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Very moving article on Bersih rally

EYEWITNESS I am a middle class Chinese Malaysian, who works in an investment bank in Johor Bahru. I first heard about Bersih and its idea only around June 20, 2011.

I never knew the previous Bersih rally in 2007, and all the people involved then. But right after I heard about it, I knew that it was very important and every decent Malaysian had to support it.

Therefore, I asked around my friends to car pool over from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur to join the event.

I got two friends and my lovely wife who were interested, until our own government threatened and made the walk illegal a few days before 709.

One of my friends, a director of some listed companies was worried that he might get blacklisted if arrested, and was not willing to join anymore, along with his wife who also did not respond to my call.

I think that was an acceptable response as not only they, but also most Malaysians have been held hostage by the BN's 53 years of non-democratic rule.

Then my in-laws who read Sin Chew Dailyalso got worried. There was no doubt that the fear was there. I know my wife was worried too, but she told me that if I still wanted to go, she would join me.

I was discouraged until I received an email from an acquaintance whom I had only met once a few weeks earlier, then I alone decided to join them to Bersih 709 in KL.

On July 8, four of us, one a 49-year-old teacher, two engineers, and I, took the early morning train to KL and checked in at ahotel.

Later that evening, four more people whom I had never met joined us too, one, a student in Singapore who had flown in. We bought yellow T-shirts and had some famous localfood around Chinatown, then hit the sack before 11pm.

Booming business for those who dared

On 709, we woke up and had breakfast in Chinatown, very few shops opened that day. I heard that the police distributed notices directing the shops to close on that day; yet a few still opened, and their business boomed. The workers at the two food stalls where we had breakfast were working non-stop until noon when we left.

On the streets of Chinatown, we could already see a lot of people hanging around, some Malays, many Chinese; very few, especially the older ones, had already put on their yellow shirts. We could feel something was coming, everyone seemed excited and a bit panicky already.

About 12pm eight of us walked to Merdeka Stadium; the roads were blocked in front of the KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall and we waited there for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Then we decided to walk towards the Merdeka Square direction. After we passed the traffic police station, we heard some voices, and we walked even faster towards the source. There we saw opposite the Pasar Seni riverbank thousands shouting, "Hidup rakyat! Hidup Bersih! Bersih Bersih!" and, "Rakyat in the walk," etc. and walking towards the POS building. We of course joined them without giving it a second thought.

They were mostly Malays from PAS or other Islamic groups, I think, but many Chinese and other races joined them too. I didn't care much about racial differences anyway; and then one of the elder Malay uncles beside us told us that the "Real 1Malaysia" was right here. The feeling of walking with these fellow Malaysian is very hard to describe even now; a mixture of all sorts like a sense of decency, righteousness, belonging, excitement, being moved, and etc. You had to be there, no simple words can describe the feeling.

We walked and passed all of the police blockades in super orderly and peaceful fashion, those whom I believed are PAS members and their supporters were very well organised and disciplined throughout the whole day. Not a single mistake they made, nor did they provoke anyone. We were having a 'Malaysia carnival' until we were stopped in front of Merdeka Square.

Tear gas and awakenings

The crowds then tried just to sit down and protest peacefully, yet without warning the riot police fired many tear gas canisters at us. Now remember, many of us there were senior citizens, women, and children.

That was the moment I was transformed. I ran to the side of a small path so that I could recover from the tear gas effects - it was not so bad for a youngster like me, although my lungs, eyes and skin were burning.

But what took over me at that point was a new feeling that is hard to describe. It never happened to me before, but from that point onward, I became totally fearless, and a bit angry with the government for shooting tear gas at us as though we were nothing but dirt.

At the same time I was full of sympathy for my Malaysian family that I had just met around me. I quickly put on my yellow T-shirt, that I brought a day earlier, and wore it until I reached home that night.

Everyone in my group was motivated and determined from that point on. The police thought that they could create fears in us by firing tear gas without warning, yet it only made us realise our own courage.

Later, the crowds regrouped quickly and we walked back to Chinatown, through the street next to Jln Petaling, towards the Merdeka Stadium. We got blocked and walked back to gather at the junction in front of Dataran Maybank. The carnival spirit pervaded and I was having a good time, spirits growing higher when another group coming down Jln Pudu joined us.

Showdown at Jln Pudu

With us were native friends from East Malaysia wearing their traditional clothing, we had PAS and DAP leaders giving speeches on why we need a “bersih" electoral system in our country. I was in the front, close to the speakers so that I could hear what they had to say. Beside me were many Malays young and old, some women wore their tudungs respectfully, and I saw one family with their two young girls of around four to twelve.

Along the way we waved to passing trains passed above and the mood was totally harmonious and peaceful, until the riot police shot water cannons and tear gas at us without warning again. This attack turned out to be the worst ever to me; tear gas canisters were coming in every direction around me, and no matter where I escaped I would run into a burning tear gas canister.

As with most of the people there, I was not prepared with any salt, mask, or even a T-shirt to cover my face. Walking up the stairs to the Maybank building, I could hardly open my eyes and breath. I passed at least two burning tear gas canisters. I saw one elderly Malay lady sitting down on the ground, overcome, but I was about to pass out too and unable to help her. I felt very bad about that.

My eyes were burning, and worst of all my lungs hurt so badly fluid came up through my mouth and nose and for a minute I felt I was drowning. I can imagine this may have been what the poor 59-year-old 
Baharudin Ahmad who passed away during the rally must have experienced. The government's ignorance, negligence, and greed caused this whole tragedy to him and all of us.

