My Bersih experience

Written and compiled by Chrisanne Chin (CCM Youth Moderator)

Bersih and Biblical Advocacy. Bersih has special significance for me. It was in 2007 when I had my first encounter with biblical advocacy and justice issues. Thanks to Bersih1.0, this led to CCM Youth’s inaugural participation in the rally. The impact was immediate. Within four months, this culminated into one of the greatest “tsunamis” in Malaysian history in the 2008 March elections. That “experiment” led me to realise the vacuum in biblical advocacy, and the need to look into justice issues more deliberately.

Figure 1 Elaine Teh, our media and social justice coordinator, endorses our support for Bersih 2.0

Bersih 2.0 Endorsed. In 2010, CCM Youth became one of the many NGOs that officially endorsed Bersih2.0, also known as the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections. When Bersih2.0 decided to hold the rally, we made a commitment to stand in solidarity with them. My excitement was tinged with a deep sadness, as I watched the government machinery, media and the political rhetoric spiral out of control, demonizing everything good that Bersih2.0 stood for. I despaired at the amount of hate, lies and unfair statements made against the Coalition.

Figure 2 Bersih2.0 peaceful marchers on 9 July 2011

Entering the Matrix. The planning was “interesting”! Text messages and emails to each other were laced with code words from watching too much of Matrix! At the back of my mind, I knew that the group coming would be larger than the first, but I was most concerned for the safety and welfare of the young people who came and joined us from many churches – even independent churches came as well.
Planning included what would go into our bag packs, which we called “The Red Pill”. Each one contained lemons, onions, salt, wet towel, medication – neatly packed in Ziploc bags – with raincoat, bottled water, and identity cards, just to protect us from the tear gas and the water cannons and to prepared for the possibility of arrests! Each of us had a small first aid kit to bless others in case they got wounded from cuts. One brought an inhaler for others to use. The team very reluctantly left their favourite yellow BERSIH
T-shirts behind.

Figure 3 Derek sunbathing in the middle of Federal Highway!

Resting in Prayer. We spent the night together in prayer, praying especially that God would intervene and send rain to wash away the effects of the tear gas and water cannons. The memories of Bersih1.0 were still fresh as I remembered God’s faithfulness and care then too. God gave us a word to rest in Him, and not to be anxious. We even had time to catch a movie together – Transformers! By morning, we spent the time together again in prayer, praise and worship, as in 2
Chronicles 20. The teams were reminded again to go forward in praise and thanksgiving, praying for the nation as we walked towards the city. Very soon, our ears and eyes were peeled to the internet, as news began flowing in from as early as 10am that tear gas had already been fired on people gathering. Text messages and updates were flowing in thick
and fast. The air was thick with anticipation.

Figure 4 Helicopters overhead as marchers got together

The Long Walk. By 12.30pm, we walked out – kept our eyes on the 2pm rendezvous time to reach Stadium Merdeka, but otherwise, the possibility of being redirected to the Istana was also on the back of our minds. A total of nineteen of us were part of this motley crew. Safeguards were put in place, we prayed together once more, and we broke up into 4 teams walking separately. We had “Morpheus” to coordinate and alert us on danger points. I decided to take the last team so that I would be able to monitor those in front. As for me, I decided to take with me only my identity card and my mobile phone. Like David – too much armour had become a burden!
We split our group into pairs as we saw more helicopters overhead, with policemen and Special Branch officers in plain clothes almost every 500 metres. I teamed up with Timothy Ho, from Klang Presbyterian Church member, who also works for Hannah Yeoh. The teams had crossed safely into the city via Kampung Attap route and Brickfields, leaving only both of us to make our way, but we were warned of the police truck ahead of us. As we walked past the Black Maria police truck, one policeman stopped us from entering the city. He explained to us that things were heating up, and it was too
dangerous to enter.

Figure 5 Tim and me in the Black Maria!

The Arrest. When both Tim and I asked again to be allowed to go in, the policeman’s eyes suddenly spotted Tim’s buttoned-up collared shirt. Suspicion aroused, he demanded that Tim unbuttoned his shirt. To my surprise, Tim had indeed hidden his yellow Bersih T-shirt inside! The policeman was totally angered, and scolded both of us – Kek tak nak makan, nak makan ubi kayu pulak You would forgo your cakes, and prefer to chew tapioca? – meaning that we were both foolish enough to give up our comfortable lives for time in prison!) At this juncture, both our identity cards were surrendered, and Tim and I were immediately detained and asked to enter the Black Maria. It was about 1.45pm then.

God’s Providence. The moment we climbed up into the Black Maria, it began to rain. We rejoiced in God’s timing as He kept us dry in the nick of time. Not only that, we had “front row seats” to what happened immediately after. FRU trucks, police cars and trucks started to stream in rapidly as the people marched in from Brickfields, and flowed in also from town. FRU officers came running with their batons and shields, tear gas being fired rapidly into the crowd coming in. I felt the tear gas in my throat and in eyes, but it was only a very light discomfort as the torrential rain that followed came just in time to wash all the effects away. I was praising God the faithful One! I got busy tweeting and making phone calls. Just as the rain stopped and trickled to a drizzle, Tim and I were asked to leave the Black Maria and both of us were escorted up to the very front gates of the Istana Negara – my prayer came true even under stranger circumstances. I WAS AT “MAINFRAME”! Tim and I were subsequently separated – Tim was told that he was under arrest and would be sent to Jinjang, and me to Pulapol. To be honest, I was afraid as I would then be separated from Tim, and all alone. But I remembered that God was with me. I was taken in a saloon car, and well treated. But the police officer warned me that my phone would be confiscated the moment I arrived at Pulapol.

