BERSIH2.0 Rally–Malaysians can no longer be cowed and trampled upon

July 11, 2011

BERSIH2.0 Rally–Malaysians can no longer be cowed and trampled upon

by Lee Min Keong@

COMMENT: Despite weeks of threats and intimidation over the Bersih 2.0 rally and a massive operation to lock down Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, my wife and I joined tens of thousands of Malaysians from all walks of life to give the government a simple message – give us free and fair elections, true democracy and a better future for our children.

Walking down traffic-free downtown Kuala Lumpur near Petaling Street at about noon, I see people representing a cross-section of Malaysian society congregating, patiently waiting for the Bersih rally to start.

I bumped into several friends along the way – a CEO of a trading company, a senior insurance agency manager and the head of a company secretarial services firm. They told me it was the first time they were joining any form of public protest or demonstration.

I wondered why they, like me, were willing to temporarily leave the comfort of our upper middle-class existence and participate in an event which has been declared illegal by the government.

To risk getting caught up in the crossfire of tear-gas launchers, water cannons, baton charges by the FRU and the indignity of arrest in public was something quite unthinkable not too long ago.

However, they all expressed the same sentiments – dismay and disbelief at the government’s irrational and heavy-handed response against a coalition with a perfectly noble objective. Isn’t having free and fair elections the legitimate right of the people?

Are we now living in a dictatorship that we no longer have the right to wear T-shirts, shoes and drive cars of a particular colour? they asked. In short, they were now willing to take the risk, and perhaps pay a price, to reclaim the rights of Malaysians which have been steadily eroded over the years.

One key lesson from the BERSIH 2.0 rally is that many Malaysians are no longer afraid and cowed by an authoritarian government.

I can see that when young adults, college students, professionals, housewives and even retirees of all races are willing to stand up to police strong-arm tactics, choking clouds of tear gas, bursts of chemically-laced water, and even arrest.

Close to 1,700 people were arrested, according to police. It must be a new Malaysian record for Prime Minister Najib Razak. Even during the dark days of Operation Lalang under Dr Mahathir Mohamad, only about a couple hundred people were detained.

It’s BN’s turn to fear

Thomas Jefferson, one of the drafters of the US Declaration of Independence, said: “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

For the BN government, that must be an extremely troubling realisation. When ordinary Malaysians are liberated from their fear of a government which unleashes the full force of state power to stamp out legitimate cries for true democracy, then it is the BN’s turn to fear.

How else do you explain the paranoia of the PM, his ministers and police and their demonisation of BERSIH 2.0 and its supporters in the run-up to the rally?

Perhaps the BN government knows this is the beginning of the end for them. That may well explain why government leaders are terrified of a people’s movement demanding clean and fair elections. They probably know that if elections are held on a level-playing field without manipulation and fraud, they will be swept out of Putrajaya by a tidal wave.

The second key lesson of July 9 is that the race-baiting by PERKASA and its ilk, and incendiary reporting by Utusan Malaysia, appears to have fallen on deaf ears, at least for the people in the Klang Valley.

On the streets of KL’s Chinatown, I saw Malays, Chinese, Indians and East Malaysians mingling, walking side-by-side, peacefully and united in their quest for a better Malaysia – a more democratic, equitable and harmonious nation.

Seeing that gave me a renewed sense of belief that there is indeed hope for our beloved country. The BERSIH movement appears to be gathering momentum, and has already achieved something more monumental than Najib’s hollow 1Malaysia slogan ever will.

Lee Min Keong is a veteran writer and editor who has eschewed working for the Malaysian mainstream media.

26 thoughts on “BERSIH2.0 Rally–Malaysians can no longer be cowed and trampled upon

  1. we went there willingly . we stood we knew we be attacked intimidated along the streets…police were eyeing us as criminals…it was a long walk…we witness police brutality at kl sentral……and the attack on us. we are proud, we were there..years to come we can say to our children, grand children we were there! enough is enough!

  2. Najib started with a bang in 2009 with his 1Malaysia, then his New Economic Model and Economic Transformation Programme and when PERKASA and his party applied pressure to preserve Ketuanan Melayu and Malay crony capitalism (Ali-Baba), he wavered and lost focus. He is now being considered to be worse than Badawi.

    His handling of the recent BERSIH2.0 Walk for Democracy raises questions about the quality of his leadership. It is quite clear that he is not in full control of his administration and his party. He is losing a lot of support from the Malaysian people after making promises after promises.

  3. I found this on my friend’s facebook page, “better improve the current gov, than change a new one which we dont know what its might happen to the country”.

    No wonder we are so screwed.

  4. Najib did in one day what the opposition has been trying to do for decades. For the second time Najib unites all Malaysians. He unites Malaysians against himself. For one day they forget they are Chinese, Indians and Malays. That is no small feat.

