Side Views

Was it worth it? — Tan Zhong Yan

April 29, 2012

APRIL 29 — I was there together with my dad and his friends. We entered Kuala Lumpur the night before the historical day and stayed in a hotel somewhere in Pudu as we were afraid we might not be able to get in into Kuala Lumpur on the day itself.

The next morning, April 28, we went to have breakfast in one of the coffee shops nearby. From there, everything started. It looked like most of the people having breakfast in that coffee shop were going for the sit-in demonstration, just like us.

We started to greet one another, chatting and taking photos like we knew each other. After that, from Pudu, we headed for Jalan Sultan and then towards Dataran Merdeka. The crowd got bigger and bigger as we walked. Slogans were chanted, but not in a tense manner, as slogans were always followed by laughter.

Many of my friends asked why I wanted to go and “waste” my time there, as I’ll be having my exams in less than two weeks’ time, and the fact that the government might not even care and listen to us. There is also a great risk that I might be arrested or fired upon with tear gas and water cannons.

I just would like to say that it’s not whether the government listens to us or not, but what we as Malaysians have done for our country. All of us, or at least most of us, feel that there are problems with our electoral system.

The term “phantom voters” is not something that is unfamiliar to us anymore. We criticise the government here and there every day, from Facebook to coffee shops, but we never take any action to improve it.

Of course, I agree that taking the matter to the streets may not be a good thing, but that is the only way left to us and it is the clearest way to convey our message to the government that we are taking it seriously and that we want clean, free and fair elections!

 For me, it’s totally not a waste of time if, by doing so, reforms can be achieved. Even if they are not, it is still worth it as I think we had successfully conveyed our message to the government. I had actually not wasted or lost anything, but I eventually gained a lot from that.

I am a first year law student and Public Law is one of my subjects. In Public Law, I study about constitutional law, the rule of law, separation of powers, electoral system, civil liberties, etc. And as I said, my exams are in less than two weeks’ time.

By participating in Bersih 3.0, I actually learned a lot and it is sort of a quick revision for me, revising the whole subject of Public Law in just a day or perhaps just a few hours, which I have studied for a year. I even jokingly told my friends that I’m there applying what I have studied, as practical application is very important for us as law students. 

One thing that I have realised from the demonstration is that theory is always different from practice. It’s quite disappointing as what is stated in those thick textbooks of mine seem to be not applicable in real life or maybe in Malaysia. But, of course, looking from the bright sight, it is good that I realised all this now.

Another thing I gained is that I saw and felt the love and unity among Malaysians. Race, religion, gender and age are not at all barriers for us. The moment where everyone sang the national anthem “Negaraku” together, my tears nearly flowed.

I never felt this before, although I have sung “Negaraku” for so many years, especially when I was in school.

It is, of course, regrettable that violence occurred during the demonstration. We should condemn the protestors and police who acted violently in the peaceful event.

We should stop all the violence and together make this beloved country into a civilised, democratic country.

*  Tan Zhong Yan reads The Malaysian Insider

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