Tweeting under detention. Pulapol looked like a labyrinth. By the time I got to the detention centre, I was totally overwhelmed by the sea of humanity – what looked like thousands of people sitting under huge marquees. Everyone entering the huge complex was handcuffed, except me. I wondered as to how the police were to work through taking the statements from the thousand people there! It was paperwork headache of mass proportions! I realised how God had granted me great favour. Even my “blackberry” was safe by my side! So I decided to tweet while doing my utmost to conserve as much of battery power as possible, and keep everyone informed. However, I was quite cautious as I had a policewoman by my side. By the time I had given my statement at least three times to three very disinterested, but smiling policemen, I took my place together with the hundred-odd women – all in their “tudungs”. I was the only Chinese woman then. They didn’t ask me to sign anything either. asked God why He brought me here. In that quiet moment of calm and solitude in the midst of noisy chatter, I was reminded what I prayed before we left. I prayed that we would protect, than be protected; to bless, than to be blessed; to reconcile, than be reconciled; to heal, than be healed. I prayed – blessed the police, blessed the detainees, and prayed that they may know true transformation in their hearts. The police at Pulapol were exemplary, kind and thoughtful. Sitting there with nothing to do, we started to pick small conversations that always started with “Hello, how did you get detained?” Some stories were awe inspiring, some were funny, and some were just plain bystanders – wrong place at the wrong time. A few were hauled up just because they were found to have salt in their bags!

Figure 6 New found friends – awe inspiring people – Zulie – far left – who leads an Islamic NGO, and Mak Yah on far right – 65 years old and continues to march alongside anything that’s for justice and Bersih!

I met tough yet articulate women from all walks of life – some from right here in the Klang Valley, from Trengganu, from Johor and even from far- off Langkawi. There was a great air of unity – the laughter, the anger, the pain of watching all this unfold. One lady lamented, “Ini bukan cara layan rakyat.” (Meaning “This is not the way to treat your citizens.”) There were schoolgirls as young as seventeen, and charming old ladies as old as sixty- five. We had a laugh, and joked about our next rally! No doubt we were tired and drained but we hung on together, encouraging each other. Friendships were struck. “Tak menyesal,” was the word – no regrets! Such commitment!

It was humid after the rain. As truckloads of cuffed demonstrators continued to stream in, one on a stretcher, some ladies just whispered, “Kesian”. By 6pm, the police arranged for food for the detainees.

Figure 7 Dinner at Pulapol – but I didn’t eat as I wasn’t hungry.

I didn’t feel hungry – but smiled to myself as I was reminded of the joke we
passed to each other about eating “curried rice’, i.e. being imprisoned. The IGP paid a visit, and I watched his thoughtful look at the mass of human beings in front of him. I was told that lawyers were not allowed entry into Pulapol; huge throngs were outside, including family, friends and lawyers. Several members of Suhakam were given permission to interview the detainees. My new found crazy friend Rosnani was given an inhaler by one of the Suhakam members. I saw two members of the media being allowed to take pictures of the detainees, but under the watchful eye of the police. We were then informed that our identity cards would be returned to us, and that we were free to go. There was much relief as names were read out one by one. By 8.20pm I was released, taken out by truck. Before I got down, I was reminded by the men not to forget our struggle! What amazing unity and solidarity! “HIDUP RAKYAT!”

Reflection. I have not had the opportunity to follow the YouTube videos that have been posted. When I got back safely home, I was inundated with phone calls, wish wishers, relieved friends, elders, pastors, church leaders, you name it! It took my at least four hours just to clear the phone messages! I was physically exhausted. By next morning, Tim told me that he was safely out of the lock up. A huge relief and a big thank you to God.

Being in it was far better than watching it. Some people call me a hero. I don’t think so really. There are many greater and better heroes out there, those who got in and braved the tear gas and water cannons. There are so many more fine individuals better than myself, for I am but the world’s most reluctant activist – and God can vouch for that! The testimonies and pictures that I saw brought fresh memories of the brew of my emotions coming together – of fear, pain, joy, peace, laughter and tears – all in a day.

I weep for my country’s leadership, so blinded and hardened in heart against its lovely people – for their evil acts of divide and rule, and creating false notions that cause hatred in hearts of men by politicising anything and everything under the sun. I found great joy in being a vessel that can be used by God to bless others. For me, my Bersih march was my personal act of worship to my most high God, who loves justice and righteousness and always has a heart for His created beings. I saw heaven in action. I saw Jesus’ name raised over the nation – to “clean” the streets of demonic presence. And we have such a great God, such a loving prayer-answering God. It’s great to work with Him to bring about justice to the nation.

Am I ready for Bersih 3.0? Definitely. I promised my new found friends at Pulapol. I thought of the song “History maker” by Delirious before I started walking. I asked God if He would give me a chance to be a small history maker in His story one day. And what a historic day 9 July 2011 that was! This is only the end of a beginning. The fight for justice will always be long and hard, and we would never have achieved our objectives if we thought we could do it in a day. There is much to do, and we need to work harder, get tougher, pray and ask God for a spiritual awakening!

And here are just some of the reflections of some of our team members for your benefit:

1.Kirby Teoh – Praise God, you are safe and sound. As for team 2, we detoured to stay free from CID, we lost our way to Kuen Cheng 2 and had to regroup and we were held up from going further. My whole desire is to pray for the city shalom peace. The Lord’s protection upon Bersih, and that righteousness and justice of Jesus to prevail one day in Malaysia. Yeah to me the work of labour has only just begun and all the children
should press on and intercede for the nation in full contrite spirit.

Figure 8 Dante and Brian lying in the middle of the Federal Highway!

2. Dante Lum I’m going to sing NegaraKu to honour the Lord before I sleep. So blessed to march with my fellow Malaysians in solidarity. Praise the Lord! God is teaching me about faith. To always trust in Him by deeds. Words are not enough. That’s what He’s been showing me the whole time. The highlight to me was the holy rain pouring down from heaven. It was too awesome. In life, we either stand up and make ourselves counted or continue to suffer in silence. I choose to stand up. So do more than 50K fellow Malaysians in the rally. And we have not even counted those who couldn't join us, incl. overseas. All in all, there are millions who are saying enough is enough. The rest continue to talk and talk. Today God gave me a compassion for the 5-O for the 1st time ever. Please don't hate/blame them. They get paid peanuts to carry out a tough task. Many were merely following orders & probably didn't have a clue how to handle an overwhelming situation. We'd probably falter ourselves if in their shoes. Except for a few bad eggs, most actually did their jobs v well yesterday. Some were quite polite too. Shocking but true.

