Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bersih crackdown: Clinton, crack the whip

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been urged to denounce the Malaysian government’s behaviour with regard to the Bersih 2.0 rally.

In a letter to her, four international human rights organisations expressed disappointment over the US’ lukewarm response and reminded the former president’s wife that she had presented Bersih 2.0 chairperson S Ambiga with the the International Women of Courage Award in 2009.

The organistions urged Clinton to publicly denounce the Malaysian government’s behaviour as being inconsistent with democratic principles and conradictory to Malaysia’s obligations as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The four were Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Phycisians for Human Rights.

The letter noted that on July 8, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US had communicated to Malaysia the importance of respecting human rights.

On July 13, deputy spokesperson Mark Toner reiterated the US’ concerns and assured that they would continue monitoring the situation closely.

“As the official response of the US government to this crackdown, these comments are lukewarm at best and send a very weak signal regarding US’ commitment to human rights and democracy,” the letter stated.

“As a country with close economic and political ties to Malaysia, the US government cannot remain conspicuously silent in the wake of this crackdown on basic civil liberties and human rights.

“Malaysia’s actions, which fundamentally violate the basic rights to free assembly and expression, are particularly reprehensible given its membership in the UNHRC,” it read.

Release PSM six

The letter pressed the US government to publicly demand that Malaysia end the campaign of harassment and prosecution against Bersih supporters, lift the ban on Bersih, launch an independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the crackdown, and hold accountable those officers found to have used excessive force.

“The US has to do more than just blithely issue statements calling for restraint on both sides because the violence on July 9 was coming just from one side – the police,” said HRW Asia division’s deputy director, Phil Robertson.

“The US should immediately demand a full and impartial investigation into use of excessive violence by the police, end preventive detention of the six Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leaders, and un-ban Bersih so that discussions can go forward on badly-needed electoral reforms.”

The detention of the six under the Emergency Ordinance (EO) was a particularly grave concern for the letter signees.

They pointed out that the six still remained in police custody awaiting a court hearing on July 22 for their habeas corpus application filed on July 6.

“We want the US government to publicly call on the Malaysian government to immediately end all use of preventive detention to hold Bersih, PSM supporters, and other groups that advocate peacefully and stop using laws that provide for preventive detention for political reasons,” the letter said.

It also asked that the US government take the seriousness and timeliness of its Malaysian counterpart’s response to these concerns when considering a possible visit by President Barack Obama to Malaysia later this year.

[Source: FMT]

Pak Samad: I walked barefoot to the Istana

Despite his age, 76-year-old national laureate A Samad Said was not spared the police crackdown on the Bersih 2.0 rally last Saturday.

“When I arrived at Istana Negara, there were two policemen who were bengis (fierce)… they told us to disperse or they would use force against us.

NONE“With the look on their faces, if they could, they would want to devour me,” said Samad..

In the third part of an exclusive interview withMalaysiakini on Thursday, the novelist and poet with his distinctive long white hair and beard, related his experience in trying to submit the Bersih 2.0 memorandum for free and fair elections to the Agong during the mass rally.

Samad was amongst the small group of protestors who had managed to march from KL Sentral - one of the flashpoints of the brutal crackdown due to the presence of top Bersih leaders there - to Stadium Merdeka and then to Istana Negara.

NONEEarlier that morning, rally organisers had assigned two lawyers to bring Samad to the Hilton Hotel at Sentral after he expressed desire to join the demonstration.

Once assembled there, the Bersih leaders held a press conference (right).

The gathered started to move out of the hotel towards their goal, at which point Samad found himself sandwiched by riot police at the KL Sentral underpass along with several other Bersih and Pakatan leaders.

“When tear gas was fired, we were trapped, like at Tung Shin (hospital)… we had no choice but to go through,” he said.

In the brutal police assault, several leaders were arrested, among them Bersih 2.0 chief Ambiga Sreenevasan, Bersih committee member Maria Chin Abdullah and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.

Samad however evaded arrest and pressed on with other protestors, minus his chappals.

'I walked barefoot'

It was during the crackdown that Samad lost his footwear.

NONE“I lost my chappals when I was hit by tear gas; it was chaotic. I ran to a wall to cover my nose and to find my water bottle and towel,” he said.

“I had to walk barefoot. There were stones on the ground. The other demonstrators offered me their shoes; one even offered me a Nike. I thought it was a nice pair of shoes ... I could not take them.

“Later, I was given a big pair of shoes until I arrived at Midah Hotel, Kampung Attap and someone bought me a new pair of slippers,” he said (photo).

“Two or three (more) people wanted to go barefoot and offer me their shoes too. Indian youngsters wanted to give me their shoes; Chinese youngsters wanted to give me their shoes. I felt very proud.

“Never have I seen a group of young people of different races united by a common ambition,” added Samad.

The final lap

With many Bersih leaders arrested and his two lawyers escorts missing, it was left to Samad to press on with the mission with the remaining protestors.

NONETwo Bersih committee members tasked with handing Bersih's memo to the Agong later caught up with Samad.

“I was accompanied by spirited youngsters whom I had to calm down. Later two Bersih committee members accompanied me; they were the ones who brought the memo (to me) and helped control the situation.

