We came in peace
KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — “If this was Korea, the police would be shooting actual bullets. Malaysians should be thankful that that we are magnanimous (besar hati),” said a policewoman.
We were watching the evening news which showed Bersih 3.0 protesters vandalising, then overturning a police car. The policeman sitting next to my husband was bemoaning the fate of his colleagues who had to be at Dataran Merdeka for two consecutive days and the awful food that was given to them.
It was about 7pm on April 28 and I was filing a report in a police station. My identity card had fallen out of my pocket something during 9.30am to 5pm, when I joined thousands of other Malaysians at Bersih 3.0. After their comments, I decided against going into details about where I think my IC could have fallen out.
I chalked this incident as a minor inconvenience after several minutes fretting over identify theft. Then early this morning, a big car rolled up to my parents' home and an elderly gentleman stepped out with my IC. He used the stated address to return my card. “Give this to your daughter,” he said to my father. “I found it in near Central Market. I was at the rally too.” “I was with her,” replied my father. “And, thank you for your effort.”
This gentleman and my father exemplify those I saw at Bersih. Kind, gentle Malaysians. There was a tiny Malay woman in a baju kurung and waist-long tudung who grasped my hand as we stood side-by-side. Another gentleman with thick spectacles offered a bougainvillea, cut from his garden, to policemen. “I removed the thorns so they can hold it,” he said as I applauded his effort. A young lad shouted himself hoarse leading a large group of protestors to sing “Negaraku” (all standing erect) and chants of “Hidup Bersih!”. At one point, he looked at the crowd of us sitting on the road and said “Inilah, Satu Malaysia.” To which, we all agreed.
There were small children, couples and elderly folk all around. None was angry and none looked like they were able to physically confront the police or run away from them. When the police started tear gassing and firing water cannons, the crowd was tense and the air was heavy with anxiety but not one pushed those, like my father, who could not move quickly.
I did not see the violence and I did not see the fights. We managed to walk away before things got ugly. But I do know this: protestors at Bersih 3.0 wanted a peaceful demonstration. We were happy that such a large number of Malaysians — Malays, Chinese, Indians and other ethnicities — had united for a common cause and hoping their presence could somehow invoke change.
As I read the mainstream news on why we should be ashamed and how protesters started the violence, I started believing theories about agent provocateurs who attended to make trouble and discredit Bersih and that the police had provoked the protestors. Because those who stood around me clearly did not want to break the law, get arrested, or hurt themselves or anyone else. We pick our battles and everyone knew that the change we want cannot be achieved by going up against the police.
And, this was why I did not respond to the policeman and policewoman sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of their police station: which is that Malaysia is not North Korea; a communist country with a history of blatant disrespect for human rights. And that if permission had been given for a peaceful demonstration in Dataran Merdeka, their colleagues could have slept and eaten at home.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Malaysian Insider