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Bersih Stories: Peace Rally Turned Awry


I would hate it very much is someone described me as a ‘trouble maker’ because I attended Bersih but I would not blame them. After all, if I looked it from another person’s point of view, someone who had a family and staying around the area, I think I might be a bit pissed off too.

But I went. Because I care about the country, I care about the people in it, I hate racism, I dislike disharmony and I would strongly believe myself to love PEACE like nothing else. Because of the many wrong-doings that the government has done, I have had to pay for many ‘normal’ things in my life which I believe should be free of charge. I told my kids that I was doing it for them, I might get arrested and in the worst case scenario, I would no longer be around. ONLY WORST CASE SCENARIO. They were afraid and worried but in the end, they said ‘Thanks, mom. I love you’.

Anyway, I went there with my cousin at around 9.30am to 9.45am and we parked near Kelana Jaya LRT station and walked to the platform. The scene was calm and nice. A couple of other people had their backpacks on, some in yellow shirts, some are not, and walking in the same direction and we automatically assumed that these people were headed to Dataran Merdeka as well.


So, we boarded the LRT train that came…lucky us, there was no waiting. Being the first station, there were not that many people boarding but as more stops were made, more people piled on. And wow. I totally understand what sardines in sardine cans feel like now. Most were not wearing their yellow shirts, like me, because we don’t want to be stopped at the LRT station from entering the city. At one of the stops, Pak Samad hopped on and although the LRT was already VERY FULL, we let the man and his assistant in. All the while cheering and taking pictures with him.



We got off at Pasar Seni and one of the exits (I assume that it is the most convenient one) was sealed off by police. Pak Samad took some pictures with the cops who were, mostly, friendly and some even smiled for the camera.



I called my friend who was already there with some of our and his friends. They were sitting there calmly talking, yakking and basically chatting about stuff pertaining to the event. We camwhored out of boredom. Well, I camwhored out of boredom.

I walked out only to see that the crowd had swelled and on the stage, there was Ambiga. I went there and tried to take a picture but the phone was already acting up and I couldn’t upload things (as in, into Instagrm and Facebook).



I have my sister on Whatsapp and I intended to let her know the situation at every given moment that I can and that was also lagging a little. So, never mind, the walk’s not begun yet so, nothing to be alarmed about. I have this strange habit of scaring myself. Like ANTS IN MY COFFEE!!!! Or THE CURTAIN IS DIRTY!!!!! Like that. I wondered how I would survive the event but recalled how many bullied years we have had to endure. That was the end of it. And anyway, let’s be honest about it here…I gave the governing coalition too much credit for brains. If I were them, I would join the rally and become fast friends. Or just make nice, that is the BEST and FASTEST way to win support, no? I mean if you want someone’s support, you don’t go whacking them over the head, no? And it was my belief that they had the smarts. Yeah…haha.

Maybe I am just too naïve for all this political stuff. And that is a big ******* problem.



So, anyway, around 11-odd a.m., we were told that the crowd is moving so, we got up, I put the yellow shirt on over the top that I was wearing and was ready for a fun festival. On the inside, I was wondering if I would be able to handle all the shit that Bersih 2.0 was known for. Oh, whatever. I was here already…it makes no sense to walk away now.

So the walk began towards…goodness, I am not familiar with KL roads (this would also be the reason why I was stuck later) so, I followed the crowd and it was already a huge crowd. There were seven meeting points, I believe, and this is just from ONE meeting point. My other friend was in KLCC with his friends and he told me that they have begun walking too.

We walked towards Jalan Sultan/Jalan Petaling and stopped outside of Petaling Street where a lot of people were already gathering. Nothing happening, man. We were just basically hanging around and there was more camwhoring to be done. HAHA. Things were kinda cool even though the helicopter kept circling above us (it was gauging where the crowd was, I suppose, to later cut us off from all exits, I think). There were handgliders too, WTF are they doing, I don’t know.



We bought water, TicTac and other supplies at a nearby 7-11. The staff looked pissed off. Don’t know why either. Giving them too much work, I suppose. Certain times, groups of people started small rallies and since we don’t know who they were, we didn’t follow. We will only follow those we know and when the crowd is large enough. They could be agent provocateurs, we were warned. The Occupy Dataran group kept circling, though, because we saw them more than once.

Soon, the crowd was getting larger and larger. As the groups merged, there were loud cheers and merry sounds being made. Flags were waved. Malaysian flag, Selangor flags. And other flags I don’t recognize. At one point, we finally saw people we knew…Tony Pua’s group who linked their arms together and started marching so, the march began. We stopped somewhere along the way (once again, I don’t know where – hahaha) and someone (I don’t know who, because I can’t see and can’t hear much) gave speeches. I guess someone was also giving a reminder not to be unruly and to behave. That is perfectly fine by me.


And the crowd moved again. Then we stopped at a junction and someone told me that Dataran Merdeka was somewhere right up ahead or something. I stepped up on top of the ledge and peered over the heads of the crowds. HOLY….CHEESECAKES!!!!! SO MANY!???!!!! That is like a whole ocean of people if I am not wrong!!! Whoa, this is going to be epic.