“When we arrived at Stadium Merdeka, there were already many people (there). After discussing with the police… I started to sense danger as there were police behind us with water cannons ready.

“That was when I decided it was best for us to move on to Istana Negara,” he said.

Asked how he managed to reach within 200 metres of the Istana gates when many others could not even get close, Samad attributed it to divine intervention.

NONE“Many people asked me that question. It was with Allah's help,” he said.

Samad, who was not amongst the 91 served restriction orders - dismissed suggestions that the cops had given him special treatment.

“I was tear gassed too; I felt like I was going to die due to my age. I went prepared with water and salt but I could not use them.

“There were people left and right gasping for air, asking if I had water. I gave them mine, and later other protestors gave me theirs,” he said.

'Would march again'

Samad was eventually stopped from completing the mission with just about 20 protestors in tow, with the palace gates in sight.

Negotiations with the police failed and the group was forced to abandon their task.

NONE"It is not my fault but the police's," said the septuagenarian at a press conference after the rally.

"I have decided to write a letter to the Agong later, to inform him that the Agong's readiness to receive the petition was not properly handled by the police.

A week on, Samad remains resolved in his pursuit of democracy, saying that he would be prepared to march again.

“If I am still alive, if the cause is good for improving and strengthening democracy, why not? I am prepared,” he said.

“A literature scholar's duty is to the past; we record events. But I think with the turbulent situation now, we can no longer record the atmosphere. We too, become a trigger to that atmosphere.”.

[Source: Mkini]

One week after Bersih 2.0

JULY 16 — It’s been a week since the Bersih 2.0 rally took place on July 9. We have read many accounts of this historical event through various channels and platforms. There were mixed sentiments that came with it. Bersih 2.0 was dubbed as the rally of the social media age.

When the government-controlled mainstream media proved to be lopsided, most of us turned to independent news portal, blog sites and social media platform. #Bersih became a global trending topic on Twitter during the period leading up to the day and long after it.

As expected the international media picked up the news on Bersih 2.0 and gave a balanced view of the situation. Some had also compared the present Malaysian administration to that of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was toppled not too long ago. I will not go so far but yes, anything is possible with a strong and clear conviction. Power to the people.

Speaking of conviction, a day before the rally I had a conversation with a good friend about Bersih. While he quietly supported the cause, he lamented the fact that most Malaysians will not go beyond this rally to see the true desired outcome. He has witnessed too many of us who speak about our heart’s intent passionately but when it comes to crunch time, few would have the conviction to lead and most would just be mere blind followers. The manifestations are often shortlived and disappear slowly. There is no consistency to support progress. What we normally see are political opportunists who piggy-ride on the popularity of a people-based mass movement to push their political agendas. Distasteful yet all too true.

Do we blame the Bersih 2.0 organisers for opening the doors for opposition parties to join the rally? Do we blame them for thinking that by opening the doors it could bring the much-needed “mass” to the rally last Saturday? Perhaps.

You might have heard that this rally brought together Malaysians of all races, religions and backgrounds. It was absolutely true. I was there and what I saw was beyond anyone’s expectations, let alone the government’s. And I truly have reasons to believe that the people who marched had no political party affiliations. They were there on their own conscience and conviction, coming together in a single act of solidarity.

How many you might ask? I am no mathematician to gauge numbers but yes, they came flocking by the thousands, flooding the roads of Kuala Lumpur. A sight to behold indeed.

Ten years ago this phenomena was probably unheard of, especially when the government declared such rallies illegal. They were not willing to risk their careers and families as they could be caught by the authorities.

I am proud to say that Malaysians have changed their mindset today. July 9 was testament to this. As I walked down the streets of Petaling Street and the adjoining streets, I bumped into CEOs, professionals, homemakers, activists, NGO workers, young and old — Malaysians who walked because they believed their conscience. It was a choice that they made and they did not judge others who decided to stay home.

In the past week, I have indulged myself in the post-rally tales of trials and tribulations. Equally appalling and entertaining. Let us not touch on those who believed that the rally would not have taken place if Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was still the prime minister. Forgive them as they are specimens that he had created. A paradox some might say.

Then there was the sympathetic photograph of Anwar Ibrahim, who was allegedly hurt during the rally, lying in a hospital bed with an IV drip running into his arm. He is still hopeful that the people will fight his aspirations for him. You also have clueless “expat” workers who became instant members of Patriot, the counter group to Bersih.

But what irked me most are the holier-than-thou armchair critics who judged us, claiming that the rally was unIslamic and laced with Jewish influence. How Muslims are not aware of being lured into the trap set by the enemy of Islam — the kafirs, they said. I engaged this lot with trolling questions just to rile them up, making the conclusion that they were indeed Malay bigots who cloak themselves as moderate intelligentsias. To me, they are more dangerous than Perkasa or the Obedient Wives Club.

But let us put things in perspective and priority. Let it be clear that Bersih 2.0 was an exercise in democracy to demand free and fair elections (among other things). Personally, I would like to know how that is progressing. Apparently the eight-point demands taken by National Laureate Datuk A. Samad Said did not make it to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

So what is the next step? Is Bersih taking a proactive effort to start electoral reform awareness programmes? Work with existing NGOs on pushing for voter registration and education? Will there be another rally? If so, will it be again marred by political parties? Will Patriot work with Bersih as it so kindly offered to do before the rally?

