Over the years, I have watched, I have observed, I have read and I have concluded certain things are not right in this beloved land of my birth.
By Christine SK Lai
When the call for Bersih 3.0 was made, I already knew I would be going. I had gone for Bersih 2.0 as a “mere novice, a reluctant demonstrator”. Now, I am no longer a novice, but still reluctant, as I really didn’t relish the thought of most probably having to endure smarting tear-gas and run for my life again.
But some things just can’t be avoided when it comes to staying true to one’s own conscience. My conscience demands that I make a stand (literally) for what is right, fair and just. And if that means having to “waste time” being roasted under the sun for umpteen hours, sitting on a hot tarred-road and (again) running the risk of being pelted with tear-gas or worse getting arrested, so be it.
I am merely one of those millions whom one politician termed the “silent majority”, quietly minding my own life as a Christian Malaysian Chinese. As one of the silent majority, over the years, I have watched, I have observed, I have read and I have concluded certain things are not right in this beloved land of my birth.
And I am concerned about that, because I care for my country, I care that my children and their children will inherit a land where justice isn’t just a political slogan to bandy about, but is really manifested in good governance held accountable through policies, action plans and follow-up implementation.
I am sure there are many reasons why people went for Bersih 3.0. Some just want to make use of it as an opportunity to get some political mileage for their fave party and in the process disparage others. Some went out of curiosity, some tag along with friends, some simply because they missed Bersih 2.0. But I went because of a personal conviction that besides praying for my country, I must also do what I know for myself is the right thing to do. It’s as simple as that. If other Christians don’t have the same conviction, it’s their right.
I have no stomach for political “shows”, whether they are put on by government or opposition quarters. So I don’t need to descend to chanting names or join in bad-mouthing others I may disagree with. Because it’s not about politics, it’s about justice. Surely we don’t need politicians or pastors to tell us what is right is right, what is wrong is wrong, what is clean and what is dirty.
By now there are thousands of shots of Bersih 3.0 available for viewing, from photos to videos. By now also everyone would have something to say, whether you are one of those actual on-the-scene witnesses or merely watched from the distance of your TV sets. By now the dust and the tear-gas have long settled, but the ramifications of what someone called the moment of destiny for Malaysia have just begun.
No doubt there are many versions, explanation and interpretation of the violence that happened. I can only say, where I was, in the thick of the crowd at HSBC/Bar Council sit-down, we knew what the instructions were – sit down and on no account, provoke the authorities. That’s what I, and every right-thinking participant, did. We were prepared to stick it out till 4pm, as the message that the rally had been called off as early as 2.45pm didn’t filter down. If it had, we would all have more than gladly got up and gone home! (not that we could have anyway, since as expected, the LRT had shut its doors).
It really isn’t much “fun” being BBQ-ed under the heat of the sun. My friend was on her phone commenting how boring it was, when I saw the tear gas coming at us without any warning.
Obviously it was no longer boring, as people started running. Four of us followed others who fled down a side-path towards the back of Central Market, only to be confronted with hordes of police running towards us from Dayabumi side. We couldn’t run back because of the gas. The only way out was to climb up and over the railings, but there was no foot-hold and the wall was too high.
But, thank God, there were Malaysians with the Malaysian spirit… the sole man at the bottom pushed while the men at the top simply pulled us up, one by one, till we all cleared the wall.
There are many Bersih 3.0 stories, because many, many of us had experienced a piece of history in the making in our own individual corner. I think no one has the correct figure of how many thousands upon thousands of Malaysians from all races, ages, backgrounds and religions were out there, “roasting” since the morning of April 28.
I had occasionally to stop at a restaurant which dared to remain open (and therefore must have increased its earnings for the day manifold!) to wait for my friends who needed a toilet break. And it was at that moment, as I stood by the side of the road, watching row after row of people walking forward, that I was never more proud to be a Chinese in Malaysia. I say this not because of any racist sentiment, but because for the first time, I am seeing so many Chinese come out, to do something so “un-Chinese” as to “waste time” sweating under the sun, sitting on hot tar, with a bunch of noisy strangers, when they could be somewhere else comfortably doing their own things.
What’s even more heartening, I saw and I know there were many more Christians on the roads, silently praying and marching together with and as fellow Malaysians. And all of us stood up every time someone started singing Negara-Ku.
Whatever the reason for participating and in spite of the violence, (which no right-thinking person would condone anyway), no one can deny the numbers alone speak a very clear message… .some of the silent majority have a voice, and a face… so I am very hopeful, for I need only look at the images captured on Bersih 3.0 and I see – the face of change in Malaysia.
Christine SK Lai was one of the participants in the Bersih 3.0 rally that drew more than 80,000 people on April 28.