At no point in time was I scared at all. Nope, I was in complete AWE. Bloody awe-struck by how awesome Malaysians can be! Malaysians, YOU ROCK!!!!!! I have never felt so UNITED in all my life. All these people, from all walks of life, are all here for the same reason I am. Fair and Clean elections? Wow. Just wow.

I repeat, I have never felt so included in my life. I was raised to believe that Malays are lazy and living on handed-out privileges. I grew up thinking the Indians are selfish and will revolt only for their own benefit. I also believed that the Chinese people were scheming bastards who won’t move an inch of their ass unless there was money involved. I am an Others, so I am the most innocent one of all. Hhahaha….kidding, kidding.


But right there, in that moment, it was as if everything came together. This is our land. We are together in this. We are fighting one common enemy. We are fighting for fairness and that is a universal given right which we have been denied for the longest time.
                   
There was singing and chanting which got our moods up. After all, all we wanted was a clean and fair elections and that is not too demanding a thing to ask for. If the ruling coalition is smart enough and have nothing to hide, what could be wrong with THAT? And if he gives us that, he MIGHT even get to keep his job, right?

So, there was singing and chanting, more singing, more chanting.

We were getting tired so, we found a spot to sit. It was near a motel and there were some foreigners who were looking and waving at us from their balcony. They were having a real fun time too…just like watching a gay parade or something. This is more than a gay parade, buddy. You don’t get this ANYWHERE ELSE, buddy.



By this time, I have lost touch with the friends that I originally came with. There were just too many people. Original friends must be nearer to the front line by now and I am sort of middle-front. I can’t gauge because….remember? A sea of people is there and I don’t know which is the front, which is the end.

There was a turning to the left and my cousin, his friend and I walked there to find a place to sit down. There were uncles and aunties sitting down at the bus stop. My battery was running out but I tried to call the original friends that I came with, anyway. Failed. Whatsapp…also failed. So I complained to the girl who was sitting next to me, a young Chinese girl, and she lamented about the same problem.

My cousin retreated a little way back more but I wanted to see if there were any other action. Seems like nothing is happening and no one can move another inch ahead. Everyone was friendly, this I can tell you. There were just lots of smiles to give each other, we lend each other a helping hand by helping take pictures for them and then there was the camwhoring again. Hey, the mood was good, let’s take some pictures.

Let’s just say that along the way, everything was fantastic. Except that at some point, like when we were interacting and waving with the tourist, I noticed a few inconsistent characters. Some in Bersih T’s and some not. They were shouting really nasty things. Our slogans were very neutral. Like Bersih Bersih (Clean Clean) or Hidup Rakyat (Long Live The Citizens) but these people were shouting things like ‘Mampus Najib’ and ‘Hapus BN’. They said it with a huge grin on their faces. So suspicious wan. So, we ignored them. There were others who were shouting other political slogans that we ignored. We are not there for political reasons. I am happy to note that there were many who ignored them as well.

There, I met up with the friend who was coming in from KLCC. Since my cousin and his friend wanted to leave (because he was tired already – too much walking and the sun WAS BATTERING US DEAD), I decided to join this KLCC friend of mine. It was around 2-something, I believe. So, we walked around and had beef noodle at this really famous beef noodle shop. Wow, business was brimming and the owners were having a tough time delivering the food. In fact, other than today, you could order in sizes of ‘big bowl’ or ‘small bowl’, on that day, you can only order ‘small bowl’ so as to standardize every order and make life easier for the guys. Our drinks never came too. But it was alright. Fine, we understand and I have loads of water in my bag.

We finished eating up, bought some stuff and mucked around for a while. Nothing doing. And that is when pandemonium broke out. It was 3-something.

At the end of one road, people started shouting and screaming and there I saw high streams of water being shot out of the red water cannon truck. It came forward and the crowd ran towards us. The truck backed off, the people ran toward it again. I saw some rally-goers throw plastic bottles at the truck. How apt.

As soon as the people came forward, the truck advanced again. After that, it reversed and disappeared but the people kept running back and forth on the lane for I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!

I know my KLCC friend very well and I didn’t like the look on his face when he said, ‘Hey, let’s go down the opposite way!’ which is I think towards Masjid Jamek. People started running up that street too and streams of smoke were wafting in. Being a first-timer, I have no idea what tear gas smells like but my friend started handing me some individually-packed salt and I dug into my bag for a towel. We ran backwards again (this is sort of like a T-junction here) and saw smoke there too and at this point, the smoke was thick, my eyes stung like mad, throat was constricted and as I looked around for my friend (even calling out his name), I thought ‘die lah, die lah! Which way?’ (refer back to the fact that I do not know KL roads well), I couldn’t find him.

I heard PAP, PAP PAP. Just like that. More plumes of smoke. By this time, my mental compass has gone dead. Probably just standing there. Too panicked to remember much of that part, really. Just gasping.

Then I saw some people inside a restaurant, yes, the very same beef noodle restaurant. I ran in with all my might and inside were people who were gasping for breath, crying and scolding the govt.