Or is this just going to be another one-hit wonder that will just disappear like a Twitter-trending topic?

We, the people, are waiting.

I was there - Ron CK Sim

In pursuit of true democracy

July 9, 2011, the day a new independent nation was born. Is it the end of the struggle? No, it’s just the beginning. Many challenges lie ahead, no doubt. Nonetheless, it’s a historic milestone that all citizens of the new nation can be proud of. What nation am I talking about? The world’s newest nation, the Republic of South Sudan.

I’ve always dreamt of living in a different age, a different era. More specifically, the era when my beloved nation gained her independence from arguably the greatest empire the world has ever seen.

Standing right in front of the historic Merdeka Stadium on July 9, 2011, brought back my school memory of a photographic image in which our founding father, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, raised his right hand towards the sky, proclaiming the word “MERDEKA! MERDEKA! MERDEKA!”, each time followed by the thunderous echoes of 20,000 fellow Malaysians in the stadium. Sentimentally, I wish I lived that day.

Before I carry on “sentimentalising”, I was brought back to the harsh, present-day reality. Yes, still standing where I was, I was horrified by the scene along the hilly street leading to the main entrance to the stadium. Red FRU trucks lining the street with scores of FRU personnel (which we’ve not-very-fondly called the “red head army”) in their full gear.

I was wondering for a moment, who were their enemies of the day? The communist insurgents or the Al-Qaeda terrorists? No, their enemies were just the unarmed Malaysians from all walks of life marching for a just cause — to demand for free and fair elections! It’s living proof how much this nation of ours has descended to.

Seeing the scores of brave, unselfish and patriotic Malaysians on the locked-down streets of Kuala Lumpur was a touching moment to behold. They were undeterred by the heavy downpour that greeted them at 2pm.

Under my umbrella I was thinking, the heavy downpour must be a God-given help to the demonstrators to minimise the effects of chemical water and tear gas, reportedly fired at their fellow demonstrators at various locations downtown!

In many instances, I was moved to join in the crowd near the stadium compound, to march and scream along with them. You might be wondering, “Aren’t you one of them?” No, I was not. In fact, I was one of over a hundred “monitors” the Bar Council had called upon to volunteer for the defining event — an event the authorities had warned cannot be mentioned by name or symbolised by its colour!

Our duty was purely to monitor the situation, with a view to record any human rights violations by the police or any violence by the demonstrators, all “without fear or favour”.

Abiding by the spirit of the Bar, I was as impartial as I could ever be. Here’s briefly what I observed during the time I was in and around the stadium compound from 12.30pm to 4.30pm. I witnessed two congregations of demonstrators at two different entrances to the stadium compound, both of which were barricaded by the police using barbwires.

In contrast to other locations in the city, no tear gas or water cannons were used at all to disperse the crowd at the stadium compound — though there was once when the FRU personnel looked like they were getting ready to fire, presumably to intimidate the crowd. The crowd, though in high spirits, behaved peacefully and sensibly. There was not one occasion that I feared violence might possibly break out among the demonstrators.

To my little surprise, I thought the police at the stadium compound acted and behaved reasonably well and professionally (contrary to their counterparts elsewhere in the city I was told). At least they allowed the crowd to assemble, and to shout and gesture whatever they wanted until they started to disperse on their own at 4pm.

The police also allowed political speeches to be made by the likes of Chua Jui Meng, Husam Musa, etc and one high-ranking police officer also spoke gently and politely to National Laureate A. Samad Said. For the most part, I personally did not witness any clear violation of human rights by the police/FRU personnel but all that came to an abrupt end at 4.10pm, when they suddenly charged towards the remaining demonstrators without any warning!

By that time, the remaining demonstrators were just hanging around taking picures, and chatting among themselves. This action by the police/FRU personnel was unprovoked and utterly unnecessary, considering the majority of the crowd had already dispersed, or in the midst of dispersing.

After a while, I saw around six to eight demonstrators get arrested. But the good thing was the police did not beat up any of the arrested demonstrators, though they dragged the demonstrators in quite a high-handed manner. I must also add that all the BC monitors (and reporters/journalists) were allowed access into the stadium compound and literally had a free rein walking up and down the area. We were allowed to snap pictures without any restrictions whatsoever!

The truth is, Malaysians are a peaceful lot. They deserve to exercise their Constitutional rights to assemble peacefully and responsibly. The freedom of expression and assembly is a fundamental right of every “true” democracy. Having free and fair elections is the essence of any state that aspires to be recognised as a “truly” democratic state.

Why wouldn’t our government allow its people to exercise their Constitutional rights but instead chose to clamp down hard on innocent Malaysians? Didn’t our government realise by doing what they did in the past few weeks (well, one might say in the past three decades!), they were radically dismantling the very essence of democracy upon which our nation was founded almost 54 years ago!?

