My father’s Bersih 3.0 story

— Proud daughter
The Malaysian Insider
May 01, 2012

MAY 1 —I know there have been so many personal accounts of experiences from people present at the recent BERSIH 3.0 rally on 28 April. I’ve read many of them. But this could probably be the only account you read from someone who didn’t go, but was present only vicariously through my father whom i would’ve counted as the last person to participate in such gatherings.

While the BERSIH 3.0 rally ended at 5.30pm on 28 April for most, it was then that it begun for me when my mom sent me a message – “Papa went for BERSIH”. I almost couldn’t believe it. My dad? The man who doesn’t like strangers and crowds? The man who doesn’t like waiting for anything? The man who doesn’t like travelling further than 5km from his home for no good reason? The man who really doesn’t like it when things are beyond his control?

Too many thoughts and questions buzzed through my mind in the first 60 seconds after I got the news. Who did he go with? How did he get there? What time did he go? In which part of the city or gathering was he in? Did anyone watch out for him? But one question that kept playing back over and over was ‘WHY did he go?’.

It was hard to get all the answers as my dad doesn’t communicate much. I was told by my brother who was home that quite immediately after returning home safe, he was back in his comfortable crouch with his PSP – almost like nothing had happened. There must have been images of what he had seen that afternoon playing through his mind over and over, and a sea of thoughts and emotions over his experience for the day which was all too much to process immediately, let alone express. But over the last 48 hours, I’ve probed intermittently, because I am so curious to know the answers to my questions above.

He had decided take a chance to see how far into the city he could get by car, and soon found himself parking his car in Low Yat Plaza. He had intended to meet up with the group along Jalan Sultan, so he walked there. No salt. No wet towels. No protection gear of any sort. No video camera to prove he was there. No picketing boards or banners. He’d gone completely unarmed – just one person who wanted to be counted.

I am not sure in what chronological order he’d found himself in these places, but from Jalan Sultan he walked to SOGO, Jln Tun Perak where OCBC Bank is, and then AIA Building on Jalan Ampang before finding his way back to his car in Low Yat Plaza. When he told me the crowd he was with was shot at with tear gas I was so thankful that he had not gotten hurt. As was written in many other accounts, he said strangers with him offered him salt (with which he imitated their actions and put it in his mouth) and he was even offered a wet towel. Even at the tail end of the cloud of tear gas, he said his eyes were burning and it was hard to breathe.

That was as much information as I could get out of him. The only response he had to my question of why he went was because he felt it was the right thing to do.

I have been combing through the thousands of pictures posted on Facebook and on various blogsites, and patiently watching videos of the events of the day, trying to spot my father in the tremendous crowd. If I could just see where he was standing, with who he was standing and catch a glimpse of the expression on his face, perhaps I could have more answers to the questions I have about what inspired my father to participate in the rally.

My father’s solo voyage far beyond his comfort zone to be just one in hundreds of thousands, believing that it would make a difference has brought my realisation about the desperation of our ‘rakyat’ for a better Malaysia to a whole new level. For me, it really epitomises how the corruption in the system is affecting every Malaysian, and how much this BERSIH movement has moved the average Malaysian to believe that change can happen.

My reaction to my father’s willingness to humble himself and stand up for something he believes in is a reminder of the impact of leadership by example. When someone you look up to and admire is willing to oblige himself to circumstances that are out of his comfort zone by a quantum leap, it gives you the will to do the same – and truly believe that change is possible.

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