih. If they were genuine Bersih supporters, then police should make an effort to do a thorough investigation to bring the culprits to court. We do not want these lawless thugs to be Bersih supporters.
PM Najib still “could not care less” that more than 300,000 had bravely taken to the streets to voice their discontent over his government’s wrongdoings. More and more people, including kampung folks whose offspring are now Internet literate, know about all those in power who are plundering the country’s wealth to enrich their own pockets, leaving the majority still poor, mentally and physically. No matter how many 1 BRIM you give, (mind you, you are using our taxes in advance!) you will not be able to buy our votes. If the electoral fraud is not corrected, and BN wins in the coming G13 , then there might be a real Malaysian Spring in the way, because with another four or five years of BN rule, our country will definitely run dry! Can we just let those people rob us in broad daylight and not do a thing?!
I salute Suaram for successfully fighting to bring the corrupted to book in a foreign court. But for fair and just elections, we can only rely on the unity of all right-thinking Malaysians to work with Bersih. If we should need Bersih 4, which is quite likely as Najib may be too scared to call for GE13 in June, I hope more people will bravely go to the streets to let our voices be heard. Make it a million next time!
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.