The Most Honourable Prime Minister, isn’t Malaysia a democratic state founded upon the principles of liberty and justice? Didn’t you agree with the late Tunku who proclaimed that the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu “shall be forever a sovereign, democratic and independent state founded upon the principles of liberty and justice, and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations”?

Just as July 9, 2011, is a milestone for South Sudan, July 9, 2011, is another milestone for Malaysia in pursuit of being a “true” democracy. Our next milestone? Surely it ought to be our nation’s SECOND proclamation of independence post-GE 13! And where will it be? Where else but at Stadium MERDEKA…

Najib Abdul Razak - prime minister or clown?

Are Malaysian prime ministers made from such offensive material, ridiculing an Opposition leader in such childish manner, and yet he wants us to respect him when he could not even show the same for himself. Does he belong to a 3-ring circus or PutraJaya?

More doctors slam alleged assault at Tung Shin

More doctors have banded together to slam the alleged tear gas assault at the Tung Shin and Chinese Maternity Hospitals during the massive rally last Saturday.

NONEIn a statement from the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners' Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) sent late tonight, president Dr Stephen Chow said that the sanctity of hospitals should be respected at all times including during times of disturbance and unrest.

He also voiced his support over the 11 doctors who came out publicly to slam the heavy-handedness by the authorities in their crackdown of the demonstrators.

“The federation certainly supports the action of these 11 senior doctors as they are voicing out their outrage and concern when patients' lives are put in danger.

“We are certain that all doctors, both in public and private practice would also feel the same when the sanctity of their hospitals and patients under their care are similarly affected,” said Dr Chow.

'Hospital should have been cordoned off on July 9'

But unlike the eleven doctors who condemned the police crackdown which saw authorities deliberately entering the hospital buildings - “consecrated places of refuge and protection even during war times” - the federation suggested that the hospital should not have opened their compound to the protesters in the first place.

NONE“As wisdom in hindsight, the area where the hospital is located should have been effectively cordoned off way ahead so as to prevent any spillage of the activities of the day into its compound.

“We are certain that such responsible pre-emptive measures would have the full support of all rakyat including the doctors practicing in that hospital as it would certainly have prevented the unfortunate and ugly scenes on the afternoon of July 9 at the Tung Shin Hospital,” said Dr Chow.

Pointing no blame at the gov't

In a rather diplomatic statement, the federation also pointed no blame at the government for the Saturday incident which allegedly saw water cannons and tear gas shot into the hospital compound.

bersih rally 090711 police shooting into tung shin hospital“We do understand that this is indeed also the stand of the government all along when hospitals were targeted (accidentally or otherwise) in other incidents in other parts of the world. This is indeed one of the international benchmarks of civil societies.

“What the eleven doctors were doing was to re-affirm our consistent support for this stand which is consistent with the moral stand of our government in this issue,” said Dr Chow.

The police as well as Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai had previouslydenied incidences of the dispersal methods ever deployed in the hospital compound right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur during the massive Bersih 2.0 rally, at the same time endangering the hospital patients.

This is despite the numerous photos, videos and eyewitness accounts to suggest otherwise.

But just two days after the denials, Liow announced that he has set up a high-powered ministerial committee of enquiry to investigate the matter, with the committee to be chaired by the Health Ministry secretary-general.

Marina ticks off government in its handling of Bersih

Marina Mahathir, eldest daughter of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is convinced that the government had handled last Saturday's Bersih 2.0 rally “extremely badly”.

sisters in islam anti book banning book burning campaign 190808 marina mahathir“Many leaders, both in the public and private sectors, are saying the government could have avoided the Bersih 2.0 (fallout) by not making such a big issue out of it,” Marina toldMalaysiakini in an exclusive interview.

“The government could have simply dealt with it in a different way as the issue at hand is not that controversial. If you ask anyone, 'do you want free and fair elections?', the logical answer is 'yes' - no matter what side you are on.

“The government should have said, 'we are for it too'.”

According to Marina, the government was in such an aggressive defensive mode over the Bersih movement that it made many Malaysians, including those who sat on the fence, angry.

On July 9, Marina participated in the Bersih 2.0 protest with her daughter and friends.

NONEThey started from near Jalan Pudu (Berjaya Times Square) and walked along Jalan Hang Jebat (formerly Davidson Road) in front of Stadium Negara towards the Olympics Council of Malaysia building where she encountered other friends.

“Apparently at one point, the cops had chased (the protesters) even though there was no reason to catch them and hauled them off.

“But later, we could sit and wait by the curb without anyone disturbing us. Jalan Hang Jebat and the small road that led up to Stadium Merdeka stayed pretty quiet.”

Did she tell her dad?

NONEMarina also ticked off Prime Minister Najib Razak for hispersonal attack against Bersih leader Ambiga Sreenevasan.

“People thought 'how could you stoop so low',” she continued.

“And when they started arresting people wearing yellow T-shirts and put (Sungai Siput MP) Dr (D) Jeyakumar in jail - he is such a good person and has done a lot of good service - people got more angry. It is not fair to accuse him of being a communist.

“I think a lot of ordinary people decided that this is it. This is it and this is not fair, and we are going to out there and participate in the Bersih 2.0 rally.

