Taking sides

By Clarice CP
The Malaysian Insider
May 02, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — I have a confession to make. I wasn’t sure whether I should attend Bersih 3.0 Rally until the day itself. My stand for a clean election has never changed but I kept changing my mind over attending the rally itself due to work and safety concerns. A friend upon knowing that said, the country’s doom is approaching and you are still worried about work? Of course, he put it in a cruder manner. Well, I thought, when theTitanic was sinking the musicians kept playing and that was actually one of the very few scenes in the film that moved me. But it’s too early to give up on our country, I told myself. I am not a supporter of any political party, organisation or individual. But I am a big fan of fairness and justice.

So I went with friends. We boarded a train and as soon as we disembarked at Pasar Seni we could already see the mass crowds. We joined them and sat on the ground under the hot sun. Later we started walking and when we reached somewhere in front of Reggae Mansion we could walk no further. We sat on the road chanting, singing, playing with balloons, snapping pictures. It was so peaceful and the atmosphere was indeed joyful. Ironic it may sound but perhaps it was because we were all enjoying the freedom of assembly and liberty that was not tasted for long.

In fact, I have never felt so safe and secured while walking around in KL. It was probably because I knew I was with the people who share the same belief as mine: We are against violence. We hold firm to the idea of democracy and view elections as the vital and sole legitimate way for the population to make decisions on public offices. Thus we demand clean elections so as to ensure the true will of the people to be accurately reflected. Fair rules and unbiased umpires will benefit all game players, as simple as this. Play fairly, that’s the rule we were told since we were kids.

Starting from 2pm we noticed that our phones couldn’t call out. But we stayed until around 3.15 pm when we were told to walk back in the opposite direction to where we came from earlier. My friends and I followed the instructions and thought it was time to leave. I joked by telling friends that we didn’t even get a glimpse of Dataran Merdeka! And it was then at a junction we saw a FRU truck at the far end of the road spraying water. Soon the initially peaceful crowds dispersed but even at such moments people were heard reminding those who appeared not to get panicked, just walk, don’t run.

Then we smelled the chemicals and knew tear gas canisters were shot. Quickly putting on masks, we managed to squeeze into a restaurant whose workers were about to pull down its shutters. I covered my face with a towel and felt the burning sensation on my unmasked skin. My skin and eyes turned reddish. The others at the restaurant, including its workers, had tears running down and were coughing. People were helping each other, offering salt and water. And we were so touched by the angelic workers who generously gave us free water.

I really don’t understand why tear gas needed to be fired at the crowds far from Dataran Merdeka who didn’t even get the chance to see it on that day. Plus, the crowds with whom I was did no violence and in fact were already leaving. If the tear gas was meant to disperse the people the objective was achieved on the first shoot but why one after another blast on us there? When we calmed down after the tear gas attack those at a higher floor of the restaurant saw policemen hitting and arresting people on the street. It was such a horrible situation. I thought, are we already in a police state? Now, who are the ones losing mind and resorting to violence?

When things seemed to have calmed down outside we left the restaurant through its back door. On our way out, we said ‘Terima kasih’ to each and every worker there and all of them replied, sama-sama. I will never forget the warmth and graciousness we received from the good Samaritans that day. And I shall remember 428 as a day on which many thousands of Malaysians had firmly and bravely stood up for a priceless value, that is, righteousness.

A strong message was conveyed by the presence of the mass crowds on 428. The ruling party may choose to continue turning a deaf ear at their own peril. However the message was not aimed only at the ruling party but many more others who may still remain ignorant or indifferent as regards the problems nestling in our electoral system which have seriously undermined democracy. You need not believe in any political party, organisation or individual but you should believe in fairness and righteousness. You should live a principled life and you must continue dreaming, desiring, believing, pursuing and insisting on the beauty of life such as justice, righteousness and balance. When you take the side of righteousness you will dispel the fear that has long been instilled in you simply because there is no fear in righteousness. When you take the side of peace, you will be in peace.

So, which side do you take?

*Clarice read law and understands “rule of law” is not simply about the citizens’ duty to obey laws but also about the lawmakers’ duty to legally use their power in law making and to pass non-arbitrary laws; and its ultimate objectives lie in restricting illegal use of power and thus preventing injustice pursued by the governing body.

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