APRIL 29 — It was amazing that despite advertising the event would commence at 2pm at Langley Park, some of our marshals who arrived early to set up saw a small crowd in yellow already at the park at 12.30pm. This was the one time when Malaysian timing did not apply.
When more of the organising team arrived at 1pm thinking that it was early enough to help with the set up and then mingle with people as they turned up, but were shocked that about a hundred were already there to greet them instead. Many sought out Jason Tong and Chom Lee, who handled the Perth Edition Bersih 3.0 T-shirts. The few left were snapped up in no time, leaving many without this limited-edition souvenir. Some made do with Stop Lynas tees which were sold as back-ups.
Topping the previous rally on July 9, 2011 of about 200, there were a little more than 500 this time around at the Swan River foreshore gathering point of Langley Park. It was a carnival-like atmosphere with young ones running around the open space, an older lady in a wheelchair listening to the chants, some taking pictures with the mascot dog, Oppa.
It was a mixed crowd of students, young families and couples, more mature long-time residents, recent migrants and some Australians. Jordan Sugunasingam was the master of ceremony and the crowd got into the mood with a guitar- and drum-led Bersih anthem adapted from the old favourite “Chan Mali Chan”.
The walk up to the consular office about 400m away on Adelaide Terrace was a visual threat. At three wide, the marshals herded the crowd into a line with a couple of Bunga Mangga and a banner taking the lead. Some brought the Malaysian flag too. As they moved they chanted, and the line was so long that when the lead reached the sit-in point at the consular office, the tail end had only just started to move from the park. With an insufficient number of marshals, we had help from volunteers to control the line crossing at least two sets of traffic lights.
The strip of easement in front of the consular office was not more than two-metres wide and the crowd had to split and gather across the road. The crowd sung “Negara Ku” with gusto and showed that they had not forgotten the lyrics to the national anthem. They also sang another old favourite “Rasa Sayang” with event day adapted lyrics. As the speeches about the purpose of the gathering commenced, the rain began to fall but this did not dampen our spirit and it proceeded in spite of the drenching.
I spoke about why we are demanding the Election Commission’s resignation, while Rahman Abdullah addressed the need to clean up the electoral roll and Jason Tong on why we need international election observers.
We were joined by Robin Chapple, WA Greens MP and Alex Bainbridge of the Socialist Alliance, who both spoke briefly on the Lynas campaign and why Australians should support the Malaysian call for electoral reforms respectively.
A message of encouragement from Ambiga Sreenevasan to Global Bersih was read out by Adelene Wee. Rahman also recited Pak Samad’s “Unggun Bersih”. All this was in the rain and made difficult when the third set of hired mobile speakers failed.
At the conclusion of the rally at about 4pm, many were seen writing messages on yellow cards and yellow ribbons to be tied to a eucalypt tree right in front of the consular office. We have the permission of the City of Perth to leave the messages and ribbons on the tree until the next general election takes place in Malaysia.
The local police, Diplomatic Protection Unit and the State Security teams were in attendance but our marshals had the crowd under control except for a short period upon arrival at the consular office when many enthusiastic photographers rushed to the median of the road to capture the scene. No rubbish was left behind but only messages to the current government.
I would have to say the crowd turnout and mix was way beyond our expectations. The orderliness of the larger crowd this time shows that Malaysians do behave well in rallies and protest marches. The police, whom we had a chat with following the closing, did not have anything adverse to report and we continue to be in their good books.
The merry band of men and women of Bersihkan Malaysia Perth deserves a big thank you from the Perth diaspora for organising a very successful albeit damp rally.
* Soon Yee Yap is a member of Bersihkan Malaysia Perth.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.