I was going to go about my day as usual today. I wanted to carry out my usual weekend errands. I had some work to get done and wanted to just soak the Saturday in like most normal folk. I wanted to have a normal Saturday filled with as little activity as possible. Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen.
I was going about my day as I had planned it. Like normal dudes, I needed to take my car out to run my errands. I ran into traffic jams and unusual congestion along most roads near the Kuala Lumpur vicinity. I got into twitter and realised that the morons we have for a government had closed all roads leading into the city. Meaning they had shut down Kuala Lumpur. Meaning they had learnt nothing from the two previous editions of Bersih. They had still not learnt that people have a constitutional right to voice their opinions. How daft do you have to be to repeat the same mistake thrice?
As I had lunch, I was feeling very uneasy. I decided then that I’m definitely going for Bersih in downtown Kuala Lumpur. While others had decided weeks ago or at the very latest the day before, I decided that I was going one hour before the official march time. I hopped onto the LRT at 1pm and got into Kuala Lumpur without too many problems. Once in there I marched in camaraderie with my fellow Malaysian brothers and sisters. I went because I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I hadn’t, knowing how the government was reacting to the thought of people expressively voicing their opinions.
To be completely honest, I have been caught up in some heated debates with fellow Malaysians of late with regards to some of the promises the Opposition is making to the youths of this nation. I was starting to find the Opposition somewhat irresponsible in leading our youth. I had become a little disillusioned by the ‘everything they do is wrong’ rhetoric from the Opposition. I had grown increasingly frustrated at their lack of willingness to hold open dialogue with the government on national issues. They instead chose to walk out on more than one occasion. How on earth was that serving the people, I wondered. I was genuinely concerned that both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat were involved in ugly political warfare with the ‘rakyat’ stuck in the middle and bound to end up on the losing end. However now, like most Malaysians on the streets of Kuala Lumpur today, I feel that the Opposition is conclusively the lesser of two evils for our nation.
They closed all roads into the city, they inspected vehicles heading anywhere into the direction of Kuala Lumpur, the locked down the very square where independence gave birth to this nation and they downright displayed the arrogance of the people in power. Whether it was arrogance, concern for the safety of Malaysians or downright naivety, I was royally pissed. When I got up this morning I wasn’t going to Bersih, immaterial of the backlash from friends and family who are a part of this newfound ‘anti-establishment movement’. The actions of those in power to deter, strike fear and intimidate people from going to the heart of the city to peacefully voice their opinions, meant they unleashed someone who was beginning to sympathise with the government.
What I witnessed today in my march with thousands of Malaysians is what I’ve believed for a long time, that this country is made of real people who actually love this nation. If our dear Prime Minister wanted to portray the 1Malaysia spirit he so expensively has assembled, he should have joined the thousands of Malaysians in their march for clean and fair elections. What I saw and experienced on the streets of Kuala Lumpur today was the true spirit of 1Malaysia. It didn’t take expensive TV commercials or brand strategists or even pimped-up traditional costumes, it took a cause that’s close to the hearts of all Malaysians. People danced, held hands and sang together irrespective of race, religion or t-shirt colour. This is the Malaysia I’ve always believed to be home.
Upon reading my tweets that Datuk Ambiga has asked for protestors to disperse and seeing small crowds start to disperse, I too made my way home. I was going home with my heart full of hope and my time with complete strangers being a very positive experience. There were flowers blooming in the garden, butterflies in the sky and love all around. That was the utopian feeling I had as I was on the train back home.
To my shock when I got home and read my tweets, I read of violence breaking out and the police cracking down on protestors. It was absolutely irresponsible of the police to not expect protestors to create a ruckus and actually react with force to the ruckus. Our police have been schooled in an environment where they are in complete control and violence and fear seem to be their tools of choice. It was downright pathetic that they chose to impose themselves on the protestors. For people who are responsible for maintaining civil obedience in this country, they appear glaringly ill equipped to deal with a minority of troublemakers. The pictures of tear-gassing and water cannons have conclusively proven that the police have lost the plot. It has also given the international newsmen to again paint a silly picture that will probably deter foreign investors from considering us a ‘safe nation’.
However, to be fair, if the organisers of Bersih 3.0 had not anticipated any form of violence or disobedience from the crowds, that too with a larger scale demonstration so close to the 'everybody-knows-when' elections, then they are naive at the very best. To organise something so big with so much emotion and passion entwined, you as the organiser must also anticipate and plan for the worst. I'm not saying that blame and shame must befall the organisers of Bersih 3.0, I am saying that they should be held accountable for what happened along with the police. Let me put it in perspective, if this had happened with Barisan Nasional organising such a rally, the fallout would have been monumental. It would have lost them the elections outright. It will not have that effect on Pakatan Rakyat because we, the rakyat on the streets, afford them the benefit of doubt. What I'm saying is that the organisers too have to do some soul-searching in the aftermath of this chaos.
If this was sex, then our police force is the grand master in ‘premature ejaculation’. Their responsibility should have been the peaceful dispersement of protestors irrespective of the circumstances. They should stand head and shoulders above ordinary citizens when it comes to managing civil obedience. Did the Malaysian Police do their job, yes they did. Could they have handled it better in hindsight? Hindsight was not at all required today, common sense was. To the people within the corridors of power, welcome to a bleak re-election future littered with paralysing defeats to key people. I wasn’t angry before today. I wasn’t even that angry when I left the Bersih rally. But now, I’m livid. So, thank you my dear government.