3. Darrel Khar Dude we owned them! God bombarded the city with humans! My main take way was that Malaysian is ONE Malaysia when revival comes upon this land. I am proud to be a Malaysian citizen 9th July. Ini baru dikatakan 1Malaysia! And now I see that there is hope. Hope that will change hearts to turn to God. It’s just amazing. And in 3.0 and I want to march among in the groups – with Muslims, Indians, everyone! (The shop owner asked if we were Bersih supporters and generously told us that we didn’t have to pay for our food and drinks after that! Great unity and love, man!)

4. Ashriel Brian – We rocked today! This is why we have to stand up and make our stand. We can debate about the importance of politics all day long, but one day, you will realise these are the people who protected the sanctity of our nation's integrity and institution. Hidup rakyat I’m annoyed at the great majority of people who claim that politics is a waste of time, and how they would rather be fence sitters and water the garden in the process. I'm "simply unhappy" at how the government treats its people as fools. I'm simply unhappy at how this nation is brain dead in recognising the fact that we have ourselves to blame when inflation rises, or when corruption is evidently running rampant. I'm irritated at apathy and lethargy. I'm angry at my own hypocrisy and everyone else's when we talk to so much and we do nothing about the situation. I'm pissed at how videos show police treating the rest of us human beings like trash. I'm furious at how the police stood by watching the same man they handcuffed, just slip away into unconsciousness while they stood by doing nothing, daring to say "tak ada gunting". I'm angry at how Malaysians are so engrossed in our self-centeredness. Not just Malaysians. Every other human being. Because the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. So yes, that's basically it. Next time we stay in KL itself. I want to be part of the action. MV too far! And too risky. Most of us "perished" before even joining in with the main rally group!

5. Joyce Thong – My experience: peaceful rally, awesome sense of unity…truly 1Msia! 9 July – the day Malaysians in & outside the country stood up for justice. Glad to be part of it to witness God showing who is really in charge & the maturity of Malaysians. Was at the gathering where the swelling crowd greeted tear gas with cheers. God's favour throughout our prayer walk and wonderful opportunities to testify Him. The rain marks the beginning of cleansing for our beloved Malaysia!

6. Timothy Ho – What I experienced on the 9th of July is Malaysia. We are decent people; we are a people of quality. Those in power who are selfish or bigots or who try to divide the people – that is not Malaysia, and they are not deserving of Malaysia. Those who try to taint and politicize the beautiful events of that day are not deserving of Malaysia. We are a people who deserve much more than that.

We came out and proved that yesterday. It has proved to me, to the marchers who were there, to my friends, what Malaysia is. And so, on 9th July, Malaysia won.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8

Talk is cheap. Anyone can say he is a Christian. In fact, Jesus tells us that on the last day many will say “Lord, Lord” who never really knew Jesus. We must do more than say we are Jesus’ disciples. We must bear fruit like we are Jesus’ disciples. When we look and act like Jesus, it shows that he is good enough to save us, valuable enough to be followed, and strong enough to change us. God is not glorified by nominal Christians who never lift a finger to serve others, or egg-headed believers who never pray or evangelize, or cranky disciples who show zero love, joy, patience, or kindness. God is glorified when we follow Jesus in all of life and bear fruit as his disciples.”

7. Elaine Teh – Never walked this far around KL. Eye opener!!! Amazing!!!! Today we witnessed tens of thousands of Malaysians who have voted with their feet by exercising their constitutional right despite all the threats!

8. Jen Li – Well, to tell the truth, before going I really had lots of fear because of the many negative comments of my Christian friends who knew I was going. But as I stepped forward all fear had just gone. Amazing. I knew it was God who gave me lots of strength and courage to go. At first it was more of going against the Govt. And as we prayed as a team. God keep revealing "Selah" and "The battle belongs to the Lord". On the event day, when I saw more and more people rise up, I knew it was God's doing. It was truly God's battle. We just prayed for rain and it rained. Praise the Lord!! He's a prayer answering God. So amazed at how much God loves us. I also realized at home, God's heart was broken too to see sinners defeated. Why I say this is because God loves the sinners too but not their sins. He loves each one of us very much because He created us. Thank God for our team of prayers for the whole night prayer. It was an awesome all night prayer. Many others also saw visions. All glory and praise to God for the victory!! The Spirit of the living God was upon the hearts of Malaysians. True revival in Malaysia. Can never forget this awesome moment in my life. Thank you for organizing this. Had a great time with all of you. May God continue to bring us together to stand in the gap in prayer for our nation. God bless Malaysia!!! Thank You Father, for helping Malaysians to rise up. So proud to be a Malaysian. Finally God set us free from fear and intimidation. Thank You also Father for giving us the strength, boldness and courage to go for prayer walk on this day. It was truly God's battle. God's hand was upon it all d time. It was a peaceful rally as we prayed for it. Indeed our God is a praying answering God. Thank you everyone for praying!

9. Derek Tan – For starters I felt that we marchers were at a disadvantage to cops with eyes in the sky. If there had been a group of people who had bikes in the city and walkie talkies and could direct the entire crowd to congregate then together march to Istana, then that would have been excellent. I believe that God is shining light and His light is exposing the deeds of the darkness, and many more are coming to light. I also believe it is part of all the prayers that have been said for the nation and God is definitely listening. But now for more Christians it is time to stand up. Evil has triumphed because too long we have laid back and done nothing. Like the rain – physical rain as a symbol of spiritual rain on the land and He is listening. I remember that was one of the first songs “Holy Spirit Rain Down” I felt we should sing at the “MyToast” breakfast place! Christians must rise up and march on like the “unashamedly ethical” movement. And James 4:17 says if we know the good we ought to do and do not, we sin. Maybe we can do something like what the Perlis mufti actually suggested – i think it’s a good suggestion – the Bersih committee should ask people to put little flags, wear yellow every Saturday, put flags on their cars, and we print and distribute car stickers, and so on.

