Hornbill Unleashed

July 11, 2011

Thousands of ordinary folk stand up for change

NONE

Sim Kwang Yang

Writing this column compels me to bear witness to some momentous events in our nation’s history. Yesterday, I bore personal test
imony to the massive Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur.

There was considerable police presence throughout the nation’s capital. By the morning of July 9, Kuala Lumpur was like a ghost town, a far cry from the bustling ambience of this, the largest city in Malaysia.

Suddenly, at about 1pm, large crowds of people began to materialise, as if out of thin air. The jostling hordes of humanity began to choke up the streets, and every crossing was filled with a mass of people.

There were shouting Bersih slogans and punching the air with their fists. The milling crowds were dispersed at their various points of gathering.

Some were wearing yellow T shirts. I estimated that in the city centre, no less than 50,000 people had gathered in different combinations and locations.

Unlike the Bersih rally in 2007, the gathering this year has drawn a mixed crowd of many races. Frankly, I was surprised to see a big Chinese crowd there, because I know that the Chinese are never keen on joining mass demonstrations as a rule.

The presence of large numbers of Indians was also a unique future this year. This was a truly multi-racial call for clean and fair elections.

Struck by batons

Presently, police personnel moved into the crowd, and then started beating the protestors down with their batons. Everywhere, the air was thick with the smoke of tear gas, as the crowds ran to escape the suffocation of the smoke bombs.

But sooner or later, after temporarily dispersing, they regrouped, and so the confusion in the huge space of public protest, spread over in the centre of the city, sank into pandemonium again, when the police renewed their attack.

I had witnessed, too, the Bersih demonstration back in 2007, but the gathering this year was much more massive yet more orderly, showing a sophisticated degree of organisation.

The large crowds this year also showed a single purpose of mind, as they helped one another to escape from the terrible effects of the tear gas.

NONEAt the end of the day, more than a thousand people were arrested by the police for illegal assembly, including the Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan, and many other prominent citizens of Malaysia.

This was a display of the rule of the nation by the naked fist of the police, in its most unadulterated form.

A few days before the rally, a few members of Kajang municipal council had gone to a council meeting in their yellow T-shirts. They were all arrested, perhaps for illegal assembly, or some other mysterious reason. Among these councillors was my neighbour, Eddie Ng of the DAP, whom I meet almost daily near the place where I live.

Eddie was not arrested yesterday, though he was one of the Marshalls at the Bersih rally. He was there with Dr Chen Man Hin, Lim Kit Siang and many other DAP stalwarts. I am glad that the DAP strongmen were taking an active leading role in the Bersih rally.

Ibrahim Ali and his Perkasa Group was nowhere to be seen. Khairy Jamaluddin was present with his group of about 500 UMNO members, but they did not make an impact on the gathering.

What did make an immense impact was the sea of humanity who had gathered to demand transparency and a cleaner system of voting for Malaysians.

Clarity of purpose

This Bersih rally was not only unprecedented in terms of its size, but also in its clarity of purpose, in its demands for a more rational electoral process in this country.

The question here is: will this create any impact on the next general election?

taiwan taipei bersih rally 090711 04I have no idea about what future will bring. But I am convinced that though people says politics is dirty, political involvement by ordinary citizens is absolutely necessary in nudging history towards the way of justice and fairness for all.

As I write, I recall the suffering of the nation during the dark days of Operation Lalang in 1987. I remember the tales of torture related by my former colleagues, if their mistreatment at the hands of the Special Branch. We had to suffer in silence in those days, before the age of the Internet had arrived.

But there has been some progress of sorts, for the arrival of the Internet has transformed communications and the transmission of news, beyond all recognition.

It is only right – and the time is now ripe – for us to continue to press on. We are making progress, on our slow but ultimately certain march, towards a more enlightened democracy.

SIM KWANG YANG was member of parliament for Bandar Kuching, Sarawak from 1982 to 1995. He can be reached atsky8hornbill@gmail.com. All comments are welcomed.