‘What the **** did we do?!?!’
‘Sure have to change liao like this?! What is he doing?!’
‘Stupid gomen! Really stooped!!’ scolded one uncle who was wiping tears in his eyes and face.

Another old auntie came in with bulging eyes and walking with the aid of a walking stick. She found a seat, sat down and just kept gasping.

I was horrified. Many people were ready to go back home already, anyway, since it looked like we have done all we can. Then a couple of people ran urgently into the restaurant and said ‘They are right here, right outside lah!!!!’ while people asked the newbies to PLEASE CLOSE THE DOOR!!!! (the smoke was coming in).

OK, so the FRU is pretty damn near us. There is one down the road, I know there is another team behind the shop and….FABULOUS, they are about 10….15….20 feet away now? NEAR.

Basically, we tried to stay as quiet as possible, we are not going to make a ruckus, we just want this shit to be over, right? I went to the back entrance of the restaurant to see if I can see the team behind the shop and then all of a sudden, the beef noodle uncle’s stove caught on fire and it was like so near me! WTFFFFFFFFF!!! Fire. Stove. Not good!

People started scuffling out of the restaurant as others shouted for the uncle to shut off the stove. The dear man tried to take the fire out with a cloth. Don’t know if it is a wet cloth or dry cloth but with a cloth. I scrambled out as quickly as I could and then I saw the FRU there.

In my mind, this works in slow motion. Fire. FRU. Fire. FRU. Fire. FRU. Which one?! PICK ONE!!!!!!!

Thank the stars above, someone shouted ‘Fire’s out! Fire’s out!!!’ and we all scrambled back in. Holy….what was that? I didn’t want to risk Uncle Beef Noodle making another mistake, I brought myself to the second floor of the restaurant. There were many young people there. A young working woman was crying her eyes out there and I just looked at her with complete understanding.

This is overwhelming. She, like me, also thought that it wouldn’t be THAT bad an ordeal since the govt would have learned from Bersih 2.0. My Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, not to mention SMS and telephone calls won’t work. KLCC friend’s phone ran out of juice so I can’t get him either but we stayed in touch via his friend's phone. He tried to get me to get to Petaling Street...but harlow....which way? Original friends that I came with cannot be reached. Cousin and his friend went home (I assumed but accordingly, they saw the FRU trucks and tried to get back in to find me but to no avail).

Time and again, there would be people running up the street and the FRU would fire shots. They ran away, then no more. I heard that in some places, the police actually stomped into shops and dragged people out and beat them up. THANK YOU FOR NOT COMING INTO THE SHOP DESPITE KNOWING THAT WE WERE THERE!

After some time, there were fewer shots being fired, there was less noise now and it seems that the people have all gone into hiding or have started piling out of the city center. The new friend that I made, Guat Seng, had her car parked in her office (also don’t know where…I think near Dewan Pustaka or something) and since she is heading back to Bandar Utama, she said that she doesn’t mind dropping me off at my home. I took my Bersih shirt off and stuffed it into my bag. I don’t want to risk arrest when I am so near to getting home.

So, slowly, we walked out and saw bare streets. Bare streets but I was suspicious because the smell of burning plastic which the tear gas smells like was still lingering quite heavy in the air despite not hearing anything which means that they’ve not stopped the whole thing yet. As we crossed one road after another, the shouting and shooting became louder.

We were at a junction near a traffic light and I saw a blue taxi there. Immediately, I thanked Guat Seng fervently and wished her good luck and to stay safe, and off I went into the cab.

As I made my way out of the city center, we passed the face-off between the police and rowdy protestors and a scene from G.I Joe came into mind. The police and protestors were hurling objects at each other and the sound the shots, PAP PAP PAP, went off. I just hoped that no one throws anything at the cab or anything. And it was red light too. FFFFFFFUUUUUUUU……right here? Does it have to be a red light right here? Come on….

What kind of rally is this? We are a peaceful bunch of people with some looney tunes with us?! I had no idea what happened at that point. I started calling all my friends, got through some, can’t get through one (he was arrested and beaten but that is for another story) and overall, I was so relieved to be out of that hell hole.

I don’t think I can come into KL city center without the images of war scene coming into my head from now on. But basically, here is the thing…we came here in peace. Really in peace. I had a notion that things COULD get awry but being the optimistic person that I am, I chose to believe that it probably won’t. I was wrong. But never mind, it happened. I am sorry to those who suffered and blamed the rally for going wrong, I am sorry but we are doing it for you too. Do you think any one of us want to be put into such a situation? Do you think we want to endanger our lives? Do you think any one of us want to apologize and explain to our kids why we are doing this? Do you think any one of us want to scare our children with the thought of possibly losing their parent? Do you think any one of us want to be treated like lab rats and herded cattle?

No.

But we did for the nation. I don’t feel glad about it but I don’t regret it either. And once again, I do apologize to everyone who suffered because of it. We are completely, totally sorry about that. I am also sorry to people who cared about me, for going to the rally. My mom, relatives, sister, friends who worried about me and called me the very moment I could actually answer the phone. Sorry to my sister who messaged 'Calling calling Marsha' and I could not reply until a couple of hours later. Sorry for scaring all of you. 
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