Why am I attending vigils for Dr Jeyakumar and the EO6?

Last night I was again outside the HQ of the Malaysian Police. I keep wondering why I go. It’s as if I’ve been possessed. I know I will not enjoy anything else I attempt to do between 8 and 9 pm daily. I’m struggling to understand myself. Things came to a head last night. I was asked to speak about why I was at the vigil. I declined. I was embarrassed to say I didn’t really know. My mind was as empty as in August 2009 when I wasn’t able to write a sticky note about Teoh Beng Hock and 1,805 deaths in custody.

The next day I wrote No Sticky Notes, Just Sticky Thoughts. [I didn’t post it on my blog then. I was new to blogging. But I sent it to The Micah Mandate and it was published.] This is how I ended that piece:

The police say: we may do this to you too if you are detained. Be afraid, “co-operate.”

The government says: we will not stop this. We will not set up an Independent Police Commission. We are Caesar; bow down and let us do what we please in whatever we choose.

Our inner voice says: choose whom you will follow; your conscience or your comfort.

The Teoh Beng Hock session was followed by an appreciation of Yasmin Ahmad. I came away with this thought: a vision of a better Malaysia has already been described by her; listen and watch until you become infected. Become a person. Care about persons. Challenge wrongs.”

Since that ‘first’ essay, I’ve written over a hundred. When people ask why I write, I say I was radicalized by Teoh Beng Hock’s death, just as St John, disciple of Jesus the Messiah, was radicalized. I got that insight about radicalization two weeks after my sticky notes trauma. I got it from the pastor who prepared The Message, a fresh translation of the Bible. In Eugene Peterson Says There is no Avoiding Politics, I wrote:

“Peterson believes God gave St John the Revelation – and the command to write it as a book – in response to St John’s prayerful agony over the persecution and politically motivated deaths of some of his church members. With Peterson as guide, we perceive that the Spirit enabled John, the apostle-pastor, to see things in the light of heaven and to hear truths in the voice of God. John was thus equipped to help people through the wickedness they face daily.”

[I do not claim for my essays the authority of St John. Here, I am merely explaining – mainly to myself, but partly in response to questions from others – my journey as a Christian. I’m trying to figure out why I feel what I feel and do what I do.]

At the vigil for the EO6 (also called PSM6), I made a new friend – whom I discovered is a published author in Malaysia. We talked about why we were there; our conversation mostly focused on Dr Michael D Jeyakumar, one of the EO6.

We both consider Dr Jeyakumar an exemplary politician: one who manages to achieve a right balance between (a) exerting himself to help the poor find food/security, and (b) exerting himself to enact laws to removes structures of injustice.

We told each other stories which show Dr Jeyakumar’s transparency, e.g. he and other PSM elected reps declare their assets each year: reps from no other parties do this. We told stories which show Dr Jeyakumar’s humility, e.g. he prefers to be addressed ‘Kumar,’ not ‘YB,’ doesn’t pull rank, doesn’t ask others to do what he can, etc.

We smiled broadly when we learned both of us had independently concluded that detaining Dr Jeyakumar is as ridiculous as detaining Mother Teresa.

This is the man the government says is a subversive? Dr Jeyakumar’s track record is so good, the case will never go to trial – because there will be no end of character witnesses who will rise UP to speak up for this dearly loved respiratory physician and his family who expend themselves for the sake of others.

My purpose in this post is to clarify my thoughts, to say at least tentatively, why I attend the candle light vigils – an illegal act in Malaysia. Why do I deliberately disobey the law? Why do I do it repeatedly? Why do I encourage others to do the same?

I have previously said how much I love the work and words of the activist, philosopher and theologian, Dr Vishal Mangalwadi. I find these of his words helpful in explaining my radicalization and my attending the candle light vigils:

“Proclaiming Jesus as the king of heaven does not generally result in persecution. But when we start proclaiming Jesus as the ruler of the kings of the earth, we invite trouble. Because then we automatically judge the world around us by the yardstick of his justice and righteousness and demand that his will ought to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

It takes enormous power and discernment to judge the powers and principalities that are committed to corruption and cruelty. But that is what Peter, empowered by the Holy Spirit, was doing in his sermon on the day of Pentecost. He charged his audience with the sin of cruel murder: “You, with the help of wicked men, put him [Jesus] to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). and again, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you cricified both Lord and Christ” (2:36). The Bible records that “with many other words he [Peter] warned them, and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation’” (2:40). That was prophetic evangelism.

Peter’s prophetic evangelism judged a specific sin which, in fact, revealed the extent of blind, naked, unashamed cruelty to which that society had degenerated. Peter also judged the fear, cowardice, and blindness of the masses which allowed corrupt rulers to kill a good, innocent man, whom the people themselves acknowledged as a prophet from God. This fearful cowardice that permitted evil to reign was one of the main causes of the injustice in their corrupt society.

Peter’s exhortation to “save yourselves from this corrupt generation” was not merely a message of repentance from private sins. It was a continuation of the theme of the kingdom of Satan versus the kingdom of God started by John the Baptist. Proclamation of Jesus as the Christ was a proclamation of his kingship, of the beginning of the renewal of Israel, of the start of the kingdom of God.

The crucifixion of a righteous man symbolized the degeneration of a whole society. That symbol was what Peter attacked. In those statements, made at the risk of his life, Peter was judging the evils of his day, protesting against them publicly and calling for repentance and change. His accusations were so pointed and so directly against the unjust, official stance of the state (that Jesus was a criminal) that his hearers had no option but to repent or to kill him. That was prophetic evangelism at its best.

