A bittersweet experience

By A Humble Malaysian
The Malaysian Insider
May 04, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — I personally believe that there are three occasions where you can experience the spirit of 1 Malaysia: football, badminton and rally.

Why did I join Bersih 3.0? Various reasons, but certainly NOT for politics.

I woke up automatically at 6.30am on April 28, an hour ahead of my alarm set. The first thing I did was to turn on my laptop and checked the updates on Facebook.

There were already an estimate of 5,000 people around Dataran Merdeka. Next, I checked RapidKL Twitter to ensure the train was in service. No service disruption. Good.

I left my house at about 8am for the Kelana Jaya LRT station. At the car park, I saw a few groups of people, clad in yellow and green. That was when I realised, I was not alone.

We looked at each other, with smiles on our faces, as if we could read each other’s mind.

Each stop at the LRT station, I could see more and more people in yellow and green boarding the train.

A big crowd went off at Pasar Seni for one of the main meeting points, Central Market.

I got out from Masjid Jamek. After meeting my friend at the platform, we walked towards Petaling Street.

I could see yellow everywhere, even yellow “Angry Birds”. We headed towards the food stall area for breakfast. All the stalls and restaurants were jam packed. We actually stood while eating.

An uncle from the nearby table offered us an untouched glass of coffee, saying “Miss, this is for you, we ordered extra.” Very warm gesture but unfortunately, I don’t drink coffee hence my friend drank the whole glass.

“It tasted good!” that was what he said.

People wait for the start of the Bersih rally, at Jalan Tun Perak in Kuala Lumpur, April 28, 2012.It was about 10am when we headed out to Jalan Sultan to join the “carnival”.

People were walking around, singing, playing music with empty containers, chanting, taking pictures, selling Bersih recyclable bags, sitting by the roadside, just waiting for the moment.

We decided to walk farther to the intersection between Jalan Hang Jebat and Jalan Sultan.

We saw policemen forming human walls, but people were still able to cross from the side.

Supporters wearing Bersih t-shirt were seen talking and taking pictures with the policemen. There was a van loaded with boxes of mineral water, a man distributing the mineral water to the people around, for FREE.

It was almost about 11.30am and the sun was right above us. We decided to stop walking and joined the group of people in front of Mandarin Pacific Hotel.

Even Yellow Power Rangers was there. The song that caught my attention was “Inilah Barisan Kita”. I was quite emotional hearing myself singing to it, I actually remembered the lyrics.

They chanted “Bersih”, “Stop Lynas” and also “Reformasi”. We talked and laughed as if we have known each other for a very long time.

We were told to sit down and people actually did. But I have no idea why there were still cars and buses passing the road, making people sat and stood a few times.

I was lucky because I was by the side of the road, not affected by the traffic. Wong Chin Huat came by at about 12pm to give his instructions and speech.

He was struggling to make his voice heard, sounding as if he has been talking loudly for the past four hours.

At 12.30pm, we stood up and started walking, but stopped after about 50m. We sat down again.

Balloons, big and small, flying around. After about 10 minutes, we started walking again.

I felt really good, despite the heat.

From Jalan Sultan, we walked to Jalan Tun HS Lee and soon to Jalan Tun Sambanthan, towards Kota Raya.

I saw two traffic policemen by the road side, resting. The supporters greeted the policemen and shook hands with the policemen. All smiles, no tension.

At about 1.30pm, we were told to “Buka laluan” (make way). It was Ambiga Sreenevasan and a few more committees of Bersih 2.0. Yes, I saw Ambiga.

We then walked to Jalan Tun Perak. From the voices of the crowd, I started to imagine how many people were ahead of us.

We tried to walk as near as we could towards Dataran Merdeka.

At 2pm, we were still far behind, only managed to get to McDonald’s.

We sang “Negaraku” and chanted “Bersih” over and over again. At about 2.15pm, we were told to move back a little and to be seated.

At about 2.30pm, a few people from the front started to walk back, saying that “Anwar kata bersurai. Matlamat dah tercapai.”

Eh, I thought we were supposed to sit till 4pm?

So people started to disperse. And we decided to be a little adventurous, walking to the front, till Jalan Melayu, the road between OCBC Bank and Masjid Jamek LRT Station.

