I was born on the prairies, where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures. [GERONIMO]
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I was there - Esther Goh
Tanah tumpahnya darahku
“Are you ready to die for the country?” I asked as I walked together with Simeon heading from Mirama Hotel on Jalan Maharajalela to Petaling Street.
My honest answer to my own question was, “No. I don’t believe I should die now. When I’m only 24. There is so much more that I want and believe I can do for my country.”
But what if it takes bloodshed for people to wake up? What if we were the ones to go — so that people will finally realise the need for change?” was Simeon’s reply.
I was driving home on Thursday night when this motorcyclist, thinking I was endangering his life, rode very fast... honking the whole way. And as he approached my car, he bent over and shouted at the top of his lungs at me.
Wow, I thought. If this was how it’s like when there’s NO rally, I cannot imagine what would happen on July 9th.
I thought of chickening out.
I flip-flopped the entire July 8th. To go, or not to go? Every time somebody asked me if I was going, I flashed them a nervous smile.
What if I die? What if I don’t die... but end up with a disability? Gaahhh.
But the biggest why was — WHY DO I FIND MYSELF FEARING THE GOVERNMENT? THE VERY PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO MAKE SURE I’M SAFE?
I knocked on the door of 608. And after a request for the “Secret Password”, the door was opened to 13 other people. Young people. People I call friends.
I sat amongst them, and we talked late into the night. Of our game plan. How we would run. What we would need to counter the possible attacks we would face.
We slept. And woke to the sound of FRU trucks moving into the city.
You would have thought it was World War III.
We packed salt. Prepared bi-carb soda solution. Soaked our towels in vinegar. Prayed. And left in twos and threes.
We walked towards Petaling Street. People we met along the way were silent.. It was the calm before the storm. Grim. None of us knowing what would happen.
As we walked further into the heart of the city, we heard chants.
“Hidup, hidup! Hidup Bersih! Hidup, hidup! Hidup Rakyat!”
And something in me started. It was a growing excitement.
We followed the crowd. Chanting as we walked along.
Deep inside me, I was still afraid. I looked around me. Most people do not have the same colour skin as me. If a riot was to break out, I would have been Peking duck in two seconds.
We looked on. And strategized to join the crowd and be in the middle. Lest anything should happen, at least we were not in the vulnerable fringes.
1 Malaysia #1. I met an elderly Chinese auntie. This was not her first rally. The Anti-ISA rally was her first. She was doing it for her children, she said.
Tear Gas #1. We ran helter-skelter.
Tung Shin Hospital.
We were waiting with the rest to march to the stadium. But the Men in Blue gave us no rest.
Tear Gas #2. We ran helter-skelter again.
We ran into the shelter, eyes, nose and throat hurting from the gas.
ALL I WANT IS CLEAN AND FAIR ELECTIONS! WHY AM I TREATED LIKE A CRIMINAL?
1 Malaysia #2. We ran into the shelter. Eyes still stinging.
Four Malay boys who were standing around offered us salt.
“Rub it around your eyes and put some in the roof of your mouth,” Arif said. “Take this bag of salt, give it to those who need it.”
“Thank you, and please, please, please take care,” we bade him.
Rain. THANK GOD FOR RAIN!
Still in Tung Shin Hospital grounds.
Tear Gas #3. WE WERE IN THE HOSPITAL GROUNDS, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!
We ran helter-skelter. And we saw a wall. There was nowhere else to run, as police were chasing with their batons.
1 Malaysia #3. An elderly Chinese uncle stood by the wall.
“Uncle, go first.. go first,” I told him.
“No, no... after you!” And he helped me over the wall. And on the other side of the wall, was another Malay uncle... standing and giving a hand to all of us who were running.
We continued running.
1 Malaysia #4. I came to another wall. This time, this wall had a metal fence. With sharp pointers.
I climbed up the wall. And looked down. There was no way I was going to make it down there unscathed.
A young Malay chap climbed up to where I was. Lifted me, and lowered me down the other side.. his stomach pressing against the sharp metal pointers as he was doing so.
“Are you okay?” I turned back and asked.
“Yes, just run,” was his reply.
After having survived three rounds of tear gas... we were still dissatisfied.
This rally is not over!
We heard chants from afar, and decided we would join our fellow comrades in the march to Stadium Merdeka.
1 Malaysia #5. As we were heading towards the crowd, we saw three Chinese aunties.
They warned us against heading in that direction, because they just saw the FRUs and the police beating people up with batons.
“Thank you for coming, auntie. For doing this for our generation,” I said.
She looked at me with bewilderment. Took off her hat, and said to me, “Why do you thank me? My father didn’t do this for me. Now I will do it for my children. For my grandchildren. I will march in every state every week — until I see change happen.”
We found the crowd. And marched on to KLCC.
“Rasa sayang, hey! Rasa sayang sayang hey! Hey...” was what we heard the crowd singing.
We arrived in KLCC. Sat. Made a few more friends.
And ran. Because the police were after us again.
As we ran for our lives, I saw two other people in front of me.
In running, they hit and toppled the barricades that were around KLCC. And to my utter amazement, they stopped, picked up the barricades, arranged it to be how it was like before, and continued running.
9th of July, 2011.
I am proud.
Proud to have friends — students and white-collared workers, who would risk being detained and being treated inhumanely to stand for what is right.
Proud to have Malaysian brothers and sisters — this is my pledge. That this will be the last time I refer to anybody by race. Because of the kindness you showed me and my friends today, you showed me that we are CAPABLE, of being COLOUR BLIND.
Proud of the way we behaved during the rally. We were not violent. We were courteous. We helped each other. We pushed on despite being treated like dogs because we kept in mind -- the next generation that is to come after us.
Proud that we showed kindness instead of retaliating when we were provoked.
Proud that now, nobody can call us Third World — because we did not react the way the Middle East did.
And most of all, I am proud — so proud, that WE DID NOT SUCCUMB TO THE TACTICS THAT SOUGHT TO INSTILL FEAR IN US. THAT WE CHOSE TO RISE ABOVE THE FEAR WE HAVE BEEN SO BOUND BY.
Negaraku, tanah tumpahnya darahku.
9th July 2011. The day I am so proud of my fellow Malaysian friends .