A Bersih story
MAY 1 — Where shall I start? From the beginning? The ending? The conclusion? Everyone has their side of the story and mine is just a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe in the end, the jigsaw puzzle will be solved by somebody. Clean and neat.
I received a call from my brother, Ikbal at 5.30 am.
"I think we should move now. People are gathering. I heard it is more than ten thousand people now in Dataran!" he said.
“Fetch me at 6am. I need to take a bath and pray my Subuh first," I replied.
I had not even finished a cup Milo for breakfast, when my brother arrived. I told him, I need to pray first, and I told him to wait for me.
“No time! You can pray at Kelana Jaya LRT station. I heard they will close down the LRT station!".
We then reached Kelana Jaya LRT station around 6.45am. After Ikbal parked his car, we saw one young Chinese guy wearing the Bersih yellow T-Shirt. " Look at that Chinese guy. He is not afraid ofwearing yellow. Why we are?" I asked my brothers.
"Hahaha, that is because he is not 'penakut' like us!" my brothers replied.
We then took the escalator and were very much surprised to see so many peoples in yellow shirts in the LRT station! "
After a while, we then arrived at Pasar Seni LRT station at 8am. One of the gathering point of the pre-rally is Pasar Seni- the central market, but at that time around 8am, the area still seemef to be quite empty.
" The crowd is at Jalan Tun Perak. Maybe we need to move there since there are not many people," I told Ikbal.
" Yup, we need to go with the crowd to stay safe," Ikbal replied.
Then, we walked through Central Market heading to Jalan Tun Perak via HSBC building. As we arrived at the junction at HSBC, few dozens of policemen already cordonned off the area.
"Never mind, we gather at Jalan Sultan-the other meeting point" I told my brother. We then walk thru Petaling Street and were relieved to saw crowds already building up in that area. Most of the crowds are youngsters. Around 20-30 years old. There were senior citizens and children as well already singing the Bersih song.
Some were taking photos of each other. Some were passing around the Bersih pamphlets and yellow ribbon. It was a festive atmosphere and very peaceful just around 11am. The crowd then moved to Jalan Sultan where a bigger crowd already gathered. There was one medical unit booth set up in a corner shop. We were also are given free mineral water distributed by a supporter from one lorry.
Then, at 12pm the crowd moved towards Jalan Silang then gathered with another crowd at Pudu near Menara Maybank. The crowd is huge. The biggest I ever saw since 21 September 1998 - the Reformasi rally at Masjid Negara. All are singing the Bersih song- the ole-ole football kinda song, Negaraku and also some chanting Reformasi and Hidup Rakyat.
Me and my brothers went up to Menara Maybank to get a better view of the crowds. From the left side, the Pudu Bus Station, towards on the right heading to Jalan Tun Perak, it’s a sea of people in yellow. Massive! Then around 12.30pm, the crowd lead by Unit Amal Pas, wearing red shirts, moved towards Jalan Tun Perak heading the Dataran Merdeka.
It was packed. I could see multiracial participants, the Malays, Chinese and Indians. Truly Malaysian crowd. Peaceful. I also saw a few university students wearing purdah to cover their faces.
I saw Adam Adli, Safwan Anang, Mahfuz Omar, and a few opposition leaders give their speeches. The loud hailer can’t get through the crowds. I can’t even hear what they are talking about because the crowd is huge and noisy.
At this time around 2 pm I already saw that the FRU are planning for the tear gas firing. They already were in formation- I recognised it, thanks to my experience joining the Reformasi rally years ago. I asked one Uncle standing beside me:
" Uncle, do you think that they will fire the tear gas?"
" No I don’t think so. Look at the crowd. It’s like sardines. If they fire, there will be a stampede. Many people may die," the Uncle replied.
" But looking at their formation, it’s like they are preparing for it?" I said.
" No lah! Can’t be, “ he said.
My brother texted me:
"We are at Masjid Jamek. Nurul Izzah, Ambiga giving speech in a jeep" my brother text me.
It was difficult but I made it to where Ambiga, Nurul Izzah, Lim Kit Siang, Chegu Bard and a few opposition figures were right in front of the Masjid Jamek LRT station.
“ Today is our day! Nobody can take it from us!" Ambiga told the crowd. She then told the crowd to disperse. Surprisingly, at this time, all communications start to breakdown. I couldn’t call or SMS my brothers.
Perhaps it was because of the frequency jammers used for the first time in a Malaysian rally. This is one of the reason that Bersih failed to disperse the crowd because the message did not reach down to the crowd. I made my way to Masjid Jamek to pray.
After that, the crowd moved towards Dataran. Do they manage to went inside Dataran? I wondered. I was at Jalan Tun Perak in between Masjid Jamek and Dataran. At around 3pm, I saw white gas near the intersection right in front where the barbed wire is located. The fumes of the gas was powerful. The crowds all jeered at the cops. Some shouting abusive words.
The crowds then retreated towards Pudu. The retreat is so slow-moving like a snail - because of the high density of the crowds. Some are pushing, some fell down. Some fainted because of the gas is so powerful. It not only affects your eyes, and throat, its affects your movement as well.
Then I saw a Malay girl dispensing salt to the people and told them to put it on their tongue. I took the salt and put it onto my tongue and surprisingly I’m energised. Upon reaching the LRT Masjid Jamek, drama started.
"They are shutting down the station!" I heard somebody shout. Some already managed to went inside the station and went up towards the LRT platform. At this time, the fumes of the gas already reached the station. Supposedly this crowd should be allowed to take the LRT and disperse. What is the plan closing the station? Then suddenly, the gate of the LRT is closed down. Just like the scene in Titanic where they closed the lift door to prevent Jack and Rose from entering.
" Open! Tear gas is here!" I heard people shouting at the LRT officer.
"We can’t. We have to close. We have received the instruction" the officer replied.
Then the crowd chanting " BUKA!BUKA!" but the officer do nothing.
I ran. Kept running. Tear gas. Water cannons.
I then reached the Pasar Seni LRT station. I saw from where I stood, tear gas fired at the bridge near Central Market that is connected to Dayabumi. People there are trapped. Some jumping off from the bridge! I went up to the escalator of the LRT station.
The station was closing too. I ran through the halfway closing shutter and managed to get inside. It was chaos.
I have to salute the woman officer at the Pasar Seni station who made an announcement to the crowd. She told us to just go inside to the platform without the token and pay at the exit.
I managed to contact my brothers, before finally arriving at Kelana Jaya station at 6pm and arriving home at 7 pm.
The next morning, I went to 7 Eleven to see the mainstream media headlines : " Bersih is violent" "Bersih kotor dan ganas" and so on. Well, I was at ground zero from 7am in the morning. If we wanted to be violent, we had ample time to do so-but it did not happen( only at the end).
250 thousand brave Malaysians joined in the largest rally in Malaysian history asking for one thing:
“A Free and Fair Election". Is that difficult to understand?
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.