    It is a moment in time frozen and seared into our memories, never to be forgotten, to be repeated by as many times as there are Malaysians who yearn to be free, as the defining moment. Malaysians abroad, in self-exile either by choice or by force of circumstances finally have a reason to hold their heads up high. Proud to call themselves Malaysians.

  5. BERSIH 2.0 – Was it worth it?
    by Abdul Haleem on Monday, July 11, 2011 at 8:34am

    Was it worth it?

    It has been twelve days since I have seen my wife, my son (who has just turned three) and my one month old daughter, sweet little Lana girl. If I don’t go down to see them this weekend, I will not see them for at least another week. Three days ago my wife and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary, whilst we were apart. I had a choice to go back to Penang and be with them for the weekend, but instead, I chose to go down to Kuala Lumpur to support Bersih 2.0.

    I arrived in KLIA at about 10:30 in the morning. The airport looks eerily deserted. As I traveled light, I literally ran to get an ERL ticket and jumped onto the train. As my excitement grew, I looked around to see KL appear as a ghost town. Even on Hari Raya holidays, you’ll see more cars in Sg Besi Highway compared to this particular Saturday.

    Walking out from KL Sentral, I was shocked to see a huge presence of FRU units and police. I assumed this is to ‘manage possible demonstrates who might alight in KL Sentral and walk towards Masjid Negara.’ I proceed to my hotel which is just across from KL Sentral. Coming out from the elevator I was greeted by two cops who are stationed there. I told them I am here to check in and they let me pass. I did notice more polis in the lobby but I was still naïvely thinking that they were only there for general safety. I checked in, went to my room and changed into something more comfortable, (not the official t-shirt though) and walked back to KL Sentral. I was surprised when I was still managed to get a ticket to Masjid Jamek.

    As soon as I alight in Masjid Jamek LRT station – I could feel the atmosphere. The party is definitely ON. I remember thinking to myself that being alone may not help at all. Thus, I seek a group to join. Within 5 minutes, I noticed a crowd of about 30 people gathering at the junction of Amanah Rakyat Building. As I join them the leader starts to give a speech. A journalist told me it is Dr.Hatta Ramli from PAS who is giving the speech and he will lead this group to Stadium Merdeka.

    We manage to walk to Menara Maybank without any trouble. By now the group size grew to hundreds, as we are now joined by other political figures such as Tony Pua from DAP.

    Suddenly, without any warning, teargas and chemical laced water were shot and sprayed towards us. The effects were immediate and were more than I could bear. As this is my first face off with such hostility, like many hundreds around me, we ran to seek shelter. We climbed the stalled escalator towards the main entrance of Menara Maybank and worn out and almost defeated, we crumbled to the floor for a decent breath. The teargas effects were agonizing and thanks to the expertise of FRU chemical unit, the chemicals were burning my skin. There were number of Makciks hand in hand with their teenage daughters. Although people were outraged, we remained civil and this was when I learned my first two lessons of the day.

    Despite the anger, frustration and pain, all of us were civil. Very civil. I instinctively knew that it wasn’t a good time to break and thrash everything that was in front of us. Although vandalism is part of mass rallies everywhere else, it wasn’t here. Not one person vandalized anything.

    True unity is in action. People genuinely care for each other regardless of ethnic, religious or status differences. Everyone was ONE. Malaysians. With all due respect Mr.Najib – this is 1Malaysia with substance. Not the kind of crowd with free 1Malaysia tshirts waving the Malaysian flag whilst thinking of the free food which will be provided later.

    Was it worth it to join the rally? Definitely, I have no doubt in my mind. I felt a sense of solidarity with all those around me, in a way which is almost unexplainable.

    After 30 minutes of a break and recharging myself with a can of Redbull, I seek to rejoin the masses. I found a huge group just in front of our newly renovated Pudu Bus Terminal. By then, the marchers had already experienced rounds of tear gas and trigger happy water cannons. I watched in shock, as water ran down the street like a flash flood. Somehow, I manage to sneak into the crowd.

    Someone told me how MP Sivarasa was negotiating with the polis and whilst he was negotiating, I had the pleasure of experiencing something, I will never forget for the rest of my life. Despite the drizzling rain, the uncertainties and the risk of being fired by another round of teargas, the crowd spontaneously starts to sing Negaraku. It was such an awesome moment in my life, that I had goosebumps.

    Later MP Sivarasa informed us that the police were allowing us to march on one side of the road towards Jalan Sultan. Deep down inside, I was like ‘yeah right’. Less than 10 minutes later, he and couple of other negotiators were whisked away by the polis (they were later arrested) and all hell broke loose. Rounds of tear gas and sprays from the water cannon, force the majority of the group into the Tung Shin hospital compound. I initially thought that it was a safe bet to be in a hospital compound. Boy oh boy, it was a perfect trap for us. Yes, they did shoot tear gas inside the parking compound of the hospital.

