by Annette Arulrajah on Sunday, 10 July 2011 at 23:27
After a great internal debate TO GO or NOT TO GO, I decided to go for Bersih. I decided, no one will know what is in my heart unless my presence speaks it. I support the 8 calls of reform that Bersih has put forward. At this point in my life, the decay has gone on long enough for me to speak out. And I still can take a bit of beating if need be, so I went.
I thank God for many who did not go but prayed for us. Cos, honestly I was SCARED! I counted the cost carefully. If I was arrested, a) I would not get to see my mom and I have been seeing her as regularly as I can, since she is so old oredi. b) My loved ones may not understand why I needed to do this. c) My uncertainty of what will happen if imprisoned had lots of negative possibilities running in my mind.
Peter (another) FES colleague and I went in by 8.30am first to KL Sentral and when we saw people being interogated there, we took the train to Pasar Seni. We were watched. I had on a blue t-shirt with a BIG YELLOW SMILEY on it! 🙂
Already a tourist came up to me and said, she wanted to go into town. How to get there. I said it was not a good day to go into town! She said, she knew that but wanted to go. So I told her if she waited long enough, there would be people gathering at the KL Sentral station where we were then, and she could follow them. I said, I was going there later. She said, she knew I was the right person to ask. She scared me. If a tourist could spot me, surely the police could. So Pasar Seni was a good getaway! 🙂
Colin Pal was really indeed a real pal, and took us into his team of walkers. This was because the rest of the FES colleagues were only coming after Li Moi (another colleague’s) wedding. But miraculously they managed to find us, even after the march had started!!
Let no one fool you. There were at least 50,000 PROTESTORS altogether. We were there! And it was touching to see how orderly we were. People marched from all corners, but when we converged, it was as if we had rehearsed it all. I felt tears prick my eyes, when the first group of marchers came towards us I think from Masjid Jamek. Then we merged and walked down Petaling Street towards Jalan Hang Jebat.
Halfway through that march, I found TEARS STREAMING DOWN MY FACE. I was thinking, how sad it is, that we Malaysian, this big family had to come out in this way. If our country had not been so ‘raped’ and corrupted we would not need to make this statement.
Our marches STOPPED at least 10 feet away from the police blocks. After chanting BERSIH, BERSIH (and off course some who went on to add their own groups chants) and HIDUP RAKYAT, we would turn back and try to make another way. We ended up at Menara Maybank, and waited for another 2 join us. Prior to this, already another 2 groups had joined us! Therefore the newspapers saying there were only 6,000 people is utter rubbish, or maybe got teargas in their eyes also.
Harming no one, but just chanting, we were HIT! TEAR GAS, at least 3 or 4 at a time. Wow! It STILL HAUNTS ME. We ran for cover, still trying to keep together with our FES colleagues. Ran into Puduraya former bus platforms. Jumped down slopes to get there. Couldn’t breathe. Not a single air could go in. I quickly pulled out my asthma inhaler and pumped a few times. Then slowly I could breathe. The eyes, no hopelah. SO BURNING LAH. But we helped each other and regrouped outside Pudu Raya.
Then we sang NEGARA KU, and tried to march but the blockades were too strong. Second TEAR GAS. But the wind blew it back to the FRU. Not many of us kena this one. Then we sat on the floor to show, we were coming in peace. That was when they threw the third TEAR GAS. This was worse!!!!! We hid our faces by facing the walls of some shops. But later had to run anyway, as our group were exposed to the police. They closed in and followed us, with the water tank. That was ACIDIC WATER, so painful to the skin and eyes too. Then came the CHASING WITH THE BATONS.
SCARY WOH! But PEOPLE’S SPIRIT kept us going. The much talked about AUNTY ANNE truly inspired me. She freely walked in her yellow t-shirt from as early as 11am, when everyone else was hiding their yellow stuff. She waved at us. The whole cafe, LAI FONG clapped for her, GIVING OURSELVES AWAY that we were Bersih supporters. I was also inspired to see JO KUKATHAS (the one who acted in Yasmin Ahmad’s short shows); many church members; many races all in one accord.
People SHARED towels, salt, water. People gave away their extra t-shirst to those who were sprayed with acid water. People encouraged each other. People were in ONE SPIRIT. Truly there was this feeling that we had already build a BRIDGE ~ JAMBATAN ANAK MALAYSIA, and were walking on it towards each other. Malays, Chinese, Indians, Foreigners. We CARRIED each other by looking out for each other.
The 2 times, young men asked me, “Aunty are you okay?; Aunty you go first” when we were being chased by police, I WAS SO SO TOUCHED. The second young man was using himself as a shield for me.
People asked, so what did you achieve? You did not get to give your memorandum to the Agong, what? You did not make it to the stadium what.
REMEMBER THE ORIGINAL PURPOSE? We did not want to go into the stadium. We wanted to walk for CLEAN elections and for true DEMOCRACY. Did we achieve anything? Yes, at least 3 things :
a) We made a STATEMENT, that we do not condone corruption.
b) We BUILT BRIDGES across races.
c) We DREAMT and are STILL DREAMING of a better tomorrow for Malaysia.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN? Most likely. But…. I am still TERRIFIED OF TEAR GAS! I really thought I was going to die then. But then, because of all those who prayed, we made it!
But, I know and you know, that ONLY BECOS…. ONLY BECOS of OUR GOD (of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and of Moses too, HIS HAND WAS UPON US and saved us from evil. Evil was prowling around. It could have come from among us at Bersih. It could have come from those in authority. It could have come from opposing groups. He hears our cries and will act when it is HIS TIME!
But PRAISE BE TO GOD for HIS HAND UPON ALL!