An exhilarating experience – being tear gassed

Free Malaysia Today
May 7, 2012

After reading so many touching My Bersih 2.0 stories last July, most of which moved me to tears, I decided that I would definitely stand up for our rights as a civic-minded citizen.. As the ancient Chinese saying goes: “Guo jia xing wang, pi fu you zhe”. It means – If my beloved country is in trouble, everyone is responsible.

After checking out the “situation” on the alternative media on-line, I started to pack two sets of “Bersih” kits with the recommended “must-haves” like salt, mask, wet towel, a bottle of water, identity card and, of course, hand-phone and camera.

My son and I proceeded to a bus-stop at the edge of our housing estate. “Tak p’gi Masjid Jamek, Titiwangsa saja”, said the bus driver to my son. “Never mind”, my son told me, “we can take the LRT from there.” When we reached the Titiwangsa LRT station at around 10.30 am, a crowd of “yellow warriors” was already there. In the train, we were in a jovial mood; everyone was smiling and chattered cheerfully, like a bunch of excited school children going on an excursion.

As the train was approaching Masjid Jamek station, from the overhead bridge, I saw many were already there.

As we alighted from the station, we quickly went to the washroom to change into our yellow t-shirts. (My son’s advice: Don’t wear yellow, to avoid being arrested as in Bersih 2.0 previously) When we stepped out of the station, merging into the sea of yellow and green, loud chants of “Bersih” and “Hidup Rakyat” were heard.

Soon we started snapping photos with those people who came prepared with posters and banners bearing their heart-felt messages. One of those that caught my attention is a large photo of our prime minister with a caption “Najib, Do you really care?” If he really did care, this rally would not have happened, I thought to myself.

We then walked towards Dataran Merdeka, but could only get to the traffic light intersection, as it was jammed with a sea of people , clad mostly in yellow, stretching to as far as the eyes could see. Later, we sat on the road kerb along Jalan Tun Perak, in front of OCBC Bank, as it was the perfect shaded spot (under the LRT bridge, near Masjid Jamek station) to watch any parades or processions going past. Around 1.45 pm, the crowd was told to “duduk” and almost everyone, except those who could not find any space on the road, obeyed and sat down without a word. The crowd was led into chanting and singing Bersih in tune of “Ole,Ole,Ole” intermittently.

The fast food restaurant nearby was filled to the brim with hungry customers while the convenience store across the road had bustling business, because other shops along the road were closed. Who says Bersih rally was bad for business?

The crowd was especially exhilarated when Karpal Singh arrived with his delegation. This was followed later by Lim Kit Siang who came with Dato’ Ambiga waving to the crowd with a bouquet of yellow chrysanthemums in her hand, on the back of a truck. All of them headed towards Dataran Merdeka.

We did not hear any message of dispersing, but at around 2.45 pm we decided that we had already made our point and wanted to head home. Just as we found LRT station at Masjid Jamek was closed, we heard some sounds of gunfire and realized that tear gas canisters were shot into the crowd. The crowd immediately ran helter skelter, instantaneously turning a carnival-like atmosphere to what looked like a chaotic war zone on television.

Soon I felt pain in my eyes though I had quickly put on my mask. I quickly washed my eyes with water and covered my face with the wet towel. The stinging pain on my eyes and face was unbearable. Moments later, a bunch of masks was thrown from the second floor of a shop lot into the escaping crowd. God bless those kind souls who threw those masks.

Although I was quite far from where the tear gas was shot, I felt the stinging effect. How about those who were near? I heard someone said, “Jangan lari, nanti jatuh!” Some “traffic marshals” who had climbed onto some railings along the street, were seen directing the crowd away from the tear gas and indeed, the true 1Malaysia spirit was clearly portrayed with people of all races helping each other, sharing water and salt.

I saw some men carrying a lady, seemingly injured on a plank and asked whether there was any doctor in the crowd, who could help. Since there was none, they disappeared in the crowd probably looking for an ambulance.

