JAN 13 — How do you describe the feeling of being part of a historic moment in time? You can’t, you just have to be there. You can ooh and ahh over all the Instantgram and Utube downloads, but nothing absolutely nothing beats being there in person, to be counted as one of the thousands upon thousands who turned up for KL 112 Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat rally.
By the time my gang of 3 not-so-young aunties alighted from the LRT station at Pasar Seni at about 11 plus, the streets were already packed with people of all races and ages clad mostly in yellow and green, with bright splashes of some in orange and red. To their credit, police personnel stood around unobstrusively though watchfully. Kudos also to the Unit Amal folks who managed crowd control as best they could. As we finished lunch, the crowd had swelled noticeably, all moving steadily towards Stadium Merdeka. Mercifully the sky was overcast with clouds, offering some welcome shade from the heat of the afternoon sun. It even drizzled a little but the heavens held up as people streamed into the open-air stadium.
I thought we were early but by the time we got in, the stands were already 3/4 full with a huge crowd gathered on the centre field itself. The whole thing was like some mammoth family carnival, with colourful teams waving flags, banners and placards; the atmosphere noisy with the loud intermittent blaring of vuvuzelas ....And the crowd simply grew and grew and grew. It was an amazing sight from where we were seated on the stands — a vast colourful ocean of people as far and beyond what the eye could see. Apparently there was another sea of people milling about outside the stadium grounds. Doesn’t matter what’s the final count — even that one picture on a main-line newspaper’s front-page said it all...
When the MC called for us to stand, my heart swelled with pride as I joined in with thousands of voices to sing Negara-Ku. This was different from all the previous Bersih rallies I had attended. Then it was about 1 issue. Now I was part of something so much bigger....truly a people’s movement, gathered as we were by choice, pulled by the same desire to see a better Malaysia. Not only were the numbers unprecedented; I think this must go down as a first in Malaysian history that the people themselves willingly ‘paid’ to participate in a rally! Just 1 appeal through the loud-speakers was enough to have ordinary folks digging into pockets and wallets to contribute their hard-earned cash for the rally expenses. Talk about generosity of spirit...as I hear it, in some quarters, it’s the other way round - people have to be ‘paid’ to make up the crowd!
Even as each representative took the mike to pitch about their particular cause, what struck me weren’t the polemics or politics, but the shared sentiment that there are many who care enough to make and take a stand as concerned citizens of this land. The grievances may differ but the message was clear — after more than half a century, ordinary people are no longer willing to take things lying down but are risen to take back the power to determine the destiny of our future. I liked what 1 speaker said- that today is the day we no longer see the person in front, beside or behind us as Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or any particular race, today we see each other as Malaysian.
But the speeches weren’t the things that touched me. After all, everyone and anyone can mouth nice platitudes about unity and 1Malaysia (that goes for both government and opposition politicians). What affected me most was the totally unexpected, unrehearsed gesture of the entire crowd playing the ‘wave’ when a local celebrity rapped out a song as an entertainment break. It started with 1 section of the crowd standing up and waving their hands, then as they sat back down, the section next to them stood up, waved and sat down, and it continued all the way round the whole stadium. Section by section, people stood up automatically by turn, as one huge continuous moving ‘wave’ — it was an awesome sight to behold. And it didn’t matter that even when this old, rather easily tired aunty could no longer keep up after a few rounds of sitting, standing and waving, there were others still game enough to ‘carry the wave’ — this was totally spontaneous, straight from the heart. To me, just this simple ‘game’ spoke volumes about the spirit of unity behind this rally; and all it took was a song to start it going. Watching the ‘waves’ cascade across the stadium, my heart was filled with hope, that this be the beginning move of healing, restoration and blessing upon this beloved land of my birth, where justice, righteousness and good governance will not just be touted as political slogans but be applied to each and every Malaysian.
Was all that 5 hours sweating in the heat, sitting on hard stone, listening to (same old same old) political speeches worth it? As one on-line commentator asked, “What’s the point of all these noisy disruptive gatherings? Isn’t it enough that we just do our duty and vote when the time comes?” Well, it may be enough for some people, I guess, and indeed coming out to vote is mandatory. But for me personally, it’s not about the noise or the disruption of 1 day out of 365 days in a year. It’s simply demonstrating collectively that enough really is enough, that this is the ‘IT moment — a time to create and be part of Malaysia’s history. There may not have been 1 million people out there on the streets of KL on 12th January 2013, but all it takes is 1 stone to cause a ripple in the ocean. So yes, it was worth it, for now I can look back to this date in history and say with great satisfaction “I was there, and I was (am) so proud to be a Malaysian!” That’s what Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat KL 112 was about — 1 ‘rainbow’ people taking the first step, arising in peace to build our nation together towards a better tomorrow for all.
God bless Malaysia.
* Christine SK Lai
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.