That kind of witness obviously calls for great power, and one major aspect of the power of the Holy Spirit is the power to judge the world.” [Vishal Mangalwadi, Truth and Transformation: A Manifesto for Ailing Nations (Seattle WA: WYWAM, 2009), 177 – 178]

Dr Mangalwadi placed those words in a chapter titled The Holy Spirit: The Spirit of Truth and Power, which he ends with a section titled Prayer: The Source of Power. In that section, he recounts a year of violence planned against him by police officers and by politicians from both the ruling party and the Communist party. He’s still alive. He attributes this to the power of prayer. He concludes:

“Praying is trusting God. The Bible says that faith is what ultimately overcomes the world (1 John 5:5). Faith is power because it produces hope and generates action in a stagnant society. Faith is power because it produces patience and perseverance. Faith is power because it gives staying ability in the midst of opposition – the ability to stand, to serve, to fight, to suffer, to die, and to overcome. Supremely, trusting or praying releases power because our dependence on God moves him to act.

The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples when a hundred and twenty of them knit their hearts together in prayer. Though they were many, by sharing one Spirit they became “one body” – a church.”

I attend the vigils because I have been radicalized by the Messiah. My attendance there is my verdict on the abuse of power. My standing there is my running away from the cowardice which permits evil to reign. My presence there is power for others.

Rama Ramanathan maintains the blog Rest Stop Thoughts

My own perspective of 9th July Walk For Freedom

For me personally when the ruling authorities start telling blatant lies and oppressing the ordinary citizens in the country, they lose their moral authority to govern the nation. Once they lose the moral authority to govern, they can only do it through sheer brutal physical force which is what we witnessed last Saturday.

It was a very liberating experience for me personally to have taken that Walk for Freedom last Saturday. It was all the more satisfying to walk together with my wife and daughter as well as our friends.

It was truly experiencing Malaysia at its best, walking in unity without concern for race or religion but only as Malaysians. The presence of many young people was very heart-warming a sight to behold which augurs well for our country. Walking together and shouting in unison was an experience that is hard to express in words.

I was in the group that started from the old train station walking beside the Klang River pathway next to the Post Office and Dayabumi. Then we encountered the first FRU road-block along Leboh Pasar Besar. All I heard was some bell-ringing (was that the FRU warning??) and suddenly volleys of tear gas came flying over our heads. Confusion for a while but the best of human nature became evident. People scrambled back as orderly as possible — nearly all were coughing and tearing. Water bottles were freely shared and salt packets were opened and offers came freely and openly. Hands were freely extended to those who needed help to climb over obstacles. There was a comradeship that drew everyone together. I dare say that there and then we all CRIED FOR MALAYSIA together and it was a very good feeling that broke all barriers and divisions that our government have been trying to tell and remind us is there – it all evaporated in that instant.

I met many elderly people especially the Paciks and Maciks whose health I can see is not good, some walking with the help of walking sticks and even crutches — people who could easily be excused if they choose to stay at home but no, they choose to walk with the rest of their countrymen for freedom in this nation. Some brought their young children hand in hand — reckless? irresponsible? — I do not think so. They said they wanted their children to know, to understand what is happening in this nation and the price that will need to be paid for true freedom in the nation.

We made our way to Petaling Street onto the Menara Maybank junction where more tear gas were fired. We then walked back up Petaling Street — in a very orderly fashion even in the falling rain. All were drenched but no one was complaining and all were in good spirits and mood. We turned into Jalan Hang Jebat before turning into Cangkat Stadium. By then it was pouring but everyone looked happy knowing the the rain was God’s answer to the tear gas. After a long standoff and making no headway we headed back to Central Market.

Everyone was happy and singing, shouting and thoroughly enjoying themselves — truly this is Malaysia at its best and to me, it signified Hope for this nation, Hope for the people and Hope for the future. You could not find a more happy and contented crowd than what I saw and experienced that afternoon — it had a carnival-like atmosphere.

As I passed the Gospel Hall on the way back along Jalan Hang Jebat I commented to my wife how good it would have been if the church had organised and open her doors offering free drinks to the people for this occasion. It would have been so meaningful, so relevant and so Christ-like but alas it was just a dream. (PS – Please forgive me if it sounds ‘judgmental’, do not mean to be but it was just a thought that I had and am sharing)

We continued down Jalan Sultan, near the Klang bus station where once again we encountered tear gas volleys — three in all. Because we had brought spray bottles filled with clean water, all of us were happily helping those affected by the tear gas by spraying the water into their eyes irrespective of race or religion. All were thankful and grateful and when I mentioned it was “Air Bersih” — they all smiled. By then, we decided to leave since we had achieved our objective and won a moral victory for the many common people who turned up in spite of and despite all the threats, intimidation and media bias. There remained only the game of playing hide and seek with the FRU which I did not think was worth playing at that time. We trekked all the way back to Brickfields and drove back home — tired, weary but very joyful, thankful and hopeful.

At no time during the entire period walking with the thousands all around me did I sense any fear from the people around me but only from the FRU/Police. People were extremely kind, thoughtful and helpful sharing what they had — willingly and joyfully.

I gave extra facemask to those with none, my wife exchanged facemask giving the better N95 one to the old pacik limping along with a walking stick, shared my asam boi with people around me and they took it happily and thankfully.

At no time in that massive crowd did I see any acts of violence against any property or people. The only people who appeared fearful were the workers in the various shops that quickly and hastily shut their doors – not sure why frankly. They lost a great business opportunity. One 7-eleven store that remained open did a roaring business.

All in I think the fear instilled and perpetuated by the government that gripped the people have been broken. All the lies and deception so beautifully crafted and disseminated by the government over the years have been exposed for what they truly are.

I end with what I started — a government that can blatantly lie, oppress and divide the people of the nation for their own selfish interests and the benefit of a select few, in my humble opinion has lost its legitimacy to govern and as Christians we must stand together with the common people of this land to uphold righteousness, truth and integrity and see it come to pass not only for the sake of this nation but also the next generation and the generations yet to be born.

we have walked together… thanks Bersih 2.0 for bringing it all together
we have suffered together… thanks to all the high-handed ways of the police
we have cried together… courtesy of the FRU but paid for by our tax money – sigh
we can now hope together… to all those who participated in the 9th July walk of freedom, I salute you as true Malaysians.

