Always told friends that Barisan National will rule Malaysia even past my lifetime as there will NEVER be a level playing field for the opposition forces when it comes to fair and free elections in this so-called Malaysian democracy.
So when Raja Petra told me that BERSIH, a coalition of NGOs and opposition political parties, will organise on November 10th, Saturday, a march to Istana Negara from Dataran Merdeka to submit a memorandum to our Agong asking that free and fair elections beheld in Malaysia, I could not resist it and wanted to be counted. I readily told Pet, yes, I shall be there at Dataran Merdeka.
Drove alone from Penang on November 9th and stayed overnight in Kelana Jaya.
On 10th morning at 8am, took the LRT from Kelana Jaya and headed to KL Sentral to have Indian breakfast at Brickfields. After breakfast headed back to KL Sentral to get LRT to Masjid Jamek. In the train, I noticed a few passengers wearing the yellow Bersih t-shirts, just like me. Made eye contact and nodded our heads although all those wearing yellow Bersih t-shirts were all strangers. I could feel there was a strange kind of bond between us all, but the faces of most, showed, some signs of uncertainty as though something is going to happen. I could feel the anxiety and fear created by the apparatus to generate “a climate of violence” and “create a scenario similar to the 13 Mayl 1969, when there was racial riots in Kuala Lumpur and then EMERGENCY declared in Malaysia.
At 9.30 am reached Masjid Jamek. While walking out of the LRT station its drizzling. I see scores of people with bersih t-shirts all along the road and walkway taking cover from the rain. There were cops at both sides of the road just watching people. From where I was, I was also able to see the huge number of people congregating in the Masjid Jemak compound.
I continue to walk pass Masjid Jemak along to Jalan Tun Perak towards Dataran Merdeka and its still drizzling. I reached the fringes of Dataran Merdeka, the rain gets even heavier and I’m almost drench. I noticed Dataran Merdeka empty except large police presence and FRU trucks. I continued to walk somewhere near Royal Selangor Club, 2 cops approach me and asked what I was doing and where I was heading for? Told the cops I’m from the press and I’m going to the Library to take cover from the rain. They give me a nasty look because of the Bersih t-shirt I’m wearing but they allow me to go. I take cover outside the library.
At 11.30 I get a call from Raja Petra who is at the Selangor Club also taking cover from the rain. Pet tells me to go to Masjid Negara. There is a change in plan. Pet tells me to wait for further instruction from there. Pet also tells me, Muslims in the mosque wont mind me and I shall be safe there.
By noon the rain stopped a little and I decided to walk up to the Masjid Negara. At the Masjid Negara, the gates are closed and there are many people outside and also a huge crowd inside. The mosque was packed to the brim, like it would be during Friday Prayers. I called Pet to inform him that the gates are locked preventing people from entering or leaving the mosque. Pet tells me to hang on there and tells me that the mosque officials cannot close the gates as it is going to be prayer time Zohor prayer and as such the officials HAVE to open the gates before 1pm. Pet was right, just before 1pm the gates were opened by the mosque officials.
Inside the compound of Masjid Negara by now there was so many people, maybe 10,000. Everyone was either wearing yellow Bersih t-shirts or the maroon t-shirts belonging to the Angota unit AMAL PAS (PAS’s uniformed wing). The spectacular sight was however after the Zohor prayers, when the crowd emerged all clad in yellow. I was totally shocked when I saw this. They had kept the shirts in the bags and changed them after the prayers.
Meanwhile, the unit Amal chaps were helping to control the crowd inside the mosque and some were distributing pack food. I too took a packet which had rich, vegetables and meat and ate it under the palm tree with 4 others. It was nice feeling of solidarity.
Pet calls again to find out how I’m coping and he tells me that the cops have moved in on a group of people in and around Sogo area and Masjid Jemak by tear gassing and shooting chemical laced water cannon on them.
At about 1.30 pm, Hywel Davies from AlJazeera picks a conversation with me. He asked what I thought of the whole thing? Tell him, finally civil society in Malaysia has woken up. No one can break this spirit of solidarity amongst the multiracial population as seen here today where me a Hindu never felt so safe among Muslim brothers in the National Mosque of Malaysia. This is a strange feeling and for once I feel proud to be a Malaysian.
At about 2 pm, from where I was, I could see a stream of yellow slowly moving on the highway towards the Istana. Everyone is excited by now and ready to join the crowd in the highway. The AMAL unit moves into action and forms a human chain and we move very orderly to join the group coming from Dataran side on the Highway. I’m right in front, cross some 3 feet railings in the middle of the road to join the marchers. Everyone is running and its chaotic. Suddenly, from nowhere I’m locked hands and my hands are tightly interlocked with Salahuddin Ayub , MP PAS Kubang Kerian . We are walking fast as though running and behind us there are others also sort of running to catch up. Everyone seem like very excited. As we march we chant HIDUP! HIDUP! HIDUP RAKYAT! DAULAT TENGKU! This is our battle cry. By now the marchers have swelled to 40-50 thousands – A SEA OF YELLOW!
I’m still marching in front and it looks like there are others groups from Sogo, Masjid Jemak, Daya Bumi, and all around town have just come in to join us. The crowd look charged. Suddenly I see the FRU barrier i.e a human wall of cops, cops with batons and shield right in front of me. I’m smack right in front with the Amal boys facing the cops just meters away from the police human chain. There is a stand-off between the crowd and riot police-backed by water cannon trucks – about 200 meters from Istana Negara. Three police helicopters are hovering above.
The human line formed by the AMAL unit separated the crowd from the police line, thus preventing any untoward and unwanted incident from happening. I was amazingly impressed and confident that this would be a peaceful rally, which it was. I felt safe mingling with both the crowd and the police at this stage.
We told the crowd to stop moving any closer to the police barrier. The crowd was very good and responsive and very polite and was good humoured and followed instructions. The crowd sat down waiting for the delegation of BERSIH leaders to handover the petition to the palace officials. We sat with the rest of the crowd waiting for the delegation to return from the palace ground. Meanwhile, the police helicopters chattered over us taking snap shots and it was difficult to talk due to the noise.
It’s 3.30 and suddenly there is a loud roar and the crowd all stand-up, we hear Anwar has come on a motorcycle to join the delegation to the palace. The crowd gets frenzy when they see Anwar coming down from the bike. Anwar is hoisted on a shoulder and handed the load hailer. He gave a brief speech which could not be heard from where I was because of the helicopters were still hovering overhead.
At 4 pm, Anwar and the delegation is out from the palace after delivering the memorandum. Immediately, the KL Police Chief on top of the FRU Truck used the load hailer asking the crowd to disperse in 5 minutes. The crowd agrees and they slowly move back towards town. The crowd move very peacefully.
I walk with the crowd back to Pasar Sani LRT Station. The Amal unit is still seen ensuring that there is orderly dispersal of the crowd. Throughout our dispersal, the cars that passed by would wind down their window, honk like crazy and roar encouragement at us while giving us the thumbs up. The crowds finally dissipated.
While walking back I see the crowd so mixed with old and young of all races walking so peacefully and happy as though the impossible has been achieved by their participation in this important event and they have finally made history in Malaysia.