“There are so many accounts of the aunty types who would not ever do anything or something radical in their life or never march, and these people decided to go, even those from outside Kuala Lumpur,” added Marina, who said she was at the Bersih rally for more than three hours.

When asked if she had talked to her father about the Bersih 2.0 campaign for electoral reforms, she categorically said, “No”.


mahathir out of ijn 121007 marina“Because we are both extremely busy people and I cannot even keep up with him. On July 9, he was actually on a flight outside the country,” Marina explained.

“So I didn't tell him that I was marching. (But) we discuss all these things. He has his views, and we have respect for each other's views and that's it.”

[Source: Mkini]

An Ode To Bersih by Derek Plummer

It's an echo out through time,
from the distant beat of 2007 drums,
when the rakyat walked hand in hand,
and the call to “Bersih” first resound.

There was no colour, race nor creed,
we were all one yellow then,
free citizens in a not so free land,
seeking for elections, fair and clean.

And so July 9 came and gone,
as thousands KL streets did throng,
braving roadblocks, tear gas, water cannons,
for “Bersih 2.0" did they come.

Under deliberate crunch of batons,
the frantic crisp of broken bones,
the teary eyed multitudes,
sang loud the freedom song.

As their handcuffed hands were joined,
their yellow T-shirts stained,
their spirits stands undaunted,
brothers, sisters, Malaysians still.

I was there - Nalina Nair

If I were to tell you my experience that day from A to Z, it would take up half of your day! So, I will only tell you about the stand off we had with the authorities at Puduraya and Tung Shin Hospital.

After walking along the little lanes off Masjid Jamek, we heard the voices of hundreds of people coming from Chinatown, around noon.

Seeing all my brothers and sisters walking and chanting together just a few metres away, I found the courage to take of my jacket and Queen T-shirt to reveal the Bersih T-shirt I was also wearing.

NONEThe scene was very peaceful, people had flowers, balloons and a young lady was giving out self-made Bersih stickers.

We walked to the Jalan Pudu crossroad and stopped for a while.

There already was a big group of people there.

We waited a little more and I was amazed to see another big group of people joining us.

I was constantly texting a fellow dancer, my mother's best friend's husband and a PSM member, checking on what was happening at his end. They were all at different places.

I thought to myself, the crowd at Pudu was already big enough, but there are other crowds all over KL. Wow! The biggest rally I've attended was my first, the 2009 anti-ISA rally and the numbers were no where near this!

Right in front of us, we could see the FRU waiting, a few metres away from Tung Shin Hospital. Once everybody got together, we walked towards the Puduraya bus station.

When we got there, we stopped for a while, we chanted, we sang the Negaraku. There were people shouting "Patriot! Mereka datang!".

The Reds (I refuse to call them patriots!) were there, but we had the numbers and it made them turn back.

rally proceeds to Pudu IPK police cordonA few minutes later, we had to turn back because the FRU had come too close.

We barely walked a few metres, we were stopped again. Dang!

The police had cornered us! We were now caught in the middle, with nowhere to go.

Then came the order for us to sit down peacefully. (I found out last night, from Marina Mahathir's blog, that it was the police who had given that order, probably to make it easier for us to be victims).

We waited for the next order to be given. I thought that nothing bad would happen as the police would not dare harm us because we were clearly a peaceful group of protesters. Boy, was I extremely wrong.

Three or four times (I can't remember exactly how many times, for I was just too hyped up), they fired just enough of those gas canisters to make us run.

There was also this helicopter, which came down very low to spread the gas all over us. Strangely, after every little attack, rain would come, in drizzles.

Then came the last attack, in front of the bus station, the one that was so big that we had to run for our lives. I ran to the side, where the shops were, for cover.

The gas was too thick. Breathing became extremely difficult. I couldn't open my eyes, and my mouth right up to inside my chest was burning.

My body was defending itself, saliva started accumulating in my mouth and mucus in my nose. I didn't know what to do!

I could hear people spitting and blowing their noses, I did the same, and it helped a little. We were all suffocating at that point and I could feel my body going down.

A woman from the back shouted out to me, "Get up! Don't drop!" I then felt someone pressing on the back of my shoulders and another held me on my arm to get me going on my feet. Somebody gave me salt water and asked me to drink up.

What amazed me is that nobody could see at all, but we knew what was happening around us and everybody was helping one another. I must thank all my Malaysian brothers and sisters for that!

Rain never felt so good!

This reminded me too that I had this big responsibility to carry when I came, that I must get through with the cause for the Bersih 2.0 rally.

I wasn't only doing this for myself, for my family and my friends were counting on me! Then, I heard people shouting, "Keluar! Hujan!Hujan!" I followed the voices.

We were so thankful for the rain. Everybody took a few minutes to give thanks and say prayers for the rain. Muslims were silently saying, "Allah-u-akbar" and I also saw an Indian Christian man look up to the sky with his palms together, saying, "Thank you, all mighty Jesus. Thank you for blessing us with this rain!"

bersih rally 090711 police shooting into tung shin hospital front imagePeople were saying, "we may not be approved by the government, but we are approved by God Himself!"

