FMT LETTER: From Rev Allen Tan, via e-mail
I must say my contribution to the fight for justice in Malaysia is very minute. For participating in Bersih rallies, I just hoped to add myself to the total number for one more soul. This letter is not only my account of my Bersih 3.0 story, but also a comment about its impact.
I had several experiences in protest rallies including Bersih 2.0. I got myself prepared for Bersih 3.0 even before it was announced. I took part in the rally as a responsible Christian minister as well as a Malaysian citizen. I cannot tolerate the corrupt practices by the present government.
I remembered the words of Rev Martin Luther King, Jr, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Bersih rallies are about asking for free and fair Elections. I cannot tolerate any political coalition to take governance through dirty means. As such I cannot sit at home and let others to protest for me.
I took pains to request the Bersih organising committee to hold the rally on a Saturday and not a Sunday. I was grateful to them as Bersih 2.0 was also on a Saturday. I anticipated that this time round there would be many Christian participants since the Church has awakened to engaging in politics.
As what I did for Bersih 2.0, I lodged in Kuala Lumpur center with two other friends. I could sense that something was different from Bersih 2.0. Those days the atmosphere was very tense. The authorities declared that Bersih was an illegal organisation and subsequently anything related to Bersih was illegal, including their shirts, caps and badges.
Ironically, prior to the Bersih 2.0 rally, some people were even arrested for wearing a yellow shirt! They intimidated people constantly, warning them not to take part in the rally or else they would have to face the music.
So those days we had to take a commuter train service to KL to avoid road-checks. This time round we drove to KL despite the “scare” tactics, though not quite similar than last year. The mayor of KL City Hall Ahmad Fuad Ismail had obtained a court order to ban people from entering Dataran Merdeka which was our venue for the rally.
He had said that he would not close roads to Dataran Merdeka, but as a matter of fact, roads were closed. Bersih insisted on using Dataran Merdeka as it has the significance of independence. Barisan Nasional has bound the people for 55 years, and it is the time for us to cry for freedom from their slavery.
Who was that non-elected mayor who banned the people from using Dataran Merdeka? Dataran Merdeka belongs to all Malaysians and the mayor and BN leaders have no right to own them alone. When they cordoned off Dataran Merdeka, it conveyed a message that BN was colonising the people.
The necessity to take to the streets
Not many would think like me. Even Christian ministers would argue that prayer would sufficiently spur change, and they doubted the necessity to take things to streets. I urged Christians not to pray at home but pray at Dataran Merdeka .
It is true that it is never the first option for most people to engage in street protests in order to express their discontentment against regimes. It always happened only when all avenues were exhausted. When the authorities do not want to listen to the people, when they do not want to reform to bless their own people, and when they sealed up the mouth of the public by controlling the media, the only avenue for the people is to take matters into the streets.
What took place in the Arab world was not something which erupted suddenly. The Arab Spring has seen the dictators overthrown!
Bersih 2.0 was organised because our present electoral system is not free and fair. So they came up with eight petitions for electoral reform. The government then set up a Parliamentary Select Committee to study into the matter. Unfortunately, after seven months, the PSC only adopted one out of the eight items. Other suggestions recommended by the PSC were insignificant. It was for show that the government is committed to reforms.
Something serious took place on the last day of the second session of Parliament this year (April 19, 2012). Nine bills were passed in just one single day! The speed was sufficient for BN to win an Oscar award for Comedian Movies. It is another “Malaysia Boleh” and “Only in Malaysia” indeed! The new bills included an amendment to The Election Offenses Act 1954 to the disadvantage of the Oppositions.
This bill alone justified holding Bersih 3.0. This bill was so secretive that it escaped the attention of many Members of Parliament on both sides of the divide. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak told the people that he wanted to create the most ever transparent government in Malaysian history. Now with this ridiculous bill passed, what kind of transparency can we bank on?
The electoral roll is full of thousands of phantom voters. Names that are not found in the Mykad department were registered as voters. There were voters being transferred to other constituencies, some even away from their home states. There were voters who have been voting in the past finding their names missing.
Bersih rally in KL had 250,000 to 300,000 participants. Besides, rallies were held in other cities and towns throughout Malaysia. Globally they were held in 35 countries and 85 locations. With the wrath of so many people, the government should bow to the wishes of the public. They should heed the petitions of the people. They should commit to electoral reform before the next General Election.
