Something unspeakably holy about Bersih 2.0

By Steven Foong
July 14, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

1000hr – Ka Vee arrives at my house. We bought toothpaste, salt and drinking water before going for breakfast. He was wearing a “Racism is so Yesterday” T-shirt by Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia. I laugh and joked, “You most likely won’t make it past the LRT Station. .

1050hr – At the Asia Jaya LRT station. A couple of cops were leaning against a yellow Digi booth chatting up the pretty girl manning the booth. Life is good, eh? Ka Vee proposed KL Sentral while I was in favour of Masjid Jamek. The heavy police presence at KL Sentral was intimidating enough that we gave it a miss. Masjid Jamek then.

1120hr – Reached Masjid Jamek LRT station under heavy police surveillance. My yellow shirt was in my bag and I saw random people being stopped by the police and their bags searched. They found a yellow shirt in a man’s bag and arrested him. Ka Vee and I went to separate exits for insurance. Neither of us were stopped. Police and press photographers were everywhere.

1135hr – Decided to wait at Burger King and ordered orange juice and apple pie. Didn’t get to finish either of them because Burger King closed their toilet area and I needed to go. Haha. Went to McDonald’s instead.

1230hr – Crowd gathering near OCBC, behind the LRT station, chanting slogans. FRU taking up positions.

1250hr – Exited McDonalds just as the FRU moved into the crowd on my right (LRT station). Not being able to join up with them, Ka Vee and I went left. Crowd did an about turn and wheeled right, we took another left turn and joined up with the crowd.

1310hr – Reached Menara Maybank. Dr Hatta Ramli was shouting slogans. “Hidup hidup! Hidup Rakyat”, “Bersih Bersih”, “Hancur hancur! Kemungkaran” were among some of his lines. “Takbir, Allahu Akbar” was also repeatedly chanted. Dr Hatta Ramli then announced the arrival of the MP for PJ Utara, Tony Pua, to the cheers of the masses. Crowd numbered in the thousands.

1330hr – FRU arrived. A group of women were holding a packet of salt and distributed it around. I took out our packet of salt and surrendered it over to them. Everyone now seemed to be clenching a fistful of salt.

1335hr – FRU shot their chemical-laced water cannon directly into us. This was followed by the firing of tear gas canisters into the crowd. One of the canisters hit the back of my neck (which caused a bruising – my very own red badge of honour) before it fell right by my feet. The choking and burning sensation was almost smothering. The masses, men, women and teenagers, were fleeing towards Puduraya very slowly due to crowd congestion. This, of course, exacerbated and prolonged the effects of the tear gas. “Jangan tolak! Slow slow!” as I consumed the salt and applied toothpaste on my face, which seemed to work. A Malay dude didn’t bring water so I gave him one of the two bottles of water I was carrying in my pockets. “How do I look?”, asked Ka Vee. “You look like crap”. “Eh, take photo, take photo!” “Eh, me also, me also!”

1345hr – Another FRU team blocked off the other end of the road. We were effectively boxed in along Jalan Pudu!

1350hr – We ran up the lanes behind Jalan Pudu and found opposition stalwarts Karpal Singh and his son, Gobind, both famous lawyers and members of Parliament. Since Karpal is wheelchair-bound, he remained in his vehicle while Gobind came out to meet and encourage the people.

1355hr – It started to rain. Lady beside me shouted, “Bring the rain, Lord! Hallelujah!” I was like, “Man… my phone!”

1415hr – MP for Subang Sivarasa and Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali led a group of people out from the back alleys down a flight of stairs that led back to Jalan Pudu. Encouraged, most of the protesters (including us), some still “shell shocked” by the earlier encounter, rallied behind these leaders. YB Sivarasa, a respected Constitutional lawyer, negotiated with the FRU for safe passage for the thousands of people trapped here. We broke into a spontaneous rendition of Negaraku! YB Sivarasa is arrested! Negotiations failed and tear gas is fired into the crowd again. I thought I’d be better-conditioned now but it stung just as bad as the first round.

1420hr – Protesters holed up in the Tung Shin hospital compound, FRU shoot tear gas anyway (Note: At this point, I couldn’t be bothered with water cannons – it was raining anyway and tear gas was a bigger threat). Ka Vee and I managed to escape.