Shedding tears of joy, I held my hands up to the sky and received the rain with many thanks to Mother Nature.

That feeling, I can never explain it to you. Even the police and FRU stood stunt for a while. I don't really believe in miracles, but this was definitely a miracle!

The crowd got back together and this time, we were all really angry and disappointed with the police and the FRU. They were still coming at us.

Half the crowd ran to Tung Shin Hospital, the other half tried getting into an abandoned building opposite the hospital. The police and FRU were clearly not going to stop their attack.

People inside Tung Shin Hospital shouted for us to come in to seek refuge. As fast as we could, we ran towards it!

Behind me, there were still so many of us, and it seemed like they wouldn't be able to make it before the police and FRU came to Tung Shin as well.

Gosh, that was scary. The people were clearly disgusted with the authorities, for shouts like "polis bukan manusia!", "polis anjing!" could be heard from all corners.

The police came closer, and they sprayed chemical-laced water into the the front of Tung Shin Hospital. How dare they!

We had to get away from Tung Shin, for it was getting too dangerous. If they could attack peaceful protesters seated peacefully on the streets, if they could spray chemicals at the front of a hospital, they would do worse things...

NONEI thank those brave men who stayed back to keep the gates of the hospital closed while we got out.

We could not carry move on the main road as we were sandwiched from the beginning, so we continued on the back alley.

I saw people climbing over the gates of Tung Shin Hospital, with the help of many others.

I wanted to capture that moment with my handphone camera but could not because of the overloaded text messages from mum (who was my main supporter for taking part in this rally), Bersih's facebook statuses (on what was happening in and out of the Pudu group) and friends and cousins who were keeping in touch to check on me.

We continued to Changkat Chulan area, Jalan Sultan Ismail (where the Concorde Hotel is), Bukit Nenas, KLCC (to hear the speeches from Mat Sabu and Chua Jui Meng) and lastly, being chased towards Ampang by the police and FRU, where our walk ended.

Every rally I've attended has made me more appreciative of my reasons for taking part. The Bersih 2.0 rally, on the other hand, got me thinking of my priorities as well.

I'm sure Bersih would have had the same effect on those who were there. Bersih 2.0 changed my life!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sizzling yellow reception for Najib in UK

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's visit to the United Kingdom was greeted by protesters in yellow condemning the high-handed crackdown on Bersih 2.0 rally last Saturday and demanded electoral reform.

NONEDozens of protesters, comprising both Malaysians and foreigners, gathered outside Mansion House at London an hour before Najib's arrivalfor a meeting with the London business community.

Yellow posters and banners, condemning the clampdown on Bersih 2.0 were unfurled, urging the Malaysian government to release six Parti Sosialis (PSM) activists dubbed "EO6" being held under the Emergency Ordinance which allows indefinite detention without trial.

NONEAccording to theSarawak Reportportal, Najib in a big convoy gave a cheery wave as soon as he spotted the crowd.

It said the protest went off peacefully with the policing minimal and friendly.

According to a protester, PKR youth leader Ginie Lim the police deployed a truck to block the protesters from the view of the delegates attending the meeting.

Yellow begins to reign supreme

There was another peaceful protest at Downing Street, London, where the official residence of UK Prime Minister is located. Najib was there to meet his UK counterpart, David Cameron.

Both leaders signed a memorandum of understanding on enhancing strategic cooperation to combat trans-boundary crime and international terrorism.

NONEProtesters in yellow clothes put up posters, in matching colour, that read "Shame on you, Malaysia PM, clean and fair election and free our leaders now".

Another protest will be called at the Inter Continental Hotel today in UK time 7pm where Najib is expected to attend a function.

Before the meeting with Cameron, both Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, had an audience with Queen Elizabeth II yesterday in Buckingham Palace, who coincidently wore a bright yellow dress.

Najib bowing to the Bersih colour

Queen 'Bersih' meets Najib

Najib greeting HRH Queen Elizabeth II

Strange our people in charge of protocol did not inform the UK government to ensure that the Queen does not wear any dress with that offending yellow colour. I can imagine Najib trying to contain himself the moment the Queen appears with the yellow dress. He must have said, "Oh no, not here too!!!"

I was there - May Chee Chook Ying

I am proud to be Malaysian

On Friday, after checking into the Swiss Garden Hotel at around 5pm, I sent an SMS to my good friend Kim which said: “Just checked into the Swiss Garden Hotel for my second honeymoon. Going for a picnic tomorrow at 2pm at Stadium Merdeka. Please pray for all of us gathered there, that everything will be peaceful.”

When asked whether he wanted a room with single beds or one with a king-size bed, we were requested to check into the Residence after my husband asked for the latter. Later, we took a stroll down Bukit Bintang Road and I was rather surprised at how things have changed.

I do go to Pavilion once in a while, but I’ve not strolled down the street of Bukit Bintang since my varsity days back in the early Eighties. It’s kind of sleazy now. I’ve since told my kids not to go there on their own!

After taking our dinner at the cafeteria in Lot 10, my husband and I went to Pavilion. After half an hour, we made our way back to the Residence. I was dead beat as I’d been awake since 4am, leaving Malacca at 5am for KL, my second home. Since there would be a lock-down at 12.01am on Saturday, I had to get into the city before then, hence the necessity to book a room at the Swiss Garden.

