Columns, Cover Story

The day when Malaysia held its breath – July 09, 2011

by Eugene Fong Eng Ping

After weeks of arrests and intimidation by the government to play down Bersih 2.0, I was bent on going for the rally.

The morning trip on the LRT from Tmn Bahagia to Pasar Seni was all but fun. Adrenaline was running high as I had the yellow tee with me. Police presence was everywhere. The atmosphere was intense, I felt like Jason Bourne trying to avoid police detention. If I get pulled over by the police, there goes my first rally and I’d probably have to spend the day at the lockup, I thought.

Everyone was uneasy, trying to act cool and get to the destination without any interference from the police. Upon arrival at Pasar Seni at 8.45 am, there were more police than civilians on the streets. My tummy started to rumble but as time passed, I relaxed as more and more people started to arrive. I was glad we left earlier because I heard from another friend that they were checking bags at the LRT stations at about 10 plus.

Like countless other young working adults that turned up, I cannot spell out the 8 demands of Bersih. I was not there only to pursue for electoral reform but rather a change in the system as a whole. I knew my presence would make a big difference, as well as those who turned up despite the crackdown and road closure in the entire city. I was in for some surprises.

Surprise 1: I thought most Chinese would chicken out on this rally since Perkasa and Najib’s so called “third line of defense” Silat Lincah grandmasters will “go all out” to defend the current system that supports the supremacy of the elites. Knowing the typical middle-class Chinese upbringing, most would choose not to take the risk and opt to just stay at home. Probably heed Ibrahim Ali’s advice to stock up food as well. You should see the huge grin I had on my face when I saw the Chinese turnout against the tide.

Surprise 2: It was the day that people of different colors became brothers and sisters. Everyone reached out a helping hand to those who were affected by teargas and water cannons. Videos say it all, I am seconding it. Even when the teargas and water cannons were being aimed at us, the people were still so composed and civic-minded. This is truly a sight to behold, I tell you.

The stranger that you would not smile at on any given day, became your comrade instantly. Everyone was united, they had one thing on their mind – A peaceful rally.

So, what eventually came out from this rally?

THE UNSUNG HEROES: Those who stood their ground and never gave up by turning up for this rally. The organizers who defied court orders by standing on the frontlines of the rally. This is the example I want from my leaders

THE COWARD: Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali who promised blood but was nowhere to be seen. I am not implying that I wanted blood but it goes to show they are nothing but just clanging gongs. Mr Ali is no longer relevant. He has already proven his worth.

THE SMART: Participants who found their way into the city despite it being locked down overnight by the police, effectively turning it into a ghost town. Kudos to the 50,000 plus people who came out of nowhere.

THE DUMB: It was the last straw when the water cannons started shooting chemical water into the hospital, I ran from the shelter to the hospital entrance shouting at the police. I couldn’t take it anymore. How could someone be that dumb to do that? Even Hitler left the hospitals alone. Because of that I lost my friends for a while till I managed to find them 10 minutes later.

THE CLEAR WINNERS: Malaysians who came out and made a point. They turned out to be more civilized than the police and FRUs. A clear sign that Malaysia needs change.

THE SORE LOSERS: The police and FRUs may have won the war on the outside but deep inside them, they knew they have already lost on the ground. You should look at their faces after the rally – dejected. They beat up their own people – against their own conscience (I hope). I don’t understand why they would brutalise their own citizens.

THE FUTURE: I don’t expect much to change after this since we all know that BN is still living in denial but I’m very sure that the future rally will command an even bigger crowd. The rally in 2007 did not have Twitter and Facebook coverage but this time around in 2011, most urbanites in were following its live feeds. Now that the Facebook/Twitter-age has taken over, Najib can only be sure of one thing – a revolution. The whispers can only grow louder, the sentiments stronger, the passion deeper – now, Change is a MUST.

To me, this is a life-changing experience. I was asked if it was worth it, I answered it was worth every drop of my blood. And I’m sure my fellow comrades that were there share the same too. Will I do it all over again? You bet!

It was the day when Malaysian held its breath. Today, we stand proud. -The Rocket