    Being cornered with nowhere to run, not less than 30 guys and girls were arrested, including me. I was handcuffed using some sort of cable tie (which I use wildly in my job), but the only difference being, this one is much larger. The cop who drags me from Tung Shin Hospital compound all the way to Menara Maybank was very civil, but not the FRU personnels, who were standing along the street. At least five of them make nasty remarks about my disability. I was grouped with not less than 50 other detainees in Menara Maybank waiting for the famous Black Maria. At this moment, I learned my next two lessons whilst waiting for the Black Maria.

    I first met the now most famous Bersih 2.0 figure, ‘Aunty Bersih’, whilst the crowd were singing Negaraku. She sang along. Despite her fragile state and clearly suffering from earlier teargas effects, she holds on to the flowers. Determined and courageous, just like Ambiga. This aunty came around to the staging area where we have been held up and with full respect, she bows in front us – the official detainees. It was so touching. I learned that this is a fight for everyone. This is a fight for the future of our kids. The fight to save this beautiful nation.

    Not less than 5 good Samaritans came around and passed us fresh bottled waters. They bought it and brought it to us. For some of them whose hands had been tied at their back, they even hold up the bottle whilst they took a sip. Who are they, politicians? Nope. Suhakam? Nope. Just another MALAYSIAN. I learned that this is who we are. What we are. Utusan, Ibrahim Ali and their fellow goons surely have no idea what is like to be on the ground.

    Was it worth it to join the rally?

    After being help up for almost an hour, we were taken to Pulaupol. Man, the place has been setup for a carnival. A number of makeshift tents, mobile lavatories, temporary surau’s and being Malaysians, buffets included. This is surely a good PR job by PDRM. My estimation is not less than 500 detainees in there at this time. It was tough and as this is my first time being detained, I was calm, as I knew that being tense will not help anything at all. Our MYKAD’s has been taken away. We were allowed to use the lavatory and Surau’s but not allowed to use the mobile phone. Despite this, I continued to text my brother and other friends. I was informed that the lawyers were not allowed into the Pulaupol compound. Within an hour, all the formalities were done. No statement was taken.

    The chaos really began when the cops started a roll call to return us to the MYKAD. Imagine a guy with loud speaker calling out name after name. Somehow, this is a blessing in disguise. During this roll call, every time a non Malay name comes up – the crowd cheers for him loudly, followed by a big round of applause. At about 8 pm, my name was called and I hitched a ride on PDRM buses which ferries the released ‘detainess’ back to KL Sentral. I got off just outside the main entrance of Pulaupol and joined my brother and his colleagues.

    A few minutes later – something unexpected happened. Harris Ibrahim was walking out calmly from the crowd at the main entrance of Pulaupol. I can’t help myself but call out his name loudly, I went up to him and embrace him. I did see the kind of joy in his eyes knowing all his efforts had paid off and I am sure he could see in my eyes the kind of satisfaction I had, because I had joined this rally.

    Was it worth it? – Do you need to ask me again? – What’s next my fellow brothers and sisters?

  6. Abdul Haleem,
    You inspired me, Your story took away my fear. Next time, I shall be more brave, even to be arrested. Last Saturday, I ran for my life. I was so scared, my son and I. The brave Malay men get all my respect, but the aunty of the day will be the thorn to Najib’s side until his downfall soon.

  7. I think Somebody or mcmc or umno it boys are interfering with my sending of my analysis of Police Mishandling of the Peaceful Demonstration

  8. Salam sdr din,

    where are the protestors on sunday or today or tomorrow?

    a real revolution will have the rakyat marching on until the ‘tyrant’ steps down like egypt;they do not have to be lead by any political groups they do not have to be paid.

    what we saw on saturday is a political rally,nothing more nothing less! as far as the rakyat is concerned,life goes on!

    Bersih2.0 is not about overthrowing the government; it is about electoral reform to ensure free and fair election. People want their right to elect their government democratically. A government falls when voters reject it.

    Yes, life goes on, but the effect of Bersih2.0 Walk for Democracy is transformational: people are no longer afraid of water cannons, tear gas and truncheons. The element of Fear died yesterday when tens of thousands (some say 50,000 or more) of Malaysians walked together in common purpose.

    Those friends who were there on July 9 told me that they were part of history. We are not Egypt, Tunisia, or Yemen or Libya. We are peace loving people who want a better Malaysia, free of crippling corruption and abuse of power. To activists, July 9 signifies the beginning and the end of UMNO’s political hegemomy. Najib could, they say, be the last of UMNO’s Prime Minister (as in the word, R.A.H.M.A.N)–Din Merican

  9. kassim,
    If there were so, how come the leaders in UMNO are so obviously panicking? Making one ridiculous statement after another. Trust me, more rallies will come. Until this greedy corrupted regime comes to an end.