God Bless.

A Malaysian Pastor.

Stirrings from the heart of a fellow Malaysian

By Kim Cheng

When I now think back on 709, my heart weeps! As with many other fellow Malaysians probably… whichever side we may be on, whether we support 709 or not. My heart weeps with sadness at what has happened to beloved Malaysia. My heart weeps with being overwhelmed by what I saw – a great multitude of people of every tongue & tribe, of every age, of every class, of every faith! Every effort was made to intimidate & to create fear, to discourage the rakyat from being in KL that day. Streams & streams of people came… with one purpose… we care for Malaysia.

We have already been reading of so many amazing stories of how “strangers” helped one another throughout the few hours in KL on that day!!!! Hidup Rakyat!!!! There is HOPE for Malaysia.. let’s not believe what we are told. Let’s not propagate racism, prejudice & cynicism by our words & our lives. Let’s go out there to strengthen what we witnessed… reach out to our neighbors, make friends with ALL Malaysians… yes! Let’s build JAMBATAN ANAK MALAYSIA… tearing down our walls of prejudice, doing our small part in laying whatever “bricks” we can to close the gaps between us. Malaysia, there is a place for everyone.

A picture speaks a thousand words! My heart weeps just seeing pictures of 65 year old Aunty Anne ~ her courage & purpose… 85 year old “Amazing Aunty” (my pet name for her), who surely must have worried her children & grandchildren sick by choosing to come out that day… Pak Cik & Mak Cik “Grandparents” who believe they still have a voice. I have called these 4 my heroes! I am so, so amazed how 709 showed us true heroes in our midst. They have bridged a huge gap between the young & the old by simply being there! There is a wise saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”!! Thank you, Aunties, Pak Cik, Mak Cik for your journey. I think there are many other senior citizens there I do not know of… I salute you! I don’t know how you could tahan the tear gas & the chemicals and the running away from FRU & police.. Salute to you!

Street demo is NOT our way of life. How true!! If it was, and if the 709 crowd was really out to “buat kecoh”, they would not have dispersed in peace when the “time was up”. The speed with which life in KL returned to normal speaks for itself. The “orderly way in which crowds dispersed & help each other in recovery” at the Menara Maybank Mayhem was amazing. I have no other words for it.

I am not into partisan politics. I did not start wanting to be involved in this rally. I supported the calls for electoral reforms but I believed that negotiation, discussion, a more peaceful alternative is possible. When the official crackdowns started, and then, all the events of the fortnight before 709 unfolded, I struggled long and hard before the Lord. Do I have a choice “not to be there”? Can God’s people condone such actions by the powers that be? Personally for me, the journey had to be made … inspite of every obstacle, every risk, every fear … how far will I reach? It didn’t matter anymore. I will make this journey. I worried for the responsibility I shouldered, I worried for my colleagues who also chose to make this journey.. and yet, I had no choice but to speak in this way. I do not judge / condemn anyone who thinks differently. I believe everyone of us will think long & hard and know the reason for the choices we made. And I know, that across the land, many, many brothers & sisters were praying … this gave me courage to do what I felt I had to do.

I am still not into partisan politics, and I don’t believe in pushing our way to get what we want. I believe we have much work on our hands, to repair the fractures and gaps in our society. If ALL of us will do something, it will add up to an amazing tapestry of peace, justice, kindness in our land. Let’s not be lulled into prideful thinking or become addicted to tear gas … let’s pour out our lives a living sacrifice … to the glory of our Lord … for Malaysia, here & beyond.

Before and after 709, this song rings in my heart:

We’ll walk the land with hearts on fire
And ev’ry step will be a prayer
Hope is rising, New day dawning
Sound of singing fills the air.

Two thousand years and still the flame
Is burning bright across the land
Hearts are waiting, longing, aching
For awakening once again.

Let the flame burn brighter
In the heart of darkness
Turning night to glorious day
Let the song grow louder
And our love grow stronger
Let it shine … let it shine!

We’ll walk for truth. Speak out for love
In Jesus’ Name we shall be strong
To lift the fallen, to save the children
To fill the nation with Your song.

I am bowed in humility & awe to our Father, for what He has allowed me to be a part of … to Him be the Glory.

(First posted at FES Malaysia FaceBook)

Heartaches & joy ~ a bittersweet day indeed!

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!


Sharing the Lord’s Supper with Brethren from Myanmar

I stopped the car at the end of a broken, unpaved, rutted road with tall grass growing in the middle. They unloaded the car. We had brought rice, eggs, baked beans, cooking oil, biscuits, milk powder for mothers and for infants. Also some clothes. All the stuff we brought was placed in the kitchen.

We sat on the floor of the living room, the fan above circulating the air around us, the clean, veneered “timber” flooring cool on my bare feet. On the walls were posters depicting Christian scenes – the Christ, the Last Supper, etc. and some Bible verses. There was also a poster of Ang San Su Kyi. There was a guitar and a hymn book.

The three of us from KL sat opposite them. They were made up of adult men and women, children and infants. The conversation was about their lives since the last time a couple of us had visited them. The subjects were security and health. Two teenage boys in the neighbourhood have been troubling our friends from Myanmar.

These boys attack the foreigners if they are out alone. They even break into their homes and steal. Losses include bicycles and a television set. The Myanmar folks collected a sum of money per head and went to the local RELA chief. He arranged security for a time, but it ended. The unspoken fact was that the money came to an end.

The father of one of the boys was spoken to. The father apologized for his son’s behaviour, but lamented that he could do nothing. The refugees are at their wits end. They want to live in peace with their neighbours. They just want to make a living and wait in safety until the UNHCR relocates them.

