By Ravindran Paramsothy
The Malaysian Insider
May 03, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — I had such an eventful day on April 28! My day started at 9am when my group of friends arrived at my house. The Bersih group comprised four women and I (which begs the question, what happened to all the guys). We decided to drive to Kampung Attap and park at Geeta’s office but there was a roadblock on Jalan Bangsar/Travers. We had no choice but to drive towards Jalan Tun Razak. We decided since my friend Jayanthi was a member of the Royal Selangor Club that we just try our luck and proceed to it. Ahhh! There was another roadblock leading to Jalan Parlimen. The girls although in bright yellow T-shirt convinced the policeman to let us thru and we decided not to push our luck and parked our car at the Lake Club. It took us about 20 minutes to walk to the Royal Selangor Club which had a very strong police presence. Since we were hungry we thought we could have nasi lemak at the club but were politely turned away by the police because of the colour of our attire, apparently yellow is no longer in fashion.
There was already a huge crowd in front of Dataran Merdeka which sadly had a ring of barbed wire around it! Made our way slowly to Central Market and waited for Ambiga to come. The crowd was made up of my fellow Malaysians — huge crowds of Malays, Chinese and Indians and you realise Barisan’s 1 Malaysia was only a slogan and here in Bersih was the true Malaysia that I have forgotten! Our ethnic differences did not matter, but the cause did. How we were tricked by Umno, the MCA and MIC who basically kept dividing us to retain their voting base. According to Malaysiakini we were more than 100,000-strong and Bersih said it was 150,000, it felt like it! We were jammed like sardines as we made our walk, the crowd was so thick that the people in front would inform you of a platform in front because you could not see it! To next day the usual Barisan-controlled media would state 5,000 had turned up!
It was amazing, the diversity of people, young college students, white collar, blue collar, the rich with their laptop, iPads, the elderly — it was heartening to see people in wheelchairs in attendance. It was peaceful but at about 3.15pm the police wanted the crowd to disperse and that’s when the trouble started. They started to rain the protesters with tear gas and pandemonium broke loose! We felt the effect of the tear gas immediately. It starts with the irritation of your eyes, then your skin and the burning sensation of your nose and throat and the smell. The crowd started moving away and more tear gas was fired and because of all the barricades, you are basically locked in. We decided to walk back to the Lake Club but you cannot move further up as there were fresh volleys of tear gas. How do expect people to disperse if you trap them in by firing tear gas from all angles. The good soul of Malaysians was apparent, people sharing salt and asking about your well-being.
We decided that walking back was not a good option and hailed a taxi who wanted RM40 for the ride to the Lake Club. We paid the sum but felt sorry for those who had to rely on mass transport to get back home.
Now the big question: was it worth it and the answer is a resounding “Yes”. It’s a feeling you have to experience, the atmosphere, the sound, the smell and the camaraderie. It is a feeling hard to explain like being in the eye of a storm, everything around you is not safe but you felt safe in the group and most importantly, you make a stand on something you believe in and it’s worth fighting for. Thank you Ambiga!
Will I do it again? In the blink of the eye. The thought of showing my middle finger to Najib and his Cabinet especially Hishamuddin is too alluring!
Finally to my wife Aruna and friends who joined me on my quest, thank you so much for allowing me to experience one of my childhood dreams — the effects of being tear gassed! I am 51 and I finally experienced it. For that alone you have my eternal love!