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9 Comments »

  1. My applause to those who rallied on 9 July 2011. Do not give up the fight for change as you are doing it for yourselves, your children and the country. Let the world know what is going on in Malaysia. Sarawakians, keep the fight up. Whoever says going on a rally is illegal or promote chaos is the one who is talking rubbish. Keep fight up

    Comment by whatsaysyou — July 11, 2011 @ 9:30 PM | Reply

  2. The theme was the same in all the BN-controlled papers: the turnout of Bersih 2.0 was small; the gathering was taken over by Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) reformasi group and, unlike what the Bersih organisers promised, it was an unruly mob and the police were very professional.

    The Star had the cheek to say “Game Over”, and its pseudo journalist Wong Chun Wai also hammered Bersih. These newspaper bosses must be congratulating themselves, happy at the praises received from their political masters. Some may even be thinking about a Datukship or Tan Sriship.

    When you whacked Bersih, you were whacking me and the guy next door: your readers. You were insulting your readers by saying that only 6,000 people turned up. The YouTube shows up the NST, Star, China Press, Utusan Malaysia and TV3 (you said that protesters were paid RM200 to attend the march) for the lying scum that you are.

    Every sentence damning the people who turned out for the Bersih rally was aimed at your readers. Every inaccurate headline and report in the newspaper was an insult to the thousands who turned out for a noble cause.

    In most enlightened countries, it is the media who fight for noble causes. In Malaysia, they are doing the dirty work of a repressive regime and insulting the people who pay their salaries.

    Comment by Alphard Liow — July 11, 2011 @ 11:13 AM | Reply

    • STOP BUYING STARS IN ADDITION TO STRAITS TIMES AND UTUSAN. The Star has hammered you and I who want a free, clean and fair election. Inform all friends to stop buying the Star !

      Comment by SK Subramaniam — July 11, 2011 @ 7:29 PM | Reply

  3. Malaysia,three decades ago was one of the few rising tigers in Asia.Today it has became a nation under a pariah Umno GOM.Instead of becoming a full grown tiger like Japan,South Korea and Taiwan we are now on par with or below the likes of Vietnam,Cambodia and laos.

    Mugabe of Zimbabwe is laughing at us for coming from a democratic to an authoritarian government.Does our Umno GOM knows that an authoritarian government is an pariah government.Only pariah ministers would order their goons to attack women’s hospitals.

    Comment by George Suppiah — July 11, 2011 @ 10:52 AM | Reply

  4. Najib,
    Here’s some words of advice before you visit the Pope at Vatican City:

    1.) please get the Pope to endorse the use of the “”ALLAH”” word in Christianity to put an end to your religious bigotry !!!

    2.) Do not bring Ibrahim along on your Pope visit…..he may create another JIHAD senseless provocation with Pope Benedict in Rome ?

    3.) Please segregate your personal expenses for your family holidays FROM THE OFFICIAL VISITS….the essential subsidies for the poor rakyat had been slashed indiscriminately TO FOOT YOUR ALL EXPENSES OVERSEA’S TRIPS ????

    Comment by Farah — July 11, 2011 @ 10:33 AM | Reply

  5. SKY- MALAYA’S HISTORY

    SARAWAK DAY IS YET TO BE PROCLAIMED….I.E. INDEPENDENCE DAY

    Comment by ODDNOTE — July 11, 2011 @ 9:45 AM | Reply

  6. Its not the politic or the king that form Malaysia. Its the people, who form Malaysia. Without the people, Malaysia is just a piece of empty land. All I can say is people of Malaysia don’t have freedom nor Justice. Government is a control freak and full of corruptions.

    Comment by Wan Ping — July 11, 2011 @ 9:23 AM | Reply

  7. CORRECTION: SHAME ON U…..FOR MESSING THE RALLY. YET THE RALLY IS A SUCCESS. U WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR THE DIRTY JOB DONE TO A REFORMED MALAYSIA.

    Comment by VINCENT AK PAUL — July 11, 2011 @ 9:02 AM | Reply

  8. I AM SO PROUD OF U GUYS N GALS AT THE JULY 9 PEACEFUL RALLY.NOW I SEE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. THERE IS HOPE FOR A TRULY MALAYSIAN MALAYSIA.THANK U LORD,AMEN.SHAME ON U,JIBBY ,HIS CRONIES N STUPID PIGS FOR GIVING BERSIH A SUCCESS.U WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR A REFORMED MALAYSIA.

    Comment by VINCENT AK PAUL — July 11, 2011 @ 8:57 AM | Reply


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