Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I was there - Celine Yong

I was afraid, therefore I walked — Celine Yong

I almost didn’t make it. But I went.

The week leading up to the Bersih 2.0 rally on July 9th, I was like most of my friends; poked fun at the BN government’s decision to ban yellow outfits and Bersih T-shirts on my Facebook, changed my profile picture to a bright yellow Sponge Bob, showing my support to Bersih online. But it was all talk only.

Although I was angry with the highhandedness of the government in handling the Bersih rally, I never really thought about going. Didn’t go the last Bersih rally either. Not that I was afraid (the May 13th thing doesn’t scare me a bit, it only infuriates me), or didn’t agree with the principle of the Bersih rally (especially after what had happened in the Sarawak election, I am all for the Bersih principles), I just thought there would be enough people going; the NGOs, the activists, the politicians.

After all, I am but just one person.

Although a political science graduate myself, I was never an activist. For the most part I am a tax-paying, law-abiding citizen (I don’t even offer bribes to the police officer for traffic offences). Besides, I had to do my laundry, my grocery, spend quality time with my four-year-old boy, and I wouldn’t want to get caught in the traffic jam which is the last thing you want on a weekend.

But on the Wednesday before the rally, as a result of excessive roadblocks by the very paranoid police and the administration, I ended up sitting in a massive jam cursing the government and then I thought about Ibrahim Ali’s racist threat and remarks, and all of a sudden, I also became very upset with the fact that I was denied the right to wear yellow even though the only yellow item I have in my entire wardrobe is a tiny yellow belt.

By then, I was seriously thinking about making my way through the traffic to join the rally on July 9th.

On Friday, just a day before the rally, I realised I did not have to worry about getting caught in the traffic because all roads leading to Merdeka Stadium would be blocked. So instead of risk getting caught in a jam, it was worse, no access to town. I had to figure a way to get to town. So, once again, I was back to contemplating, to go or not to go, because I really don’t know how to get to town without a car or a taxi which is the only means of public transportation that I am familiar with.

The whole night I was mad and frustrated, how can the government stop me or any Malaysian from moving freely within our own country? How can they stop me from wearing yellow? How can they let Ibrahim Ali go free with all the threats? And the arrests, so uncalled for. And then I became worried, I worried about an aborted rally because no one could make it to town.

If not enough of people are going, who is going to speak up for me? That was the moment I knew I had to go, I had to help make up for the number however little my presence may represent, I had to speak up for myself and my family. I had to help build a bigger voice demanding a clean election, so that my voice can be heard through my vote for years to come.

So it was the fear that got me going. I walked not because of my little yellow belt, not because of Ibrahim Ali (well, a little bit), I walked because I feared that the intimidation from the government would silence the very people I relied upon to speak up for me. The fear of not being heard pushed me to the rally, even if it was just me walking alone in town.

On July 9th, I went despite not knowing how to get there. What they say is true, where there is a will there is a way. Somehow I managed my way to Tung Shin and what a relief when I saw so many people of different gender, religion, ethnicity, age were at the rally. All my fears were gone, and whatever happened on that day only made me a stronger person.

To the people who instill fear in me, thank you, thank you for releasing all the courage that I never knew I had. I am now fearless because of you.

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