My son and I ended up behind HSBC Bank building, across the river opposite Masjid Jamek. There was a mobile drink stall, which was completely “bersih” as everything was sold out. I guessed the stallholder was happy that he took the “risk” to open for business that day. As we walked towards Plaza Rakyat from there, there were shots again on the other side of the street.

“Don’t worry mom we’ll get out from here soon”, my son assured me . In fact, I was not scared but was angry at the police who used the tear gas and water cannons paid by our taxpayers’ money on our fellow unarmed civilians. Or are they trying to clear their expiring tear gas stock?

Finally we decided to walk to Leboh Ampang, along Jalan Ampang and proceeded to back lane behind ex-Globe Silk Store, but were again tear gassed. There, the angry crowd was having a face-off with the police, probably because they were annoyed being trapped in the back lane with both ends sealed off by tear gas. However, the pasar malam traders went on with their business quietly, with masks over their noses. Scores of yellow and green “warriors” were seen having drinks at the stalls there, while watching the on-going fracas from a distance.

We then got into Capsquare, via the side entrance, (main entrance was closed) to change from our yellow shirts and proceeded to take LRT ride home from Medan Tuanku. We were glad to be able to get out safely from the “war zone” created by our police. Upon reaching home, my 8 year old son asked, “Mom, how’s Bersih?” “Great, I’ll bring you and sister the next time”, I replied.

Joining the Bersih 3.0 rally was the greatest moment of my life. Together with my son, I witnessed the true 1Malaysia spirit – the coming together of fellow Malaysians, as one people, regardless of race and religion. I strongly believe that free and fair elections is a fundamental right of any citizen of the world. We should make a difference in standing up for our rights and encourage others who are watching on the sidelines to do the same, by answering to our call of duty.

  1. #1 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Monday, 7 May 2012 - 3:27 pm

    So jib and umno lost the bersih war on more than one front.

    (1) Because of umno’s and jib’s deceit the ppl had the bersih rallies. After having organised three such rallies successfully, the ppl involved now have sufficient ability to call for the presence of a very very large number of ppl at short notice. This can be useful during election time when votes are needed to counter and even neutralise umno’s wide spread phantom votes and illegal postal votes.

    (2) The ppl are now making plans to expand their working experience beyond city and town centres (bersih 4); and this will enable the ppl to extend their reach much much further geographically. Ppl outside towns and cities too need to experience umno’s tear gas and chemical-laced spray in order to understand and realise fully umno’s true colour.

    (3) Of course bersih 4 can be prevented if umno and jib genuinely and transparently clean up the voters list and amend the laws to allow free and fair election. But this will only ensure umno’s own demise in GE13. So either way umno has no advantage to gain. But of course there is an incentive. If umno allows free and fair election at least the present umno ppl will be remembered as ppl who made two party system in the country possible. You see, that military guy who ruled burma for several decades could well be remembered as a hero if he handled the transition to democracy properly. So there umno. Something for you to take note. And never fight your own ppl! The end game is always predictable. You, umno will lose. It is normal and usual for the ppl to reject their government. Here we plan to do so constitutionally via the ballot box. On the contrary, it is highly improper for the government to reject the ppl and to fight them.

    The choice is clear. Either you lose with dignity or you lose terribly.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Monday, 7 May 2012 - 4:56 pm

    The people who tasted tear gas for no reasons will participated again….come BERSIH 4.
    I did and I was prepared to taste it again in BERSIH 3
    Nothing to be fear when you now you are doing the right thing for country and people.

  3. #3 by monsterball on Monday, 7 May 2012 - 10:04 pm

    Najib desperately need to get 13th GE going……but Atlantuya’s ghost seem to keep haunting him.
    He simply does not know what to do.
    Try this…try that to win voters confidence…boom..Bersih 3 indicated to him…..not working.
    Try try try…getting burning..killing…rioting…to declare Emergency Rule..not working.
    More delays…not good for him.
    Get it done….must cheat to win.
    Cheat…he will be cooked and roasted.
    Do not cheat..he will be charged for corruptions and murder.
    If he is innocent….why be afraid?

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