It was slightly after 3pm when people at the top level of LRT Station signalled us to run. And then I heard the sound of the shooting of tear gas, which sounded like fireworks.

Ah, it’s time to make full use of my equipment. I took out the salt and wet towel, which had been soaked with salt water before I left the house this morning.

I ate the salt and poured some on the towel and covered my nose and mouth with it.

I started running into Jalan Melayu, heading towards Lorong Tunku Abdul Rahman.

I could see people around me were in tears, coughing, gasping for fresh air. I took out my bottle of salt water, drank and passed to the girl next to me as she was feeling really uncomfortable.

I kept an eye on my friend who was behind me and he told me “Just walk ahead, I will be behind.”

But the crowd started pushing, feeling panicky and girls shouting.

Salt was passed around. Malay, Chinese and Indian, we were helping each other.

Halfway through, the crowd in front stopped walking, and people from behind started to push.

Apparently there was tear gas fired in front. So, now we were stuck.

There is a small alley on the right. Some said it was a dead end, another person said to go.

So, we decided to run into the alley and found out it was a dead end, with the Klang River on the right.

We could see people trying to get down to the riverbank and some tried to climb up the wall on the left.

After being stranded there for about 10 minutes, we decided to walk out, knowing that we could not just stay there doing nothing.

We walked towards Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman and saw a group of policemen in front of us, by the side of the road.

One of the policemen told us to continue walking and “jangan tengok-tengok” (Don’t look).

I managed to peep at the small alley on the right, a few people clad in Bersih T-shirts were surrounded by policemen.

After we walked pass the scene, we heard one of the supporters shout at the policemen, and we started running.

In front of us, another group of policemen. This time, I saw a group of five or six policemen attacking a person who’s already on the ground. A few more non-uniformed people tried to save the person.

There were people shouting around. A few policemen standing at the junction between Jalan Melayu and Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman told us to continue walking.

We never turned back. Whatever just happened, for whatever reason, it was an ugly scene.

As we walked, we could still smell the tear gas. At one point, we could see Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman on the left and spotted a row of FRU, standing still, ready to fire any time.

We continued walking and saw people sitting by the side of the road. Several stalls were spotted still operating despite the tear gas.

We stopped at one drink stalls and I saw the sellers’ eyes were red, and yet, they were still doing business.

We continued walking out to Jalan TAR, about 100m from the FRU.

We could see people sitting by the road side, and some, sitting on the middle of the road and one, lying down.

One guy ran towards the man who was lying on the road, offering him water, thinking he had fainted. But he was just lying there; he had not fainted.

It was only 3.45pm, we decided to sit by the roadside and waited till 4pm before we call it a day.

A Chinese man came to us, asking whether we wanted to refill our water bottles. Another nice gesture.

We wondered whether we would be poisoned, but maybe not today.

I did not take up the offer as I still had water with me, but my friend did.

A group of people sat nearby, one of them was smoking. He turned over to me when he realised the cigarette smoke was blown towards my direction, and he apologised.

Later on, a man sat down beside me. He was also affected by the tear gas. He was not prepared for the tear gas and was voicing out his dissatisfaction of what had happened.

At 4pm, we decided to leave. We walked to Bandaraya LRT Station to find that the station was closed.

Two policemen were spotted behind the shutters, inside the LRT station and a man from the outside asked the policemen why the shutters were down.

The policemen told to take the train from the next station at Jalan Sultan Ismail but the man shouted back for them to open the shutters. He pushed the shutters.

I dislike the scene, so we left.

While we were walking down the station, we heard the crowd at Jalan Raja Laut were facing another group of FRU in front of DBKL building.

Soon, we heard the shooting of tear gas. And again, we took out the towels and salt and started running.

We decided to walk to Jalan Sultan Ismail via Jalan TAR, passing Sogo.

When we walked pass Sogo, we saw a group of people fanning a man on the ground.

My friend walked over to peep but I pulled him off; it’s time to go home.

While walking towards Pertama Complex, we saw bottles and water flying around in front of the Mara building.

Then, we saw a police car drove pass. A group of people threw objects at the police car.