Three of the men are in ill health. They have crippling pains. They went to see a doctor at a nearby clinic. They had X-rays and were given some medication. The drugs gave some help, but have been consumed. They are not planning to go back to see the doctor. The unspoken fact is that the money came to an end.

They are not complainers. They ask for nothing. They just answer our questions honestly. They are thankful for our gifts and our visits. They realize they are in Malaysia illegally and we are taking a risk by associating with them. They are grateful.

We sit there struggling to understand them. They have had so many babies since coming here. Why? We know their school-age children receive no formal education. The mothers would like to have jobs, but they do not. They spend their time in one of several rented homes. They look after the children and keep the homes spotlessly clean.

The men are grateful for work. All of them have some kind of work. Some have daytime jobs in small workshops or factories. Others have jobs at night markets, doing menial work. The people help each other, they seem generally healthy. There are signs of sadness, but there are also signs of happiness. Smiles seem genuine.

What are three of us from KL doing here? We are asking them questions, trying to understand their needs. We don’t know how to help them; deep within we grieve because of our inability. We hope to do something for them. We record the answers, we talk to each other to see if we have some ideas on how to help. We feel dejected. All we can think of is which individuals in our network to approach.

Why are we here? We believe all men and women, regardless of nationality, race or status, are made in the image of God. We believe these are our neighbours, brought here by God. We remember the parable of the Good Samaritan which our Lord Jesus told. The “religious people” crossed the road and left the helpless man alone. The Samaritan, the man who did not belong to the “approved religion,” did what God approves of. He responded to the need of a fellow human being.

We re-enact our Lord’s Last Supper. We share the bread and the wine. We pray.

We know it’s a difficult situation. These people fled their own country in order to seek a better life. They are seeking a share in our economy. They don’t pay taxes, they are not citizens. They are needy, but they are willing to work. Our government prefers to bring in foreign workers from Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh and Cambodia. Why not allow these folks from Myanmar to work here?

I Witnessed the Anti-ISA Protest

I went to the anti Internal Security Act (ISA) protest at AMCORP Mall in Petaling Jaya tonight. One of my friends has been arrested for just being there.

I went because (a) I wanted to see for myself whether what I had heard about police provoking protesters is true, (b) I hate the whole business of detention without prosecution: dictators used ISA-type regulations against Solzhenitsyn, Havel, Nelson Mandela, etc., (c ) I sense a groundswell of opposition to the ISA across all sections of Malaysian society and (d) I want to maintain the moral integrity to criticize detention without trial anywhere, including in China, Guantanamo, Iran, etc.

From my observations tonight, I have learned one reason why Malaysia “needs” the ISA.

Most of the policemen and women I saw in action tonight appeared young, ill-disciplined and ill-trained. We need the ISA because our persons in blue are not capable of successfully conducting investigations and prosecutions; they seem more able to provoke crowds and to apply brute force than to exercise reason.

Of course our entrenched Barisan Nasional politicians also need the ISA so that they can remain in power by using the police as instruments to oppress the opposition.

Tonight, when one officer was challenged about the action of the police in breaking up a peaceful protest, his response was “you don’t know. It could turn violent.” That was the only response he could give – he stayed on message, repeating the statement as if it were a mantra which would “make holy” the wrong being done.

The provocation I observed was begun by the police – armed with shields, sticks and guns – followed by their violent apprehension of citizens who voiced their opposition to the ISA by lighting candles in a public place, in the company of like-minded others.

The government-controlled media will report that the crowd disrupted business in the Mall. The truth is, the crowd did not want to go into the mall. The crowd wanted to go onto an empty field opposite the Mall – if the police had allowed the crowd to go to the field, there would have been no disruption of any business.

The crowd did not turn violent. This was not because of the actions of the police; it was despite the actions of the police – some of whom were just itching for a fight. One traffic police officer abandoned his post and entered the fray. His was the sole white-uniform in a sea of blue and he repeatedly yelled “tangkap” (detain); he wanted action!

I stood erect and looked directly at every camera that was pointed at me. I know several who wielded cameras were doing so for the police records. I wanted to be sure the police can identify me clearly so they can call me as a witness.

I know the police are human too. They know right from wrong.

I expect many of the police personnel were unhappy doing their “work” tonight. I know many of them don’t approve of the provocation their colleagues were spitting out. I know many of them will be examining their consciences tonight and feeling remorse.

I also know some of them will be boasting in locker rooms about how they overpowered (unarmed, untrained) protesters and “maintained the rule of law.” I hope many good cops will have the courage to challenge both their officers who blindly follow the instructions of their political masters and the thugs amongst the police.

I pray for both groups, both the good cops and the bad cops.

I pray they will find no rest until they develop the courage to call oppression – the triumph of might over right – by its proper name. I pray they will have the courage to confess and repent. I pray for their acceptance by God who is just and merciful.

I pray also for the protesters. I pray that they will examine their hearts and see if there is anything they did which was provocative. I pray they too will confess and repent. I pray they will continue to urge action on behalf of the oppressed all over the world.

I choose to enter the fray as a witness and as a voice for justice. The LORD help me.

The writer has a blog called Rest Stop Thoughts

Child Abuse is an Adult Crime

Children are God’s most wonderful and precious gifts to us. The world may be run and monopolised by grown-ups but a world without children will be deprived of the unique ways in which children force us grown-ups to view, learn and understand the fundamentals of life.  The child’s perspective is the essential ingredient by which an adult’s education may be enhanced and completed.

Children give so much joy, delight and purpose to adults and the headaches they may give to adults are nothing compared to the harm adults can and do give to them.

Child abuse is an adult crime against children who often do not have the authority, physical and emotional strength or presence of mind to avoid.

Child abuse crimes have very serious short and long-term consequences on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health of their child victims.

Grown-ups owe children protection against such crimes.

Unfortunately, such crimes against children have happened in the most (thought to be) unlikely places such as the “safety” of their own homes and child-care facilities.

When I headed an international aid and development non-governmental organisation in East Timor with 160 staff, it once happened right under our very noses as it were. Two years before, I was walking on the venue of a ruined building in the front part of our office compound which was right next to the United Nations compound. It was then that I thought why not we do up the ruined building and operate a Mother & Child Clinic.

