Sunday, April 29, 2012

My BERSIH 3.0 journey

The moment Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan announced that Bersih 3.0 was on, and it would be on April 28 2012, I decided that it was time for me to join the rally to show solidarity with fellow Malaysians in our quest for a better future for our children.  I believe strongly that our children brought up with the best of our respective cultural values should not be led by leaders who themselves are rotten to the core.  Eventually, these will rub onto our children and no way am I going to see them ending up just like them.

I missed out on Bersih 1.0 as I was away in Kuching on a business assignment and Bersih 2.0 as I was recovering from an eye operation.  But now things were different.  My weekend appointment for the day was rescheduled and I was in no doubt, in good spirits.

The day started on April 28 at 11.25 when we took a drive in our CRV to the Jaya Jusco in Taman Maluri to have our car parked there till our return.  Going along with me was my son, Nicholas and a good neighbour friend of mine, Michael.  We boarded the LRT train at Maluri heading for our destination, that was Pudu Raya. Once I got on board the train, I could see at least 70% of the people in my coach had either the Bersih T-shirt or just plain yellow T-shirt on and they were chatting excitingly of what was to take place later in the day.  As for me, I could feel the rush just thinking of the event alone.

Once we disembarked at PuduRaya, we followed the narrow passage way that led us to Jalan Pudu. When we arrived at the exit point, what I saw before my eyes in front of Menara Maybank and Kota Raya was simply unbelievable.  It was a sea of humanity with yellow "daisies" all around peppered by green "leaves" [the colour of the Himpunan group from Kuantan who sent a big contingent]. The Pakatan MP for Kuantan, YB Fauziah Salleh, was seen addressing a group of people in the middle of the road to the cheers of the supporters.

After mingling with the crowd for a while, someone passed me a yellow and a green ribbon which I quickly tied them around my neck.  My next stop was supposed to be Jalan Sultan to meet up with the DAP group, but because of the exuberance of the crowd, the three of us got carried away with the carnival atmosphere that we wondered off course to Jalan Tun Perak.  After that we turned into Jalan Silang which was totally devoid off any motor vehicles.  The three of us were like three foreign tourists walking and admiring the surrounding area.  The last time I was in this part of the city was like years ago.  How things have changed. 

Before we were further carried away, I reminded Michael and Nicholas that we needed to proceed to Jalan Sultan or Jalan Petaling to keep my appointment with the DAP group.  We then turned into Jalan Tun H S Lee, but before we could reach Petaling Street, both Michael and Nicholas suggested some photoshoots with the Petaling Street signage in the background.
The blogger (L) and Michael Poon

Just wish you were here
Just as we were getting ready to move on, suddenly there were excitement in the air, and what do you know, I got to see Auntie 'Bersih' (Anne Ooi) in the flesh who was accompanied by a group of 'body guards'.  She walked heading towards the Central Market and before I knew it, the three of us began to follow the group. 

Once we arrived at the Central Market, there was a kind of a 'traffic jam' of the human kind.  We managed to sqeeze our way forward by slithering by the side of the crowd, and there in front of us were the police who have formed a phalanx to prevent the demonstrators from getting through.

To ensure that the people did not get into any trouble with the police, the AMAL Unit (in maroon red) stood infront of the police to advise the demonstrators to keep their distance.

The three of us however managed to slither past the police and procceded onto Lebuh Pasar Besar.  By now, the heat was getting to be quite unbearable.  Although I brought along five small bottles of water, I deter myself from drinking just in case I need them when the action starts (or so I thought)..

