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Story by a veteran navy who was at KL Rally

kl112 rally people's uprising multiracial crowd story"Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred." - Martin Luther King Jr.

COMMENT Before I begin, I make no claims of speaking for "the majority". This should be read as a personal anecdote of an opposition supporter who was there to make the numbers, but more importantly - as I have done for all these ‘pro-opposition' rallies - to mix with my fellow travellers and listen to their stories. As always, people were willing to talk.

In the midst of all the allegations that this was an Anwar Ibrahim tactic to divert attention from some personal scandal or other, a more subtle narrative emerged from the people I spoke to.

Almost all of them were there to show support for Pakatan Rakyat. However, a good many people I spoke to willingly told me that they believed a change was crucial but that they were also sceptical of politics and politicians in general and they were determined to hold Pakatan to a higher standard if the alternative alliance ever claimed Putrajaya.

Many, like the university students I spoke to, were there in defiance to authority - something rediscovered amongst young people who are ignorant of the rabble rousing nature of former students turned politicians who hold sway today.

Young women - their faces covered in case they were detected by the authorities - were visibly angry that Umnoputra (their words) children are exposed to ‘English' education while they are stuck in a rut with degrees that have no value beyond these shores. One young man said to me in English, "We are here because we want the chains to be cut. We don't want to be chained to anyone."

NONEI can understand why the Umno regime so fears a split in the Malay vote. Although I saw a sea of non-Malay faces wherever I went, without a doubt this was a majority Malay uprising at least from walking about in the various meeting points of this rally and then later in Stadium Merdeka.

This should not be of much concern to those of us in the opposition although perhaps it is a good talking point for pro-establishment types.
I argued in some of my very first pieces in Malaysiakini that the general election will eventually come down to the Malay vote. Umno knows this very well, which is why it is determined not only to capture the Malay vote but also redefine the Malay demographic with constitutionally-created Malays.

Venomous propaganda

What is relevant in terms of gatherings of these kinds and the Umno propaganda that said gatherings are a threat to peace and stability is that the non-Malays who were there and in large numbers had no fear or concern for their safety with the overwhelming majority of Malays who attended this uprising.

kl112 rally people's uprising pas unit amal crowd bigFor my part, I would like to thank a few PAS Unit Amal personnel who at various times helped me navigate through the crowds, access places which would have been difficult for a senior citizen to manouevre and (all of them) taking the time to explain the changing nature of PAS to an old man who had no problem prodding them on points he disagreed with.

As far as the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) is concerned, they have earned the goodwill and respect of the people who attended yesterday's rally. The PDRM were present but allowed the security personnel of the various groups to do their job. I personally witnessed many incidents where the police were helping people get to where they wanted to go.

They projected no malice towards those attending. Some would argue that credit should go to Umno for this and if we can agree that the horrendous manner in which they (the PDRM) behaved in past rallies should be blamed on Umno, then I have no problem crediting Umno with this turn of goodwill from the PDRM.

kl rally himpunan kebangkitan rakyat 120113 policeThis lays to rest the venomous propaganda that only Umno can maintain the peace when it comes to interracial harmony and returns the power of how we choose to interact with the various communities (with sometimes divergent religious and political beliefs) to the hands of the people or at least the people who chose to participate in this so-called uprising.

But the split in the Malay vote has a deeper meaning. It could also point to a split in the Umno bureaucracy. Again, anecdotally speaking, I met many currently serving and retired Malay civil, military and police personnel who were there because they were dissatisfied at the direction this country was heading.

There was also a religious element to some of their grievances, in the sense that they believed that Umno had become decadent and immoral and this had no place in the government. I will refrain from quoting rather seditious comments regarding the royalty.

Disapproval and distain

As I have written before, what Pakatan has managed to do extremely well is harness divergent ideological, racial, social and religious forces and concentrate them on one objective, which is regime change, as is the democratic right of every citizen in this country.

There were echoes of past ‘people uprisings' be it Bersih, anti-Lynas, reformasi, etc. Some would argue that "hate" for Umno was a powerful motivator, and indeed I sensed from the crowd the disdain they felt towards the current regime. Whenever scandals or certain political personalities were mentioned, the crowd roared in disapproval.

I sincerely hope that this disapproval and disdain for corruption would be reflected back on Pakatan should they ever come into power and find themselves in the same quagmire as Umno and BN. I sincerely hope that this disdain for corruption and political personalities who subvert the noble aims of a people's movement for personal gain and political expediency, is reflected back on Pakatan personalities should they ever indulge in such behaviour.

d jeyakumar press conferenceDr D Jeyakumar, who was there representing PSM, made perhaps one of the more inspiring speeches (and one relevant to the point I am making) not to mention a speech which every Pakatan supporter should take to heart. I reproduce the most important point here:

"Yang ketiga, dan ini penting sekali, selepas kita tawan Putrajaya dan menubuhkan kerajaan baru, kita, rakyat biasa harus meneruskan penglibatan kami dalam proses politik dan pentadbiran.

"Kuasa boleh merosakkan pemimpin kita. Ada ungkapan Inggeris - power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Kuasa yang tidak dihadkan oleh proses demokratik boleh meracuni kepimpinan kita. Hanya dengan pemantauan dan teguran daripada rakyat jelata bolehlah kerajaan baru terus telus dan bersih.

"Antara perubahan yang kita harus membawa ke budaya politik negara kita adalah untuk meminta semua calon yang ingin jadi adun atau wakil rakyat untuk berjanji pada pengundi bahawa dia akan memakai posisi dan kuasanya hanya untuk kepentingan rakyat biasa dan bukan untuk menjadikan keluarganya kaya raya.

"Kita tidak halang sesiapa yang mahu jadi kaya tetapi pergilah ke bisnes. Jangan jadi wakil rakyat supaya mahu cari duit.
(“Thirdly, and this is the most important, is after we claim Putrajaya and set up a new government, we, the ordinary rakyat ought to continue to involve ourselves in the political and administrative processes.

“Power can ruin our leaders. There is an English saying - power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power that is unchecked by the democratic process can poison our leadership. Only with the monitoring and reproach from the ordinary rakyat can the new government continue to be transparent and clean.

“Among the changes we need to bring to the political culture in this country is to require all candidates who want to be assemblypersons of MPs to make an oath to the voters that they will use their positions and power only for the interests of the ordinary rakyat, and not to make their families rich.

“We do not stop anyone who wants to become rich, but do that through (your own) business activities. Don’t become a people’s representative just so you can make money.”)

My last walkabout

However, what was evident was the sense of ‘hope'. Taking it to the streets was an expression of defiance, but more importantly a goodwill message to all Malaysians.

NONEPerhaps this sometimes got lost in translation because of the current partisan climate but anyone attending would have noticed that a sense of belonging far outweighed the rancour that has been a staple in oppositional politics.

On a personal note, this may be my last walkabout. Although I saw many seniors, I truly believe that these kinds of democratic expressions are best suited for the young. We had our chance. We made our country and now the young people have to change it.

As a senior citizen, I will confine my expression to the ballot box. I know many seniors who I met are rejuvenated by these gatherings and I wish them the best of luck and more walkabouts in the future.

As for me, as Roger Murtaugh from the movie ‘Lethal Weapon' correctly said, "I'm getting too old for this shit."

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

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