Malaysia

Proud to be a Malaysian — T. Gopal

July 17, 2011

JULY 17 — This was not my first (illegal) rally. Therefore, the usual intimidation using roadblocks and arrests did not stop my plan for the day.

I come from a poor family. Way back in the early 1980s, when the Seremban-KL Highway was being built, my parents worked there as labourers. Their combined income was less than RM600 per month.

Therefore, it was not a surprise when they opposed my plan to enter one of the local universities simply because they couldn’t afford to pay the first semester fees of RM1,600. Fast-forward to today; I am living a comfortable life, with a good income and stable job. So, why did I join the rally?

I know exactly how it feels when you don’t have enough money to buy groceries and give pocket money to your kids towards the end of the month. The fact that almost one-third of the working population is earning less than RM750 a month is simply ridiculous, given the fact that we are an oil-producing nation and one of the major exporters of palm oil in the world.

The alternative media opened my eyes and I was shocked to find the billions (or shall I say trillions) of money wasted by the corrupt government over the last few decades, which could have been easily used to raise the socio-economic standard of the poor.

In order to make my fellow countrymen receive the wealth which rightfully belongs to them, the government of the day must listen to the rakyat. In order to make that happen, the rakyat must have access to free and fair elections so that they can choose their leaders without fear or favour. Bersih 2.0 is spot on with regards to this issue.

On that day, I entered the city, despite multiple roadblocks and parked my car at Brickfields around 2.15pm. I waited for a crowd that I could be a part of as it was definitely not a safe option to march alone.

Soon, a predominantly Malay group started to march towards the stadium, shouting “Takbir” and “Allahuakbhar.” I quickly joined the group but suddenly, it started to rain very heavily. None of us were prepared but we had a more important agenda. We continued to march and along the way, a few smaller groups, which were reluctant to make a move initially, also joined us. We reached the front of the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall around 2.45pm and couldn’t pass through the police and FRU as they had blocked the road with barbed wire.

The rain eventually stopped and the crowd swelled to more than 5,000 people around 3.30pm. The police continued to warn the crowd to disperse but we just didn’t give a damn. At one point, the FRU truck moved forward and tried to spray chemical-laced water, but for some strange reason, it didn’t quite work.

Deputy President of PAS Datuk Husam Musa and National laureate A Samad Said also joined the crowd and addressed the ever-increasing and decent crowd. Although the majority of participants were Malay, there were many Chinese and Indian friends present to make their point.

All of a sudden, the crowd sang “Negaraku” and honestly, I never felt so emotional singing the song in my entire life. This is our country and we are now fighting a corrupt government with one voice, without fear and full of patriotism.

Around 4.15pm, one of Bersih’s steering committee members, Haris Ibrahim, addressed the crowd and informed us that the gathering was already a success and as we promised the Agung, we should disperse peacefully at 4pm.

The decent crowd obeyed his advice and dispersed peacefully with so many of us imbued with a sense of pride, after realising that we had managed to make our point to the whole world. This was one of the days when I have felt so proud to call myself a Malaysian. I love you Malaysia.