It was only last July 2011 that the Bersih organiser summoned Malaysians who wants a fair deal to Dataran Merdeka. And barely nine months after that, they organized another one on April 28. Man… being a Malaysian citizen can be quite a task, eh?
That being said, it never crossed my mind NOT to attend. Bersih 1.0 made BN lost a few states. Bersih 2.0 showed us the true color of PDRM and the extreme measures the government will take to defend the status quo. So, I’m very curious what Bersih 3.0 can achieve.
In fact, I was contemplating whether to write about my 428 experience, since it’s going to be just another account of #BERSIHSTORIES. After reading Marcus’s account, I thought it’s a good idea to write it down so that at least I can still remember what happened 50 years later. I really hope that 50 years later, I don’t have to attend Bersih 55.0. Besides, I’d written my account for both Bersih 1.0 and Bersih 2.0. So, to continue the tradition, here goes the 3rd sequel.
Let’s start with a picture.
Basically, those are the most basic thing you need to attend a standard Bersih rally. By the time I finished ‘packing’, there were already many videos on Youtube showing Bersih participants already having a good time near Dataran Merdeka.
The next day, I woke up at around 9am, and started driving to the gathering point- Bangsar Village.
Traffic was really smooth, and there was absolutely no signs of police roadblocks. I met up with Chyo, Jeevan, and friends. We traveled into Brickfields without any difficulties at all, and when we arrived there, we are instantly greeted with a carnival-like crowd.
We joined the crowd and started marching towards Pasar Seni at around 1120hrs. As we almost reach the Old KL KTM Station, a group of policmen, at least about 50 of them started to form a line in the middle of the road, effectively closing up our only entrance into Pasar Seni. It took a while to ‘negotiate’, but we finally managed to get through the policemen-barricade and successfully get into Pasar Seni. The policemen really didn’t give much of a resistance, which is very odd if compared to the previous rally. This is too good to be true.
Anyway, we joined up with Pasar Seni crowd and took a rest while waiting for the major event to start at 2pm. Again, it was a stark contrast if compared to Bersih 2.0- in the previous rally, no one would even dare to show up on the street with their yellow shirt until it’s about time to march into Dataran Merdeka.
To past the time, I decided to check out what’s going on in Petaling Street.
The Petaling Street crowd started to gather in size and began marching their way out to the main street into Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock.
I proceeded to make my way towards Masjid Jamek via Jalan Tun Perak. And along the way, I could see that every pavement and roads is filled with people not unlike a live concert. There’s also a lot of young faces.
However, I also see some young parents carrying infants and kids around the age of 6-7 years old. I seriously worry for them, and if possible, I would suggest not to bring them to such a huge rally where the attitude of the authority is one of hostility. The PDRM is known to be merciless when it comes to dealing with weapon-less citizens as evident in the past 2 Bersih rallies, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
Even I cannot guarantee my own safety once the PDRM is unleashed and allowed to go on their rampage. Of course, I would like to believe that the PDRM are well-intentioned, but really, looking at the 5-years historical data, I wouldn’t push my luck.
Even foreign tourists took part in the march. Some of them could be seen wearing Bersih bandanas and T-shirts. And a lot of them was waving at the ‘parade’ from atop of the hotels rooftops.
After lingering in Masjid Jamek for about an hour, I decided to check out Leboh Pasar Besar entrance into Dataran Merdeka, which was of course guarded heavily by the police.
There were a huge crowd already at the bridge intersection. This area is clearly outside the Dataran Merdeka Court Order’s perimeter, but it was nevertheless barricaded.
It was about this time when I got an SMS from my wife telling me that Jalan TAR’s crowd had been bombarded with tear gas and water cannon.
As the time was almost up (we’re supposed to disperse by 1600hrs), I decided to check out the front line before making my way home.
And here was a picture taken with the help of a Bersih participant. This would be the last picture I took for the day…
Right after I snapped this photo, the bell was struck twice, and the riot police, cladded in red helmets with shields in their hand moved backwards. I then joked to the dude who took the picture for me and said, “Normally when they do that, they are about to fire tear gas.”
And right after I finished my joke, I saw the water cannon truck moving out from its stationary position and started coming towards us. We were still sitting like… yes… like sitting ducks! I quickly got up and shouted, “Lari! Lari!” And before I could run more than 10 metres, we were shot with water cannon from the back.
And all this happened very suddenly without any warnings from the police. We retreated to the river bank towards Pasar Seni, as water cannon truck and police began marching towards the crowd. All of us was shocked and angry at the sudden attack from the police. And before we can rationalize any answers, the police fired tear gas cannisters into the crowd, which made the crowd even more furious.
The tear gas forced everyone to run towards Pasar Seni via the narrow corridors, and unfortunately, I picked one of the uphill ramp that would eventually end up with a small staircase exit which is joined by 2 other ramps. There were at least 200 to 300 people stuck in the exit trying to down the staircase, but the wind was blowing the tear gas towards the crowd and before we know it, we are suffocating with tears and coughing our lungs out. Some even puked on the spot. There were kids who are stuck with me, crying their eyes out. If the police had fire another round, I was quite sure many of us would have passed out.
In the midst of the panic, I managed to retrieve the pack of salt from my pocket and started distributing them to the people around me. A middle-aged uncle who was having a hard time breathing asked me for water and I gave him my half-empty Spritzer. Miraculously, after about one minute battling the tear gas, we managed to finally escape through the staircase and out towards Pasar Seni.
Along the way, I could see Petaling Street’s crowd being chased down with tear gas. As I look at the time, it was already nearing 1600hrs, and there’s no reason to still linger in the city with a police force that has just run amok. The effect of tear gas can still be felt all the way to Pasar Seni. I decided to run back towards Brickfields and call it a day.
That’s how my 3rd Bersih rally ended, again with tear gas and water cannon. And you would have also watched all the brutality and violent attacks the police force had inflicted on the peaceful, unarmed civilians. In fact, this is nothing new. The police had never acted with the civilians’ safety in mind. The way they had shot the tear gas into the crowd, it could have easily led to fatal stampedes. I am sure they knew there were senior citizens, OKUs and children in the crowd.
I’m pretty sure after the terrorizing acts by the police in the last few moments of the rally, many Bersih participants would finally understand why this country is in need of a change. Despite all the odds against us, if we could just send the message to all our friends and families about the importance of having a free and fair election, we might just be able to change the fate of this country and her citizens.
I am not looking forward to Bersih 4.0. Really, who in their right mind wants to risk getting beaten by the police (read: gangsters in uniform), tear gassed into coma and sprayed with chemical water? But if we Malaysians don’t rise up and stand against the tyrant of the day, who would?
So what did Bersih 3.0 achieved? I believe it showed us that more and more Malaysians are going to take the future of this country into their own hands. More youngsters are on the road, and that once again, Malaysians of different ethnics and background and stand up for a single cause and move forward together.
I truly hope that the large number of turn outs on April 28 will translate into votes in favor of a better government.
See you at the polling station!
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