Friday, July 22, 2011

July 9: Exorcising the ghost of May 13

EYEWITNESS What we saw on July 9:

  • A Malay youth, no more than 20 years old, with tear gas in his eyes running around and distributing salt to his fellow protesters so that they could neutralise the effects of the tear gas on their eyes and noses. He shouted "Garam! Garam!" as he himself grimaced in pain, tears flowing from his eyes. Though blinded by the tear gas, he stood there with arms stretched out as fellow Malaysians grabbed the salt in his hands.
  • NONEAn old Chinese uncle shouting "Hidup rakyat! Bersih, Bersih!", and the crowd joined him in his refrain.
  • A group of young people soaked in chemical water, trying to escape the tear gas. They asked me for more information via tweets and I gave them the bad news that Ambiga had been arrested. "Shoot! Damn!", they said. "We need to get back out there!", pointing back towards the heart of the protest, with steely determination on their faces. It was inspirational to watch them running back down the hill. At the same time, so surreal, as the group was made up of various races. Then again, why should it be strange? We are Malaysians...
  • Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Dusuns, Bidayuhs, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, free thinkers, uncles, aunties, guys, girls, hippies, lawyers, pastors and students. People from all walks of life, standing together as one.
  • The main column of marchers turned towards Petaling Street as they headed for Stadium Merdeka and there, were greeted by a largely Chinese crowd merging with their column. "Cina mari! Reformasi! Reformasi! Hidup! Hidup! Hidup Rakyat!"
  • People gathering around a group of Sarawakians in their traditional costume on Jalan Sultan, complete strangers wanting to take pictures with them. People walking by shouting "Hidup Sarawak!"
  • People of all races helping one another, holding up those who had crumpled to the ground, pouring water on their faces, wiping eyes with wet cloths, encouraging one another to stay calm. Others directing the crowd to move slowly and not to push. Miraculously, the crowd followed these instructions, despite the tear gas in their eyes.
  • Smiles in the midst of tear gas and water sprays. Hands reaching out in assistance to fellow citizens.

bersih rally petaling street 090711We don't need money or a free meal to gather in numbers. We don't need door gifts or empty promises at lavish rallies to show our solidarity. We don't need famous musicians or fancy shows to attract our support.

We don't need any of the things that this current administration has to offer in response to our cry for freedom. We did it for ourselves, out of our own free will, out of our frustration and out of our love for this nation, and this generation will be judged by its actions on this day and from this day forth.

This generation has never seen unity until 709. In the years to come, this generation will look back and tell its children that this is how it went down. This is what gave us hope, determination and strength.

Never in our lives have we ever seen a Malaysia like this before. What does it take to finally put the ghost of May 13 (1969) to rest forever? The answer lies in the events of the July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally. This generation is not afraid anymore. This generation looks forward to a future of unity and strength.

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