1430hr – We trekked up the back alleys again. We decided to retreat to a parking space, beyond which is Jalan Raja Chulan. The route to the parking space included a little mound, easily overcome by any adult. However, under the sting of tear gas, many people were struggling to trek up. I wrapped myself around a tree and started helping them up. The choke of tear gas impaired my judgment and I almost let go of a guy’s hand while pulling him up. By the time another guy took over my position, the cops were so near I’m pretty sure he was caught.

1445hr – Tear gas is fired again but I am out of salt. A random girl gave me some – she brought a container of salt – and we descended on Jalan Raja Chulan via Bursa Saham building.

1505hr – A grocery stall was open along Jalan Raja Chulan! Ka Vee and I and countless others supported the local economy by restocking on drinking water before continuing our journey. Saw a guy pouring salt into his bottle of water. Hey, why didn’t I think of that? I promptly followed suit.

1530hr – From Jalan Raja Chulan we turned into Jalan Sultan Ismail and followed the crowd’s retreat without any hassle. A man selling keropok lekor was making a killing! At the Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Ampang intersection a large crowd of protestors were gathering. Here I saw something absolutely special. I saw, and captured a video of a traffic policeman sitting in his patrol car while protesters took up the traffic control responsibility and guided all the vehicles (why are there even cars there?) out of the area!

1550hr – A group of people ran up to the middle of the intersection and formed a single line with arms interlocked. Instantly, the masses gathered behind them and the march began. I climbed up something to try to get a sense of what was happening. The sea of people seemed endless! This was it! All the protesters must have merged here!

1555hr – “Hidup hidup! Hidup Rakyat!” “Tumbang tumbang! Kezaliman!” We were heading towards the Petronas Twin Towers.

1605hr – Most of the crowd reached the Twin Towers intersection. Dr Hatta Ramli appeared again, having climbed up a car, and addressed the crowd. Chua Jui Meng was also there. The crowd was seated at the intersection.

1620hr – FRU arrived and took their position and shot the water cannon again. The masses ran towards KLCC. In the confusion, I got separated from Ka Vee. Something very interesting happened here. There were some chained barricades near the entrance of KLCC and a guy, while running like everyone else, knocked them down. He turned back and put them back up again with the help of fellow protesters.

1635hr – FRU moved in with mean-looking trucks behind them. The people continued their flight down Jalan Ampang.

1645hr – I reached Ampang Park and decided to take a breather and tried to contact Ka Vee. The police caught up and I’m now trapped near Ampang Park. Non-protesters were caught by surprised (I wonder why) and ran into Ampang Park. The security guards locked themselves and shoppers up in the complex. Saw message on Bersih 2.0’s Facebook asking protesters to disperse. The rally was over!

1650hr – I walked towards McDonalds but the staff had locked themselves and their patrons in. Ampang Park LRT station was also locked, leaving protesters to take cover at the sidewalks. FRU totally occupied the street with their trucks that looked like tanks. Mounted policemen were also brought out (huh?). Scores of easy arrests were made. An astute lady asked me to hide my yellow shirt, which I did before the cops came to our side of the sidewalk. I kept trying to contact Ka Vee but to no avail.

1700hr – Things were clearing up a bit and I walked to the LRT station. Three middle-aged women applauded and asked me whether I was OK. They commended our courage and said that they waited at KLCC around 2pm to join the rally. I told them that KLCC was not one of the rally points and we were busy finding an escape route at 2pm.

1720hr – Ka Vee called. He had been detained near KLCC and was calling me from within a police truck. The police told him that they were taking him to Pulapol (Malaysian Police Training Centre). I made a few telephone calls and got hold of KL Legal Aid. By this time, the siege was lifted and the LRT station re-opened. I bought my ticket and headed home.

2130hr – Ka Vee is released from Pulapol. Went for late dinner and bragged all about it to our friends who “aeroplaned” (colloquial Cantonese for “standing us up”).

I’ve never felt more Malaysian than last Saturday. The sense of camaraderie among Malaysians regardless of race and religion, united as a single nation, was certainly the highlight of my experience throughout the rally. There is something unspeakably holy about how Malaysians selflessly helped each other in the face of brutal oppression.

  1. #1 by for my country1 on Thursday, 14 July 2011 - 9:30 pm

    ‘There is something unspeakably holy about how Malaysians selflessly helped each other in the face of brutal oppression.’

    Bravo ! Negara Ku !

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