Just before I knocked off that Friday night, my husband read to me a posting on Haris Ibrahim’s blog about a 75-year-old Pak Mat who had to do what he thought was his duty despite pleas from his wife. My husband’s voice quivered and it was choked with tears even before he reached the end. I think I fell into a slumber then, but my sleep was interrupted now and then by sirens somewhere in the background.

The next morning, my daughter, who kept watch at our other home in TTDI, SMSed us to say that the Swiss Garden Hotel was among those hotels raided. She couldn’t join us because she was on standby with the Urgent Arrest Team of lawyers. I had quite a good sleep, considering that I woke up only after 8am that Saturday morning when I usually am up and about after 6am on most days.

We checked out at noon, then headed for Bukit Bintang again for our lunch. On our way to Lot 10 to use the washrooms, we saw the press and some burly Malay guys loitering around the shops opposite McDonald’s.

Most of them were sitting on the pavement outside shops that had closed for the day. That was around 1pm. We met a friend’s daughter who was there with a colleague. They were covering the event about to unfold, supposedly at Stadium Merdeka. We told her we would follow her.

However, after a second visit to the washrooms, we lost her. Three patrol cars then came and lined up across the road facing McDonald’s. A short distance away was a pick-up truck with guys on top of it. They were throwing red shirts with the word “Patriot” emblazoned across the front.

Many Malay guys then went towards them from all directions, catching those shirts and putting them on. Some stall operators also went forward to collect the red shirts. I overheard someone saying that for the red shirts, they had police escorts but for the yellow shirts, they would be rounded up. I didn’t see any patriots, just saw goons!

After hearing hostile words blaring from a loudhailer, we decided not to follow this group. We then moved forward, stepped into a side lane to continue our journey. I prayed for direction as we moved along.

We turned right and lo and behold, we saw a group walking towards us, but away from Stadium Merdeka. We crossed the road, stepped in line with them, not sure why we were heading in the opposite direction. I nudged my husband to ask someone where we were heading.

A tall, bespectacled guy said: “Don’t ask me anything. I know you want to ask me something.” That was quite funny. I wanted to laugh out loud but thought better of it.

Another two guys were ahead of us. My husband approached the taller one who said: “We are going to Dataran. The stadium was just a red herring.” I thought that made sense. We exchanged pleasantries. The tall one asked us why we were there. My guess was we looked like tourists.

I replied: “Because I’m a Christian.” Both of them then shook our hands and said: “We, too.” I wanted to add: “Because I’m Malaysian and my fellow Malaysians shouldn’t have to walk alone.”

I actually joined the “Bersih for fair and free elections” march out of a sense of guilt, especially after reading the holy book which reiterates this: “Fear is a bad adviser; it turns cowards into violent people. God comes to the rescue of the person who confronts the crowd for God’s sake. The fear of acting is an insult to God.”

To me, not to join in this march of justice would be an affront to the God I love so much. To me, to just watch as others march for the truth would make me out to be a plain empty vessel, all talk and no action. To me, to let my fellow Malaysians shoulder this alone would be sheer irresponsibility on my part. I, too, am Malaysian, I told myself, and I can do this!

So, I said to my husband: “Let’s march.” Of course, he was game. He, too, loves God just as much if not more than me. He loves his fellow Malaysians, too.

As we approached Hentian Puduraya, I saw my friend’s daughter again. She had been tear-gassed. The crowd was now going in the opposite direction, yet there was no panic. I saw a Malay boy rubbing his eyes. Both his eyes and face were inflamed. I handed him a pack of tissues. He took a piece and returned the rest. I told him to keep it. That made him smile.

Later, as calm set in, we started to move towards Hentian Puduraya again. This time, with me was a kakak from Penang. We struck up a conversation. She said: “Kita tidak boleh berundur. Dia orang tak tau kita betapa susah.” To which, my husband replied: “Saya tau, saya boleh nampak.”

Kakak is in her sixties. She walked slowly, aided by her daughter at her side. There was also a regal-looking Chinese man behind me. He limped along with a walking stick. He could easily have been 70, yet he was unaccompanied. Their courage put me to shame.

Kakak was really cute. When Dr Tan Seng Giaw came, she nudged me aside. She wanted to shake his hands. She was blind, colour- blind! I lost sight of kakak after a series of tear-gassing. I even lost my handphone, while running away from my fourth or so shot of tear gas.

It was a disaster waiting to happen. I was texting and updating my kids and my friend Kim now and then. While my husband did the shouting, I texted.

At the foot of the slope below Tung Shin Hospital was a small compound where we took a breather. Before that we were tear-gassed left and right. That was when some of us ran towards the hospital. Someone shouted to us to just run through and not stop.

I prayed like crazy. I pulled my cap down, covering my eyes as I ran, beside my husband. We decided to leave a bag of supplies back at the Residence when we read that police were checking backpacks. So, we were without towels and salt but we had water.

