Side Views

The Bersih 3.0 rally – Hussaini Abdul Karim

APRIl 28 – What caught my attention first the moment I alighted from the LRT train at Pasar Seni at about 1.45pm today was the generally young, enthusiastic and innocent looking crowd of about 100,000 people and all of them spotted a happy look and with a lot of hope in their mind, the same thing I have.

We were walking slowly towards the direction of Dataran Merdeka and I saw thousands of people mostly dressed in Bersih 3.0 T-shirts and with some dressed in green. Along the way was a young man working vigorously handing out free bottles of mineral water. Everyone shouted slogans such as, ‘REFORMASI’, ‘BERSIH’, ‘WE WANT FAIR ELECTIONS’ and so on.

Upon reaching Jalan Lekiu near the Loke Yew Building, there was a police roadblock manned by at least 100 men. That was the closest the crowd, including me, got to Dataran Merdeka. I believe, all the other entrances were similarly blocked and no one could enter Dataran Merdeka.

Riot police stand ready to meet Bersih supporters at the Loke Yew building in Kuala Lumpur on April 28, 2012.Riot police stand ready to meet Bersih supporters at the Loke Yew building in Kuala Lumpur on April 28, 2012.This time, I notice, the police and the authorities, being very well prepared won hands down.

Bersih 3.0 had no answer for the police preparedness and I was very disappointed with Bersih3.0 organisers for not being prepared and, I believe, took things for granted. First and foremost, there was no communication between the organisers and the people which I thought is something that can be very simply organised.

Just get Bersih 3.0 agents and station them at all the entrances to Dataran Merdeka equipped with walkie-talkies and inform them what to do next. They then can broadcast them or announce them to the crowd in the respective areas. That way, the crowd will know what to do rather than leaving all of them, including me, not knowing at all what’s going to happen. It was a big opportunity that the Bersih 3.0 organisers had wasted. As early as 2.15pm, I saw people leaving already and many headed towards the nearest LRT station.

I left later and at about 2.45pm, I arrived at the Masjid Jamek LRT Station and there was already a large crowd there waiting on either side of the platform. At least five trains arrived on either side of the platform passed but none stopped and the people were getting edgy and uncomfortable and many shouted ‘vulgarities’ every time a train passed but did not stop.

I decided to ask some RAPID KL’s auxiliary policemen on duty there and none of them knew what was happening. When I asked if they any telephone number that I could use to call their supervisors or officers they told me that they didn’t have any. Later, I got a number from one of them who told me I could try to call their operations office. I tried a couple of times but there was no answer. He did not have any other numbers to give me.

After that, one of them told me to go to the station’s office on the top floor and look for a supervisor or an officer to inquire. I did but as soon as I got to that level, I didn’t see any people manning the station. Almost at the same time, someone threw a canister of tear gas which caused a lot of commotion.

Was this planned?

If there was any intention not to allow trains to stop at Masjid Jamek Station, the operator of the LRT should place a notice to prevent people from entering but that was not done and people continued to purchase tickets and the crowd numbers accumulated so much so that the station was full of people, at the top level and at the level where they were to board the trains. It was then that the tear gas was thrown and got people running helter-skelter.

I did not see any reason why the police must do that as there was no violence at all. What the police did was very cruel, at the least, and if that was something that the police had arranged, then, they should be charged for causing hurt to the public.

There were some good Samaritans among the crowd and they had water and salt to offer those who were affected by the tear gas. I was given some to ease the discomfort and pain from the tear gas and surprisingly, it worked.

The Bersih 3.0 rally and the incident at Masjid Jamek LRT Station made many of the people angry and I could see tempers rising and a couple of ‘would-be’ fights but luckily, they were all thwarted by others who did not want to see any violence happening and concerned about maintaining peace.

I finally left at about 3.45pm, disappointed, angry and frustrated.

P.S. There were actually many tear gas canisters thrown at Masjid Jamek by the police and I was one of the people in the crowd who was badly hurt.

* Hussaini Abdul Karim reads The Malaysian Insider

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

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