At the top of the hill there was a row of basins and many queued to wash their faces. I wet my other T-shirt so that I could cover my nose to escape the tear gas.

Then I walked back to the street in front of Maybank. I wanted to take photographs of all of the bullying by the police towards us, but I also wanted to help others who were in need.

Back on Jln Pudu, I saw the police make their brutal arrests in the direction of the hill; my friend there described it later that "the police treated and chased us as though we were animals". Many clambered up a tall sharp fence, or jumped down from a roughly 2 metre slope/cliff back to the street without caring for their safety. That was how our own police, sworn to protect us, treated us.

Treated like animals

After that, the riot police marched up Jln Pudu and hitting everyone they encountered with their sticks, until all the protestors in the front line had fallen to the ground. One Chinese riot police spotted me in yellow in front of them, and in the middle of Jln Pudu. He ran ahead of the others and scolded me and threatened to hit me.

However, I have the feeling that he didn't really want to hit me, or perhaps I wish to believe that he was just following his orders to clear out the street; Malaysians don't really want to harm Malaysians. I crossed to the front of Pudu Raya bus station and I was in yellow, yet he didn't chase me.

After those riot police did their job clearing the street and hitting people down, the regular police did the arrests. This is my first experience at such an event, and I encountered numerous cases of the police's unthinkable brutality toward unarmed and peaceful rallyers.

I had tried to figure out all sorts of reasons, logic, explanations, or even excuses for our police. Why they did such actions that no reasonable people could accept? Have they lost their sense of decency totally? Did the late Teo Beng Hok felt the same thing before he got murdered exactly two years ago? He thought police should be professional and follow our constitutional rights to protect us and do their job?

The sight left me with many troubling questions about our police, about Teoh Beng Hock's death, and would my children have to face the same in their time? I felt torn and confused, and that was the moment on Jln Pudu that I truly understood the deeper meaning of the Bersih movement: it is not just the electoral reform, not merely fighting corruption, nor our constitutional rights.

It is much more importantly to restate and reinstate human dignity, decency, and righteousness back into our Malaysian culture. When did we come to a state where BN government officers and politicians feel that deception, vice, corruption, bullying the people is their norm and the accepted culture? When the honest, ambitious, competent, moral, humane youngsters get into the dirty BN system and culture, and give in to become liars, hitmen, prostitutes, and self-interested parties?

For that policeman whom I encountered, has it ever crossed his mind that he truly doesn't want to hit innocent people on the streets? Does Bersih mean anything to him? I am really interested to know this.

The tear gas-bully-arrest routine continued mercilessly until divine intervention brought rain and win that blew the tear gas smoke back into the riot police gang, forcing these police gangsters to back down a bit by about 20 metres.

With three big trucks blocking the road, and long negotiations with DAP's Ngeh Koo Ham, and other Pakatan leaders, I thought the police were about to give in. The atmosphere was slowing calming down, Channel News Asia reporters were doing their reporting, and it was only after getting home that I saw myself on TV.

Tung Shin attack didn't happen?

Somehow I think some cowardly politicians, someone not at the field, maybe on the helicopters, or in front of some big fat TV screen, ordered the police to continue their insane inhumanities against the peaceful rally.

Many of us sought refuge in Tung Shin Hospitals, as we had no way other out, yet the police ridiculously fired tear gas at us in the hospitals' two parking lots, barging into the hospital compound to arrest people without court warrants and any sense of justice at all. Many of the foreigners, included news reporters and photographers were there to witness this; do they think that our 50,000 protestors' testimonies are like those of the BN politicians that cannot be trusted?

Until today, the BN government keeps
denying all these simple facts despite all the evidence and witnesses. All of their comments about us are built on hatred, lies, pride, and prejudice. Their words are devoid of moral and legal values. What credibility the has government then?

They are just making fools of themselves, nothing more. It is thus proven that they, the ones in BN, are the ones who prevent the unity, prosperity, stability, and development of the country. What a shame!

Fortunately at the end of that day of wonderful self-realisation for me, and a horrible day for democracy in Malaysia, I was not arrested. Later around 4pm I had a meal at Jln Alor where the food prices are still too expensive as usual, and met up with the old doctor who came up with me, at KLCC.

I have taken many photos along my journey to prove what I have related, and to prove how our BN government lies to all Malaysians and to the world. From the road to Bersih 709, we can surely come to many conclusions:

  1. Our PM and his BN people are nothing but a bunch of liars and dictators. They back out their words and lie about the facts, and they are disrespectful to the Agong's words. They even held the monarch hostage in the palace that day, with all kinds of roadblocks, it looked as if the King was under house arrest to me.
  2. Malaysian supports Bersih; despite the unconstitutional bans and the road blocks, still over 50,000 Malaysians (from my own observation) of different races, sexes, ages supported the walk, on the other hand, while the BN government represents an unfair and corrupt system that benefits only for a few interest parties among themselves.
  3. The police used tear gas and other almost deadly forces on peaceful rallyers.
But don't worry, Baharudin Ahmad didn't die for nothing, and will not be forgotten, this I promise. Every one of us has a moral duty to keep him in mind. The Bersih road will continue, until fairness and justice prevail.

Finally I want to warn our BN government that the people of this country will never forget and forgive on such dictatorship.


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