The pain was sharp but momentary. My husband remarked that my eyes weren’t so bad. That was when a young Malay man offered my husband some salt. I took a pinch though the pain had somewhat subsided. We saw an old Malay man beside the young man. He was rubbing his eyes with a towel. Both of them had really inflamed eyes and faces.

My husband poured water onto the old man’s towel, then gave the young man the bottle. He washed his eyes and face, then returned the bottle to me. I told him to keep it. He asked: “Auntie, bagaimana?” I told him I still have another bottle, so it was OK.

Then another tear gas attack came. We had nowhere else to run to except up the slope into the hospital. It was still raining and the slope was slippery. However, two knights in shining armour in the guise of a Malay man and an Indian were at the top of the slope to help us up.

We went into the hospital where we managed to use their washrooms. We hung around in their waiting lounge for a while and decided it was not safe to remain there, too. As we were leaving Tung Shin, we saw Irene Fernandez, seated in her wheelchair, surrounded by five youths.

We asked if she was OK, to which a girl laughingly said she was better than the rest of them. Irene was smiling throughout. Nothing was going to get her down! My husband cautioned them to move along and not be the last one to remain behind.

We watched from the balcony when someone shouted it was all right now to go down. They, as the police and the leaders of the movement, were negotiating. So down we went. At that point, we were at the junction where a lane to the left led to the Church of St Anthony.

Some young boys opted to sit down on the road while “they” negotiated. Then we were told to occupy only one lane, the one further away from the hospital. We were told the police would let us through if we did that. So, we happily obeyed and even sang the “NegaraKu”. At all times, we obeyed.

When it was calm, we were told to move slowly, which we did. When someone shouted something out of the norm, we were told not to aggravate, to which the shouting ceased. We were well-behaved, all of us were. After a good 10 minutes of waiting, I heard a young Malay man say: "Jangan-jangan kita ditipu lagi. Mereka selalu menipu!” So young and so disillusioned! I felt almost sorry for him. Where’s Perkasa now? This young Malay man surely does not believe he’s a “Tuan.” He has no faith in those purportedly fighting for his interests. He’s so lost!

To my left, another two young Malay men washed their faces, then, rolled out their mats to pray. I, too, said a little prayer, that God will protect His little ones from all evil and harm. Suddenly, we saw water gushing towards us. They were firing chemical water at us. Like the tear gas, this water was targeted directly at us. They meant to hurt. How could they?

As we ran towards St Anthony’s, I saw another two young Malay men kneeling down to pray on my right. They would not know what hit them. Poor guys! My husband told me then, when you write about this, don’t forget to say that our government betrayed us!

He was rather emotional when he said that, was rather angry, too. As for me, I felt really sad. I make it a point to remind my kids now and then, to always forgive others; to always give them more than a second chance. I believe that everyone deserves more than a second chance. I don’t know if he would throw me a punch at me if I said that, then! Guess things don’t always work that way.

At the gate of St Anthony’s, the caretaker was already unlocking the gate for us. He ushered us to the back gate to escape. On the way, we saw a grotto where we stopped to pray and asked Mother Mary to intercede for us to her Son for protection.

We had to cross over a 2ft-high brick fencing to get to the back gate to escape. I heard a loud thud. Someone had fallen. It was my beloved husband. Running away from tear gas and water cannons was a breeze for him but he had to fall as we strolled through the church.

The rest of the people there were shocked but not me. I had to stifle my urge to laugh because it was just like him to be injured over silly stunts. He jokingly wanted to shout: “Police brutality!” I had to shut him up. We were already laughing for I knew we were already safe.

How can we not be safe in the house of God? By the way, my husband’s right cheek, elbow and shin now bear some scratches due to that fall. He’s telling his friends that it was all worth it and that he would gladly go through it all over again.

It took us another three minutes to reach our hotel. In fact the whole charade happened just down the road. It was about 4pm then. We changed, logged onto the Net to see what was happening elsewhere when suddenly the police in front of the hotel dispersed.

We went across the road to get some drinks from the 168 store. They had run out of Coke. A Malay man overheard us telling each other to go to the mamak shop instead. He told us they were sold out, too.

He, then, added that business was brisk and could have been better. He disputed the government’s version of how business could have been badly affected by the gathering at the stadium. Honestly, that was how I saw it, too.

Had we been allowed to picnic on the Stadium Merdeka grounds, how can business in the city not be better? We would have to buy our stuff from the stores here, in Bukit Bintang Road. Business would have been roaring!

This was my inaugural march, it will not be my last. I wasn’t paid to go. I guess that’s why the red shirts show fizzled out. Perhaps there wasn’t enough money thrown around? Like I said, I wasn’t paid to go. I paid a lot to go. Someone paid with his life.

He, you goons in the government, is the patriot you’ll never be. You goons now stand responsible for his death. I am proud to be Malaysian because of someone like Baharuddin Ahmad. Though words cannot describe your loss, my dear Rosni Malan, your beloved husband’s death will not be in vain.

You and your family will be richly blessed for generations to come because of his selfless love for his country. He died for his country, he died for a stab at free and fair elections. Like I said, he will not die in vain. We, the rest of us, will see to that.

I am not just proud to be Malaysian. More than that, I’m truly proud of my fellow Malaysians. May God bless you all