My personal thoughts on Bersih 3.0 — Asohan Aryaduray
APRIL 29 — I was there with a fraternity of media advocates and journalists — some practising, some no longer — and their friends and family. Kee Thuan Chye, author of “No More Bullshit”, was our unofficial leader.
This was drummed into the crowd many times.
At Central Market, prior to the protestors moving to the vicinity of Dataran Merdeka, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and other Bersih organisers reiterated many times that we were not to breach the barriers at Dataran, and that we will not break any laws. “Malaysians are a peaceful people,” she said. It was very important that the protest be peaceful and lawful.
There was a fantastic spirit amongst the people. People were well-behaved, and we all felt good. Off-the-cuff, we even started singing an improvised Bersih football supporters’ song. Malaysians were standing up for themselves, and standing with each other. Race did not matter. It was like a Muhibbah dream come true, but a 1 Malaysia nightmare for the Najib Administration. People always unite when they have a common external adversary, and in case, it was the electoral system here. Except that we were not *that* united. Elements in the crowd were confusing the issue. By the time we had reached Masjid Jamek, there were pockets of people shouting “Fuck Lynas,” “Hancur BN” and that late 1990s terminally ill horse, “Reformasi.” Many genuine Bersih supporters shook their heads quietly at that, but nobody was going to gainsay another’s right to freedom of expression, I guess. Our group was inadvertently scattered before the first tear gas attacks. The people tried to disperse peacefully, and may succeeded in doing so. But more tear gas bombs were fired. There was very little time or space to manoeuvre. Those who managed to make it into quiet corners and alleys to recover were attacked again and again by fumes of drifting tear gas. It felt like an unending onslaught. Many people began murmuring. The Barisan Nasional’s attempt to portray Bersih 3.0 as an anti-government rally was becoming true in a self-fulfilling sort of way. A Malay youth next to me shouted “Benci Polis!”
So many felt betrayed and angry. Even me.
But now I see videos of protestors breaking down the barriers and committing acts of violence. And yes, while the police showed more restraint this time, they were behind some of these as well. Al Jazeera journalists reported via Skype that their equipment was smashed by policemen to prevent them recording some of these acts of violence.
We expected that from the Government, but having cast the first stone, those protestors have now undermined Bersih by painting as true all the Government’s fabricated arguments against the movement. Even some of the international media, inadvertently Bersih’s greatest allies if only by dint of their independence and reach, are reporting that the protest turned violent, forcing the police to act.
Despite suffering from the effects of teargas, I myself have not the spirit to summon the moral indignation I would like to have, because although they should have done so lawfully, I cannot blame the police for taking action against violent protestors.
Thanks to these “supporters,” Bersih has lost the moral momentum it has been gaining since the first rally prior to the 12th General Election. These “supporters” have now put Bersih in an untenable position: How do we proceed from here? If the Government refuses to address the eight-point manifesto; if the Parliamentary Select Committee fails to enact any real reforms; if the Administration waffles and procrastinates … what do we do now?
Call for another peaceful assembly?
These “supporters” have betrayed the Malaysian Rakyat. I am not sure if my eyes are tearing up now because of the remnants of the tear gas I was hit with.
* Asohan Aryaduray is a senior journalist and editor of Digital News Asia.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.