Thursday, May 03, 2012

Neither safe, nor politic, nor popular... but Right!

Last Saturday, I experienced first hand... what it was like to stand up for my belief, principle and right. I attended the Bersih 3.0 rally at Dataran Merdeka... a place close to our patriotic hearts, where we have our Merdeka Day berkawad every year. If this was a pro-opposition or anti-government movement, I most definitely would NOT have gone. I believe that there are heroes and villains on both sides. So, why did I brave myself to endure Bersih 3.0 with thousands of other Malaysians last Saturday??? Because I believe in standing up for a clean and fair election. Fairness, transparency and integrity... people who know me especially those who have worked with me, would know that I, myself hold the highest standards of transparency and integrity in my own life. So, why wouldn't I demand the same for the leaders of my beloved country??

It started as a rather peaceful and cool morning. Hubby & I had dim sum for breakfast and started walking to the Sri Petaling LRT. I was a bit kiasu, kiasi in case of police blocks or anti-Bersih vandals... etc so did not want to drive to the station. I parked far far away. But as we made our way there on foot, there were no police blocks, hardly any cars... very quiet. We reached the station and called a colleague of mine whom we were gonna group with, Ko. But there were people in his group who were late. So being the kiasu kiasi person that I was, worried the LRTs will cease services soon, we went off to Plaza Rakyat first without them. We could always meet up later.

Petaling Street was already full of people in yellow. People who brought their families, their musical instruments and of course some brought banners. Felt more like a street-party.

A guy even parked his van on the street giving out free water to the crowd.  
I had my share of one of my favourite childhood drinks in Petaling Street, Air Mata Kucing... the original one!! Yummy for a hot sunny day.

We then managed to meet up with Ko and gang at McD Jalan Silang even with the limited phone line reception on that day. Be it Maxis, Digi or whatever... hhhmmm, fishy. My dancing-pal, Ynez was also there.

The whole morning was just a nice peaceful street party in KL. Smiling faces greet you in the crowd. Families brought their kids, old folks & and even the disabled to the event. It felt rather welcoming and fun actually. The only unwelcoming vibes came from the stern-faced policemen wondering around in groups or in their trucks. Which is why, our preparation consists of swimming goggles, wet face-towel, ear-plugs, water, salt... hmmm... all things to protect ourselves from things that they police "may" do to us but no preparation of what the "rowdy" rally crowds "may" do to us. Really shows who we trust more.

Anyway, with the bad publicity for the government in Bersih 2.0 last year... I had a lot of faith that the government will tone down their "attacks" this time round. Although, I was prepared for their wrath... deep down in my heart, I naively still had faith that they will not attack their citizens.

Some were not so shy to share their feelings about our ministers. Teehehehehe...

Besides the Bersihians, there were also other groups there making their voices heard. Anti-Lynas group, Pengerang group and some I do not recognize. The most disciplined group practically berkawad in organized line-ups and uniform, was PAS's Unit Amal. They listened to instructions from their group leader and stuck together in an organized fashion. I memang respect and salute this group... they really give an excellent testimony for peaceful sincerely God-fearing Muslims.

Although hubby initially didn't want to go any further as he said that it was too packed up front already. I gungho-ly said I wanted to go further front. I wanna be able to see Dataran Merdeka and all the stuff going on there. Why come all this way to just be way to be left out of the Dataran Merkeka happenings?? So, we followed a fellow churchmate, Andy... who's super huge stature helped to clear the path in front of us like an ambulance in the traffic jam. Hehehehe. We went so front that we could see the police barricade at Dataran Merdeka. There, we truly truly could not go any further.

So, since the idea was to Duduk Bantah...

Some of us sat down on the road to truly embrace the peaceful nature of this rally.... Duduk and Bantah. But because many people were NOT sitting down, it can be quite suffocating to be a quarter of the crowds' height. So I stood back up. Also, I was curious to see what was happening in front. 

And then I heard roars of cheers and claps as a truck passes and hubby told me it was Datuk Ambiga, Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim and gang passing by in a truck. Macam celebrities yo... "donch pray pray". Then there were some speeches going on and all, but I could not hear a thing in the noise of the crowd.

Suddenly, I saw a giant Bendera Malaysia crossed from the crowd, across the barricade, into Dataran Merdeka. I was thinking... hmmm... did they police open the barricade after some persuasive speech from those leaders on the truck?? Or did they move in on their own?? I could not see the person holding the giant bendera.... The crowd also was not sure but they shouted "Yay, masuk! masuk!!" victoriously. Suddenly from afar, I spotted fountains of water about 3 storeys high. Water cannon!!! Oh no, the police definitely did not open up the barrier for bendera-guy. Hubby and I put on our swimming goggles first. Then took out our wet face-towels. The crowd reacted quickly too... we turned 180° and started walking. We were shoulder to shoulder with the crowd. Suddenly we feel the burning sensation in our lungs and on our skin. We saw many young Malay boys without goggles who were not only choking, but tearing and their eyes turned red. Although they had it worse than us, one of them began passing out salt to us and to the crowd shouting "garam! garam! ambik!!" and I took some from him. Hubby was passing out his bottled water to these poor boys to wash their face and eyes. Then we felt another dose fired closer to us when I too, started choking. A Unit Amal PAS man shouted, "jangan tolak! ada orang tua!" and I saw him helping an old Chinese uncle who looked even way older than my parents.... couldn't possibly be any younger than 70. 

So, the whole crowd... breathing in the suffocating teargas walked shoulder to shoulder packed along the road together. I saw 2 men who sat on the floor but people still looked out for them and went around them. No one was trampled. I heard an Indian aunty in front of me reciting a Catholic prayer, I heard a Malay man's voice praying to Allah... even in this chaos, these people uphold the first Rukunegara: Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan. I started praying in my heart too. 

We finally reached a divergence in the road and it was not longer so packed. There was more space but no breathable air nonetheless. Everyone was still suffocating with fresh teargas shot at the crowd eventhough we were far from the Dataran now. We were back in Jalan Silang. Finally, the air cleared and we could finally breathe normally. There were still people on speakers chanting "Hidup, hidup.... Hidup rakyat!"

We casually walked back to Petaling Street to look for food. Wanted to have some Gui Ling Gao to cool down after being teargassed by my own government. But it was sold out!! Once in a while there'd still be remnant of teargas blown into Petaling Street. We figured, they were still being fired right outside Petaling Street so we stayed within the street. Got to know from Ko that the LRT station is closed and the trains were not stopping at this area, the nearest would have to be in Hang Tuah. Andy was trapped in Masjid Jamek station as he went into the station right before the police closed it up and instructed the trains not to stop at these stations. Why in the world are they trying to trap us all here instead of allowing us to disperse and go home?? Having too much fun shooting at us??? Wouldn't arresting those who breached the barricades suffice?? Wouldn't that be a more rational solution?

So, we bravely went out of Petaling Street to get into Nando's for a bite before leaving the scene. Bumped into some friends as we swapped our Bersih 3.0 stories. After which, we walked to Hang Tuah station and made our way home.

Yes, home... the reason we want to fight for a better cleaner fairer election, is because this is home. And we want a good future for our home. We love our home, we love Malaysia, and we will continue to love it and fight for it... teargassed, water cannoned or whatever.

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