Now I promised that this blog will not cover politics and I’m keeping that promise. BERSIH 3.0 is a civil society movement and is apolitical (not supporting any party). The core issue taken up by BERSIH 3.0 is FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS in Malaysia.
My BERSIH 3.0 in Kuala Lumpur on 28 April 2012 story reflects my personal opinion, observations and experience and is not to support any political party.
Rewind almost a year back to BERSIH 2.0, I wanted to attend however I had an old school mate’s wedding to attend that night and I told myself that if I was arrested I couldn’t attend his wedding. So I had to make the hard choice not to attend even though I wanted to. After coming home from the wedding and turning on my PC to read lots and lots of accounts of police brutality I was enraged and vowed to attend the rally if there was going to be another one.
The issue being highlighted was one that was reasonable enough – FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS in Malaysia. After 50 years of independence that should have been a guaranteed right by now. However it appeared that free and fair elections were not the interests of certain quarters in power thus the dramatic events at BERSIH 2.0.
Anyway here are BERSIH’s demands:
1. Clean the electoral roll
The electoral roll is marred with irregularities such as deceased persons and multiple persons registered under a single address or non-existent addresses. The electoral roll must be revised and updated to wipe out these ‘phantom voters’. The rakyat have a right to an electoral roll that is an accurate reflection of the voting population.
In the longer term, BERSIH 2.0 also calls for the EC to implement an automated voter registration system upon eligibility to reduce irregularities.
2. Reform postal ballot
The current postal ballot system must be reformed to ensure that all citizens of Malaysia are able to exercise their right to vote. Postal ballot should not only be open for all Malaysian citizens living abroad, but also for those within the country who cannot be physically present in their voting constituency on polling day. Police, military and civil servants too must vote normally like other voters if not on duty on polling day.
The postal ballot system must be transparent. Party agents should be allowed to monitor the entire process of postal voting.
3. Use of indelible ink
Indelible ink must be used in all elections. It is a simple, affordable and effective solution in preventing voter fraud. In 2007, the EC decided to implement the use of indelible ink. However, in the final days leading up to the 12th General Elections, the EC decided to withdraw the use of indelible ink citing legal reasons and rumours of sabotage.
BERSIH 2.0 demands for indelible ink to be used for all the upcoming elections. Failure to do so will lead to the inevitable conclusion that there is an intention to allow voter fraud.
4. Minimum 21 days campaign period
The EC should stipulate a campaign period of not less than 21 days. A longer campaign period would allow voters more time to gather information and deliberate on their choices. It will also allow candidates more time to disseminate information to rural areas. The first national elections in 1955 under the British Colonial Government had a campaign period of 42 days but the campaign period for 12th GE in 2008 was a mere 8 days.
5. Free and fair access to media
It is no secret that the Malaysian mainstream media fails to practice proportionate, fair and objective reporting for political parties of all divide. BERSIH 2.0 calls on the EC to press for all media agencies, especially state-funded media agencies such as Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM) and Bernama to allocate proportionate and objective coverage for all potlical parties.
6. Strengthen public institutions
Public institutions must act independently and impartially in upholding the rule of law and democracy. Public institutions such as the Judiciary, Attorney-General, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC), Police and the EC must be reformed to act independently, uphold laws and protect human rights.
In particular, the EC must perform its constitutional duty to act independently and impartially so as to enjoy public confidence. The EC cannot continue to claim that they have no power to act, as the law provides for sufficient powers to institute a credible electoral system.
7. Stop corruption
Corruption is a disease that has infected every aspect of Malaysian life. BERSIH 2.0 and the rakyat demand for an end to all forms of corruption. Current efforts to eradicate corruption are mere tokens to appease public grouses. We demand that serious action is taken against ALL allegations of corruption, including vote buying.
8. Stop dirty politics
Malaysians are tired of dirty politics that has been the main feature of the Malaysian political arena. We demand for all political parties and politicians to put an end to gutter politics. As citizens and voters, we are not interested in gutter politics; we are interested in policies that affect the nation.
So it was without any hesitation that I decided to go for BERSIH 3.0 even though I was scheduled to attend Music Conference Asia that night. I contacted a few friends of mine and we decided to meet up at the Kelena Jaya LRT station at 11.00am to catch the train into KL as the police (who are supposed to be impartial and uphold the law) decided to do what they did the last time (BERSIH 2.0) which was to ring the city with roadblocks and turn away anyone who tried to attend the rally.
The Kelana Jaya LRT station was awash with people dressed in green (anti-LYNAS) and yellow (BERSIH) t-shirts so I felt quite relieved. Strength in numbers. There were police on duty but they didn’t disturb the crowd. So off we went in a train that was packed to the brim with BERSIH participants!
The whole street was yellow and green as you can see from the video below. There were people of all races and ages there. Yes and I mean that literally! The atmosphere was like a carnival. People were good natured and jovial and shouts of “Bersih! Bersih!” rang out every now and then. There were also yellow Angry Birds and a giant beach ball being thrown around.
People were there not because they were paid to be there (as ridiculously claimed by some quarters), but on their own accord because they wanted to see a better future for their loved ones in Malaysia. They wanted to see their country prosper and run by capable people with virtue, morals and ethics. And so they came, Malays, Chinese, Indians, East Malaysians, young, old, aunties, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, professionals, students, pretty girls (yes I saw a few) and people from all walks of life to show that they have had it with corruption and manipulation.