That police car managed to flee. A few moments later, we saw a guy jumping on top of a moving car. People again started to throw objects (it was a police car, as what I saw when it drove passed me). We just continue walking and didn’t turn back.

A few seconds later, we heard a crash sound. Oh, no!

Ahead, we saw, again, people throwing objects at two traffic policemen on motorcycles.

Next, the policemen stopped the motorcycle, facing the crowd behind, his hand near his waist as if wanting to draw his weapon. Oh, no!

I did not want to imagine what was going to happen next.

People started to shout and run and we ran for our lives towards Jalan Semarang (between Pertama Complex and Mara Building) and out to Jalan Raja Laut towards Sultan Ismail LRT Station.

We then heard ambulance and police sirens from every direction.

Whatever just happened at Jalan TAR, was beyond my imagination.

It is saddening and a disappointment that things turned ugly after 3pm.

But I am glad I came home in one piece, with no injury except some tan on both of my hands.

I thank God and I am very grateful.

Want to experience what 1 Malaysia is all about? Come join Bersih 4.0, if there’s one.

I will be there, with slightly more experience than the first time. I will not run into a dead end again.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 3:17 am

    Some police acted like coward gangsters ….attacking unarmed people …armed with guns …a disgrace to the Police Force be it in Malaysia and around the world.
    The more they do that…the more people will rebel.
    It’s the cowardly actions approved by IGP and PM…to divert Malaysians attentions from the real reasons for BERSIH 3.

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 4:59 am

    ///Salt was passed around. Malay, Chinese and Indian, we were helping each other.///

    The author’s experience is reminiscent of my joyous student life in UK where I lived among the Welsh, English, Nigerians, Japanese and other races, helping and interacting with each other.

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 8:01 am

    Only in Malaysia where you (the boss) tell a EC civil servant to do his job, do they accuse you back of destorying democracy..

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 8:44 am

    Mahathir now accuses Anwar& Nik Aziz Nik Mat of plans to overthrow the present government through “Bersih-type violent demonstrations” – MalaysiaInsider Clara Chooi’s 5th May report. Many Bersih participants like Humble Malaysian were there, according to him, “NOT for politics”. In Bersih he found meaningful the experience of camaraderie with other Malaysians of different races religion creed age occupation united over a common cause. The “oneness” as a people ala 1 Malaysia was something Malaysians experienced in greater measure in 1960s and 70s before polarization/divisions by Ketuanan, NEP & other policies launched under TDM’ watch. The feeling of unity (due to communal politics) has been so destroyed that it is now as ephemeral as a mere whisper in the wind – that (sadly) but for an event like Bersih or a “badminton or football” involving our national team, would be entirely forgotten by the older and never experienced by the younger as to what unity solidarity and camaraderie feels like!

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 9:03 am

    Bersih 3.0 has been scr*wed up by politicians from both sides. It may well be the case that some Opposition politicians had no qualms to use the rally or rather the end of it to get a section of the crowd to challenge authority so as to provoke a predictable backlash of police brutality that will in turn help galvanise moral outrage of the voters against the govt and BN in next GE. This was anticipated by the other side (esp the right wingers/hardliners) in advance. So they just got ready the police for retaliation (hence the need to keep Press coverage of event in tight leash) and needed just the excuse of barricade breach to unleash police heavy handed response with predictable violence, which would then meet the dual objectives of firstly sullying the No. 1’s credentials of being ‘reformist’ and at the same time throwing the blame on the Opposition for the fracas /violence that will provide the excuse/justification to take action against them (before next GE) along lines of trying to subvert constitutional elected government by Arab Spring demos etc. I think some Opposition leaders, by either encouraging or otherwise not stopping the breach of barricades by their supporters, simply played into the other side’s plans, and that’s not smart! .

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 5 May 2012 - 9:16 am

    The other side knows that allegations of sex improprieties whether with same of different sex are hackneyed & will not stick and they need another track such as subversion of constitutionally elected govt by street demos (that they hope will stick). By breaking or allowing supporters to break barricades (prior agreed by Bersih’s Ambiga not to be broken) they were handed on the platter that excuse and pretext to unleash police action with the ensuing melee being blamed onto the Opposition’s leaders who just walked into this trap!

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