We turned left and decided to park ourselves infront of the Bar Council Building.  The crowd by now was immense and we were almost moving with our bodies in constant contact.  I thought I would freak out as I have this thing called claustrophobia, but fortunately it did not happen.  The people located here were in high spirits.  There were students with a tent pitched right infront of the building either singing and drumming away using empty plastic bottles or playing some songs from a CD player.  As I was taking a breather when I suddenly heard the song "Blowing in the wind" by Bob Dylan.  I told myself, "Ah, this is my kind of song that should be sung during protests."  It reminded me so much of the 70s anti-establishment era when Bob Dylan's songs were riding the air waves.  Once in while, everyone would just stand up and sang 'Negara Ku'.  It felt so good to be singing the national anthem again after so many years but this time round, with all races singing together openly, unshamedly.  The other song that they sang was the "Bola" song which made me feel as though I was at a soccer match.

We could not proceed any further as up ahead at the bridge over Sungai Gombak was another phalanx of police.  Just behind them was the Straits Trading Building and then, Dataran Merdeka.  So near, yet so far.

We were at the Bar Council building for almost half an hour when we decided once again to make a move as the crowd was simply getting too thick.  We crossed the road over to Leboh Ampang where we saw a large crowd patronising a mamak shop.  We went into the shop to help ourselves to some cans of cold drinks and the price we paid for was RM3 per can!  We continued to move forward to the HSBC building and the crowd did not seem to thin off but instead became more and more clustered.

After staying with the crowd for about 15 minutes, we decided to cross the road to Jalan Tun Perak hopefully to join the DAP group at Jalan Sultan/Petaling.

As soon as we arrived at the junction of Leboh Ampang and Jalan Tun Perak, we noticed  that there were also quite a bit of activity going on.  We had balloons thrown at us from nowhere so we participated in bouncing back the balloons into the air.  

We crossed the road over to the Guardian Pharmacy and MacDonald's.  We paused for a while before deciding what to do next as we realised it was already too late for us to go to Jalan Sultan.  Next option, make our way to Masjid Jamek using the route directly infront of OCBC.  As we struggled to move forward, someone shouted "Back! Back!".  Although we did not know what was happening but the urgency in the person's voice told us, we have better do what he said.  Many people turned around to go to Leboh Ampang.  Many of those seated on the road below the LRT track flyover were unaware of the going-ons. 

Jalan Tun Perak [notice Guardian Pharmacy and MacDonald's on the right]
As soon as we arrived at Leboh Ampang at the corner of Guardian Pharmacy, we turned left and then turned right again into a narrow lane.  We came out from the lane and entered another narrow lane.  As we emerged from the second lane, we were right infront of Menara Maybank.  We stood there for a while to get our bearing.  The next thing we knew was a river of people flowing towards Dataran Merdeka along Jalan Tun Perak.  

We did not think very much of it and figured that since the whole rally was carried out without any untoward incident and since there was another hour more to go before the whole event comes to a close, we then decided to head back to PuduRaya to board the LRT train for our return journey to Maluri before we were caught up with the huge crowd at the end of the rally.

It was then during the journey that I started receiving SMSes from friends who were at the rally that they were hit by tear gas and everyone was running helter skelter.  I started to fear the worse and began calling them back to find out whether they were alright.  I could not reach anyone of them as the signal was bad.  However, I started receiving text messages a few minutes later informing me that they were okay.  Although they had the misfortune of being stung by the gas, they managed to get out of the place none the worse. In my mind, this was something foreboding as such actions by the police would lead to more trouble.  The moment I arrived home, I started visiting all the news portals for the latest and true enough, the worse was about the ramming of the police patrol car into a crowd at Sogo which later resulted in one of the two injured persons succumbing to his injuries.

As much as I abhor violence of any nature and not knowing the full extent of what took place between the police and the demonstrators, I felt it would be more prudent to catch up with the news the next day when the full fact would be known.  I then retired for the night, exhaustingly happy that I was 'THERE' with my Malaysian compatriots to bring about a better Malaysia.

Will I go again if there is a BERSIH 4.0?  Why not if it helps to clean up the mess caused by the present government and who appear to be oblivious of their shortcomings.  Fifty years of governing the country have made them complacent and arrogant, and it is time a new group with new ideas take over the rein.

[Acknowledgement: Videos and photos courtesy of Nicholas Ong.]

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