By Sheila Santharamohana
The Malaysian Insider
May 01, 2012
MAY 1 — Last year at Bersih 2.0, I walked with friends for free and fair elections. This year, truthfully, I walked because I had had enough. The perpetual litany of lies, scandals and deceit by the present government which had become more conniving, arrogant and imperious was just too much to bear. Have they even tried to reform or do they take Malaysians for fools?
All my life, I was told to lead an honest, law-abiding and productive existence because this was how I contributed to society and my family. But this time, post Bersih 2.0 leading up to 3.0, I knew that it was no longer about just free and fair elections but more, even more than the 8 demands. So I joined in when the chants became political. So what? Sue me for being disillusioned.
As we drove into town the night before, I was tense. Last year, after being crushed in front of Maybank and cornered in Tung Shin, I came prepared for war. We took a convoluted route towards town because I was convinced the police would have locked the city down. The smooth traffic and apparent lack of police presence was unnerving but reassuring.
On the morning of the 28th, with my gear, including a pair of goggles, ready, I set out alone for Dataran Merdeka. Like last year, the sense of wonderment did not pale. A few metres away from the razor wire and the grim irony of a sign that read “Welcome to Tel Aviv”, I met two senior citizens who were joking about ‘Duduk and Bantah’, giggling about how they were well-past the age of sitting crossed-legged on hard ground! So, they shuffled arm in arm with their umbrella and bag towards Jalan Raja Laut where it was shadier and with better seating. Indeed, Malaysians find a way to make the best of what we have.
The sun was relentless. I yawned, hiding in the shade behind a group of girls. It was their day out: their ‘Hello Kitty’ bags slipping off their shoulders as they posed and took photos for Facebook. Across the street, depleted picnickers in green were taking off their wristbands and the chants were petering out.
Hot, hungry and lulled into a sense of well-being, we sat on Jalan Tun Perak, quite unprepared for the tear gas when it came. But those cracks in the air and wisps of smoke in the distance were unmistakable. Just 15 minutes before, Ambiga, Anwar, Azizah had driven past, so how could things have turned so bad so quickly?
Clearly, it was to be war after all…
Reports are now centered on reducing Bersih 3.0 to a whodunit. Quite frankly, to me it doesn’t matter whether the barricade was breached or by whom but I have an ugly feeling that we were set up. This was part of the grand plan to paint us as willfully criminal and violent, that we deserved being shot at, trapped and hunted down. All of us were being punished for having the temerity for attending this gathering and now needed to be taught who was boss.
For those powerful unseen hands who ordered the attack, while you gloat in triumph even as you lay blame at our feet, please remember we didn’t fire the first salvo. You did.
For those in uniform armed with weapons the rakyat paid for, you comfort yourself that you did your duty but remember there’s no glory in using violence against the blameless and unprotected. You failed us.
Am I angry now? Hell yes!