With the clinic programme in full swing, one morning my operations manager walked into my office looking very tensed and grim. I was told that our security officer had done something bad to a 12-year old patient. Her mother had brought the child very early to be first in queue for the morning’s clinic. My security guard left the mother outside the gate and took the child in purportedly for her to be registered but took her behind the building instead. The two other security guards on duty saw the child running out crying followed by the security guard in question.  Quite obviously an attempt on her modesty was made but thankfully the child had had the presence of mind to flee from him.

Being trained and educated and a trainer of my staff in child abuse protocol this news had a crushing effect on me. I hit the roof but came down to earth soon enough to set a series of action in motion. I sent for our health programme manager and together with our operations manager we sat down with our two security guards who had reported the incident. The security guard in question was suspended from work and was asked to surrender his work uniforms. A police report was lodged.

We then went on the worse journey I had ever undertaken in my life- a short car ride to the home of the 12-year old to meet her parents. The father was working in a government department but had understandably stayed at home that morning. In an amazingly strict compliance to proper cultural upbringing when told, the man came out to greet me and invited me into his humble home. Once again, I was being given a lesson in the dignity of the poor and humble folks. His poor wife with tears streaming down her cheek brought coffee to me. The both of them insisted that I should please drink it. It was the most difficult cup of beverage I had ever taken. He then thanked me for coming to his humble home and apologised that I had had to come so early in the work day to see him. We spoke quietly adult to adult. I could see the grief he and his wife had had to endure.  I conveyed our sincere apologies and made it clear that their daughter was an innocent victim commending her for her swift action to escape from our security guard’s bad motive. I gave them my solemn word that there would be no cover up and prompt action would be taken.

On the same day, I had a visit by the security guard in question to plead his own case. The next morning as soon as I emerged from my residence, I was greeted by his wife and five children. The poor woman begged for mercy for the sake of her children. This went on for the next two days. On the fifth day, after having satisfied myself that we had reasonably examined all details of this unhappy and shameful episode as well as closing any possible gap in our own child abuse prevention protocol, the man in question was issued an expulsion notice. (Quietly, I had also undertaken to see that through private means his wife and children who were innocent of his crime would have enough cash for the next three months.) A year later, I was approaching my car with my groceries when a taxi pulled up alongside me. Out came my ex-security guard thanking me and still asking for his job back. I was pleased to see that for the sake of the wife and children at least he was gainfully employed.

Let me repeat, child abuse is an adult crime committed by what may first appear as the most unlikely perpetrators- parents, siblings, child-care givers, teachers, sports trainers, and yes, security personnel and even religious priests.  No one should be trusted and no one who is guilty should be spared. There must be no cover-up.

And certainly in this matter, prevention is better than cure. “Don’t wait for a child to be harmed; create policies and practices that reduce the risk that children will be harmed.”

(Republished with permission from OnGOHing)

The Discomfort of Getting Off the Fence

No matter how uncomfortable a fence may be as an improvised seat, the alternative to sitting on it, that is, to get off from it may for many be not a very comfortable option.

The human anatomy having got used to a certain position or posture may prefer to stay in that position rather than change even if the new alignment will in the long run be good for the person’s posture and long-term wellbeing. In other words, if we have so long been on the fence, the prospect of getting off from it may not be an attractive proposition. “It has served me rather well for such a long time, why change now?”

Accordingly, many have chosen to stay immovable on the fence.

To be sure, some have little choice but to stay on the fence at least outwardly for reasons of their employment, business, association, family ties, and even personal temperament, etc. This is especially so when it comes to the matter of political partisanship. One’s job or circumstance may be such that to stay politically-correct (which may mean to stay politically neutral) may be the proper thing to do. Indeed, many who wish to be more involved have found themselves caught in such a predicament and often feel forced to remain more silent and still than they otherwise may wish to be.

Under such circumstances, it must be recognized that membership with a political party is thankfully not a prerequisite for a responsible citizen who wishes to engage the political process, that is, have his or her say about critical issues which impacts not only the governance of one’s country but impinges on the everyday life and aspirations of its humblest citizenry.

If, however, continuing to sit perched on the proverbial fence means that the citizens of a country want nothing to do with how the elected government of the country go about its business of running the country, and don’t care about how tenets of the country’s constitution  is being interpreted or summarily amended, and how the courts conduct cases brought before it, or how the police, anti-corruption agency, elections commision and civil service go about their business, etc., then for sure by sitting on the fence we won’t just be plagued with a sore bottom.

Something far worse will affect us as a nation. Indeed, the nation has for some time already been inflicted by a deadly ailment

For so long, the country has put up with so much abuse of power and violation of fundamental civil liberties that the time has come when fence-sitters must be confronted with their responsibilities to other human beings they share this nation with. This is not about joining a political party or always agreeing with any political party. It is about joining the chorus of concerned citizens many of whom are not officially aligned to any political party. These concerned citizens speak up and initiate appropriate action to blatant abuse of power. If we don’t wish to initiate our own action, we must at least join others who have taken the initiative before us and lend our voices and resources to them.

It may not be easy to get off the fence. In some instances, it will be very uncomfortable to take sides and identify with one side or the other of an issue. But as I have said before, when it comes to moral issues I cannot remain neutral. No matter how costly or uncomfortable it may be to get off the fence of perpetual neutrality, as an adult person I must do what I know to be right and speak up for those who have become much greater victims of abusers of power than I myself.

The time has come when we must choose between the discomfort of sitting on the fence and the discomfort of getting off the fence. We don’t always have the luxury of choosing between what is comfortable and what is not.

The future of our children and their children depends on what we shall do when faced with two distinct discomforts : the discomfort of sitting on the fence and the discomfort of getting off the fence. Perpetual neutrality on my part will inevitably pass the cost of perpetual abuse to my children and theirs.

(Republished with permission from OnGOHing)