The crowd stretched all the way from Dataran to Maybank tower and even the side streets were full! Then at 2.00pm the crowd sang Negaraku and everyone stood at attention. This was a gathering of patriots not hooligans as the BN government wanted us to believe.
Now Deep and gang decided to duduk bantah at the side of the Masjid Jamek LRT station but I wanted to find a way to Dataran therefore I bid them goodbye and went on solo from there on.
Went through the small lorongs to get to Jalan TAR and noticed that all the traders, food stalls, mamaks, and restaurants were doing a roaring business! In fact it was like a giant food carnival! Soft drinks, keropok lekor, burgers, and all sorts of street food were being snapped up by the thirsty and hungry crowd. All those remarks about the rally causing hardship to the businesses of KL is total bullshit. I bet the businesses wished that everyday was a Bersih rally!
Well eventually found my way to Jalan TAR and the whole road was also yellow!
But…I wanted to get to Dataran! I had to see the razor wire with my own eyes. The thought of razor wire used by the Malaysian government against it’s own people was simply outrageous! Who do they think we are? Terrorists? Criminals? I don’t think so…all I’ve seen so far are peaceful citizens who were tired of being lied and manipulated and robbed. We wanted free and fair elections so that Malaysia could progress. Was that too much to ask for?
Sometime around 3.00pm the police that had ringed Dataran since the night before suddenly pulled back into Dataran and the more eager fellows in the crowd entered the square. I was more cautious as I was puzzled why the police had suddenly retreated so I stood and observed the situation for a while before making my way forward. I read from email the instructions not to listen to anyone who was trying to provoke the crowd into doing anything stupid as those were probably agent provocateurs from UMNO, Perkasa or the police special branch. Not everyone in a BERSIH t-shirt was a protester as I noticed from crew cuts and their demeanor.
I was right about it being a trap. A minute later and all hell broke loose and the FRU (riot police) opened fire with tear gas while the water cannon trucks charged forward spraying everyone left right and center. Behind them were lines of FRU who charged the people with batons (not even reporters and journalists were spared).
That’s right…beat up unarmed and peaceful citizens. That’s sure to win you more votes at the next elections. Anyone with half a brain knew better than to do that…but wait…what if you already rigged the election? Then you had nothing to fear right?
So began the Royal Malaysian Police’s reign of terror on us unarmed citizens that lasted well into the evening.
Now here’s a crude illustration of the tear gas attack. Sorry for the rudimentary drawing. Those of you who play ‘Draw Something’ with me know how bad I am at drawing hehehe!
That was what should have happened to force protesters back from Dataran but instead this happened…
WTF man! I got so mad! The crazy firing of tear gas coupled with the FRU water canons and police charge caused the crowd to panic and move away from Dataran but fortunately being the civilised people that we are we didn’t run or stampede but walked calmly away from the tear gas.
Now this is where I witnessed the beauty of the whole situation. People didn’t care if you were Malay, Chinese, Indian or others but simply helped everyone along to get away from the gas. The young helped the old. The men helped the ladies. When we were sufficiently far away everyone started sharing their water to wash the tear gas out of their eyes and sharing salt to help to ease the symptoms.
Getting tear gassed is really not funny (I saw the video about our beloved PM laughing about it) and that really pissed me off. You can’t see nuts as your eyes are just tearing and tearing. You can’t breathe because there’s mucus coming out of your nose and throat. All you can do is blindly stumble away and hope for the best.
I was walking home along Jalan TAR when I saw the police car which rammed into the protesters pass by me.
What in the world was a lone police car doing driving through an angry crowd?
Some people started throwing water bottles at the car however the majority just looked at it and went about their own way. I continued on to the LRT station to go home and didn’t look back. Only after I reached home did I find out that the police car had rammed down a couple of protesters. The mainstream media of course failed to report that but instead showed footage of the car being pelted by missiles and immediately labeled all BERSIH participants as hooligans and gangsters.
Kudos to the PAS Unit Amal for controlling the situation right up to the time the police attacked us. After that there was simply too much confusion for anyone to control. BERSIH didn’t lose control. The police did when they relentlessly attacked a peaceful crowd.
Thanks also goes to the Malaysian Red Crescent society and all the other medical staff on duty that day who attended to the injured and distributed cartons of mineral water. You guys are guardian angels!
The BERSIH personnel even started a cleanup of rubbish along the roads not that there was a lot as most people were responsible and used the rubbish bins. See! Who says we’re a bunch of uncivilized monkeys trying to create a riot?
After the whole experience and seeing with my own eyes what happened that shameful day I can say without a doubt that a lot of the news reported by The Star, NST, Utusan, BERNAMA, Media Prima and even Astro blaming BERSIH for the violence is total bullshit.
We the citizens of Malaysia who rallied peacefully for free and fair elections were instead brutally attacked by the police undoubtedly under orders by certain quarters! Fortunately there were a lot of cameras recording every minute of it so the truth will reveal itself in due time.
The authorities cannot hide the truth no matter how hard you try or how you doctor/ edit your photos and videos.
Now more than ever I am determined to see change happen in my beloved country.
*I went with Deepak and while I headed over to Dataran he and the rest of the gang chilled at Jalan Tun Perak but they got gassed too. Read about his experience here – http://thirstyblogger.my/2012/05/01/the-clean-up-protest/
Photo credits: Deepak (Thirsty Blogger) and author’s own
More info on BERSIH at http://bersih.org/