  10. When a govt begins to harass and hurt its own citizens, then that shall be the beginning of the end of that govt!

    As for the group who were with me chased by the FRU down Jln P Ramlee and cornered but managed to escape towards KLCC, bravo! We knew instinctively then that the cops did not want to allow us to surrender even though many of us have raised our hands signalling so – they were herding us towards Jln Bukit Bintang – where the Patriots were! The cops were setting us up for a head-on with the Patriots! Why?
    Patriots? Sentinel, I thought most of them came from Bangladesh led by Khairy Jamaluddin and Reezal Merican. I don’t if members of the famous Mamak Gang were there too.–Din Merican

  11. It is high time that Malaysians start petitioning for a clean and fair Police Force that is not subject to the whims of the Crooks from Putrajaya. The Royal Malaysian Police is a National Disgrace.

  12. dear barry
    please bring on more rallies,even soros have it’s limts on funds!

    change must come from the people
    the people of kelantan rejected bn for 21yrs and no demos,no marches….just common sense and a strong believe in democracy.

    what would happened if the bn people would do demos in the pakatan state?when will demos ever end then?

    look at the red shirts and the yellow shirts in thailand
    when the red shirts rule,the yellow shirts marches and when the yellow shirts rule the red shirts marches
    how many govt have they changed over the last 10yrs?
    in the meantime,the economy suffers and no one gains

    is this the scenario we want for malaysia?

    patience is required and political maturity is a prerequsite to a successful democracy

    but never,never by the street-marching method of changing govts

  13. What’s wrong with staying home Jeff? Home is where your heart is. Take that opportunity to “bersih” your house.

  14. But Kassim nobody wants to topple the government last Saturday. Nobody is that dumb. People are just asking for a more transparent and fairer election. How can we have political maturity when there are people like you who couldn’t read and comprehend the demands made by a group? Also you conveniently left out one recipe for a successful democracy, fairer elections. By accident?

  15. Yes, u’r right, eiz. Apologies, the 100 Bersih medics who were supposed to be within the kelompok2, were being ‘entertained’ elsewhere. Sometimes the rally marshals and amal guards didn’t look back for stragglers. Many were trampled as tear gas causes panic. One tourist from UAE, in Petaling Street was injured by elbows and knees. When i attended to him he asked wryly: “Wow! The camels have stampeded..?” He was there to buy a pair of shoes and quite a joker.

    You guys get a better overall picture watching the vids. But on the ground, it’s a sweaty, bruising, thirsty and dirty business. But that’s where all the Fun is..

    And barry don’t be a hero. Services always welcome, but not if u’r dead. Some of the goons didn’t even know how to put on the plastic cuffs, much less take them off. Always carry a cheap-lak (made in China) Swiss army tool along or even a manicure scissors, besides your towel, water and salt.

  16. “..what would happened if the bn people would do demos in the pakatan state?” Kassim

    Huh? You haven’t been to Penang, the pearl of the Orient. But i really hope that u’r a regular patron of artery clogging nasi kandar.
    What a bird-brain!

    The Scenario we want for Malaysia is something you are incapable of dreaming about in your wildest wet-dreams, with Rukun Negara as a rallying call!

  17. C.L,

    Yeah now that you’ve mentioned it, it reminded me of those protestors in Penang who brought coffins to be sent to the CM. Not to mention Ezam causing traffic jam on the Penang Bridge. Didn’t see tear gas being sprayed on him. You are right about Kassim, he’s a katak bawah tempurung.

  18. Jeff the …, who says we won anything?
    Truth is truth however way we wanna wear the hat. Denial of what is right and legitimate is the antithesis of enlightened governance,
    Don’t blame us if you were too chicken-lily livered, even though you eschew the color yellow, to get out of that hell-hole you call ‘home’.

    Yeah didi, that One’s a goner.. The main coronary artery’s almost gone and there’s 75% blockage in the carotids that supply the brain.

  19. C.L. Familiaris,
    Far from it that I should be counted as a hero, I am not that brave a man. I do, however, feel strongly enough not to be cowered into hiding behind the keyboard and not showing up to tell this repressive regime that we are no longer afraid.

  20. Never take the tone of wanting heroics, is all i meant, barry.
    Everybody panics as the tear gas is meant precisely to do that. The fear is actually worse than the pain. Bravery and courage is not about heroics. To me and others who cowardly slinked in for a an “Illegal” Cause is enough. No one who was there will dare call you a coward. Running away from the water cannons and gas is called a “Tactical Retreat”. Just follow the marshals and the amal leaders instructions. Move as One to and fro.

    Here’s to you, Dato/Datin and others, from a brother:

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