On the day of the rally, people gathered in six meeting points beginning at 6am. More than 30 roads leading to the city were closed. For Light Rail Transport, some stations were closed. At about 1.30pm, people began to move nearer to Dataran Merdeka. The crowd was so big that it overflowed to cover up many roads and streets around Dataran Merdeka .
The gathering was peaceful. People sang Negaraku. They also chanted slogans such as “Hidup Hidup, Hidup Bersih”, “No to Lynas”, and others. At 2.30pm my friends and I moved to other streets. We tried to squeeze through the crowd at Masjid Jamek LRT station but to no avail. So we came to the river-side for a chat. Many people were scattered here and there all around.
We began to move back to the Bar Council at about 3.20pm. The Bersih 3.0 organising chairman S Ambiga did dismiss the crowd shortly before we moved away. But most of the people including us did not get the news. After a while a water cannon truck at the Bar Council sprayed jets of chemical-laced water all around. The crowd was fleeing and screaming. I took the opportunity to video the incident from a distance of 50 meters.
About two minutes later, I heard sounds of “Pak Pak Pak…” I thought the tear gas was fired in front of me but for some time I saw no smoke. I then turned around and to my horror more than three canisters were smoking behind me, the nearest one being only 10 meters away. I dashed through the dense smoke by holding my breath.
Out of panic I forgot to pull out my handkerchief from the pocket of my trousers. Instead, I took out my porous webcam pocket to cover my nose and mouth. I could not hold back my breath for too long, and subsequently I sucked in the smoke through my nose and mouth. My eyes, nose and throat stung.
When I was at a safe place, I quickly sucked some bamboo salt, rinsed my mouth, drank some water, and washed my eyes. I shared my salt with others, Malays and Chinese.
When I went back to Jalan Sultan, only did I learn that the police did similar attacks at many points. People recounted their ordeal that the police were entrapping the people with tear gas from all angles. That was malicious! The right way to do is not by attacking the unarmed protesters but by dispersing them without harming them.
Brutality of the police was disgusting
From the online media, I read about the violence by the police. They beat up the protesters. They even intruded into the restaurant and harassed the customers who wore yellow shirts. The journalists were not spared. Many of them were beaten and their cameras being seized. How can we expect BN to lead us into an advanced and democratic country when we see what they did was so barbaric?
They did not even respect the International Law that that says they cannot harm journalists? The Home Minister Hishamuddin claimed that deleting photos was a Standard Operating Procedure. The next day the Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar clarified that it is not a SOP. How come a Home Minister was so ignorant about his trade?
The brutality of the police was disgusting. They arrested 512 people. The attack by police on the protesters started when some people broke through the barricades. Was it a good excuse to take action? The Bar Council was right that they said the court order only ban the people from Dataran Merdeka.
Though people got into the barricade they were still outside of Dataran Merdeka . According to Ambiga, it was likely a sabotage. Well, those were agent provocateurs. It sounds so familiar about the claim from what took place in many gatherings of Pakatan Rakyat which were being harassed by rascals!
The greatest loser in Bersih 3.0
Who is the greatest loser in Bersih 3.0? Najib! Remember in Bersih 2.0, before the rally, Ambiga hoped to meet up with Najib but her wish did not take place. He dumped all the responsibility to the IGP. In Bersih 3.0, prior to the rally, Najib was so silent about it. He dumped all the responsibility to the Home Minister. The later was flip-flopping. At first he said he had no problem with the rally. Then he dumped all the problems to the mayor. And the mayor dumped all the problems on the IGP.
I could relate the story of Exodus with the dilemma of Najib. When Moses asked the Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, God was behind it. God told Moses He would harden the heart of Pharaoh. When Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go, actually it was God who had hardened his heart. For Bersih 2.0 and 3.0, God has hardened the heart of Najib. That tells why he made the wrong decisions. When man is behind a move, it will fail. But when God is behind it, it will succeed.
After the rally on 428, the next day, the atmosphere all around Malaysia became fresher. But our struggle does not end here. We still need to tussle hard with the evil forces in order to bring down the corrupt regime. Hidup Rakyat! Bangkit Rakyat! Hidup Bersih! Hallelujah, Malaysia shall enter into the year of Jubilee soon. Probably the General Election will be delayed further to September or later.
Please take note that on Sept 16 this year, Malaysia will be finishing her 49 years of slavery, and on this day we will enter into the 50th year, the year of Jubilee according to the Bible. Malaysia shall be free from the oppression by BN. Malaysia shall become a Rainbow Nation. Rainbow – a symbol of diversity. Our diverse races shall come to fruition as everyone is a Malaysian!